This week, I returned home to my boarding school to see my best friend perform in a speaking competition. For weeks leading up to my trip, I was telling my friends how excited I was, how great it was going to be to be home, about the pictures I was going to take, the people I was going to see.
I didn't, in all my excitement, stop to think how hard it'd be to be home.
After I spent eight hours (alone) in my car, trekking from Kentucky to Pennsylvania, making my way down a back road, I took a deep breath in. It smelled like a campfire and freshly cut grass. It smelled like home.
The next day, I decided to head down to my home town. For my entire life, I have been saying how much I hated my town. The people in it are the complete opposite of me, politically, religiously, in every way. I couldn't wait to leave. I couldn't wait to go 500 miles to college and for my mother to move 2,000 miles across the country. I really thought I knew why I felt that way. Why I was eager to get out.
On my drive in, I noticed that they paved the road I dreaded driving down every single day because it was so rough. They put a flashing sign in front of one of the small, street-front stores. They put up things to cover the vintage cars on the way into town-- it had been raining a lot.
It was different.
I turned on to 6th street and made my way down the steep hill. I saw my twelve-year-old brother on his bike, a gallon of milk balancing on his handle bars, an old lady speeding down, hitting him as he rolled on to the hood of her car. I saw an eight-year-old me with my mother, carrying our "coffees" (one part coffee, four parts milk) up the hill after our walk into town. I saw my dog running across to greet my mother as she came home from her walk. I saw my first motorcycle ride on the back of my step father's Harley. I saw the flowers in our yard blooming. My mother painting the old white brick with a new beige. Countless yard sales on the side of our house. The few weeks it took to put in old windows that the previous owners had covered up. My thoughts were interrupted by a new bench on the porch. We sold the house last year.
God, what an ugly bench.
Leaving my school late that night after meeting up with my four best friends, I cried. A lot. I watched the chapel fade away in my rear view mirror. I felt like everything was coming to an end again.
Leaving home is hard. Especially when it's so rare when you can go back. I had to leave home all at once. Everyone left-- my mom, my dad, my siblings, me. I wanted to run into my house and see my mother, my dog, sleep in my bed. I can't do that until July, but I wanted to do it right there and then. Mercersburg is what I consider to be home because it's the place that will always be there. Even after my family moved, Mercersburg stayed.
Leaving home is the hardest thing I ever have to do, and so far I've done it one or two times a year since I left for good. The visits are the things I look forward to the most, but I can't describe to anyone outside of Mercersburg how badly it hurts to leave. I grew up in that place. Some people, even if they had the privilege of going there, still don't have the sentimental value for the school. That's kind of sad to see. But every time I leave it hurts.
So, all I can say about leaving home is... it hurts.