It was while I was packing my suitcase the Friday before Thanksgiving, a few hours before I had to leave for the airport, that it hit me: this was the first time in my life that I would be going home for the holidays. Home had always been the place I returned to after a vacation; never before had I packed a bag with the intention of heading home, staying a few days, packing up again, and leaving. This was the way it would be for the next four years, I realized, if not the rest of my life. Like most every aspect of college so far, the thought of it was equally strange and exciting. I spent the short plane ride wondering what it would be like; if anything about my hometown had changed in the three months I’d been gone.
When I finally arrived home, I was pleased to discover that my dog and my turtle were still alive, albeit less so to find that my brother had taken over my room and hung Red Sox pennants on the walls. When I opened the fridge, there was a noticeable lack of all my favorite foods. When I went to Trader Joe’s to get my almond butter and cheese fix, I found they had reorganized. The store was small, so it wasn’t hard to figure out the new organization, but it was yet another reminder that I was no longer a full-time resident of this town.
Over the next few days, I noticed several more reminders: I didn’t get a student discount for the Thanksgiving football game, the Town Hall had a fresh coat of paint, my favorite frozen yogurt place had permanently closed. And yet, as I walked my dog in the biting November air, went for a run past the farms on Carlisle Road, and got takeout from my favorite pizza place, I felt as though nothing had changed at all. I saw my friends from high school, and we talked and laughed at inside jokes like we’d never been apart. It was comforting to know that no matter how much college had changed me, no matter how far I traveled or how long I stayed away, Acton, Massachusetts would always have a place for me. As much as I’ve come to love Baltimore, I remain equally in love with the breathtaking autumn foliage and bitterly cold weather of New England.
Now, I’m back home again for Christmas, finally done with an incredible first semester. I’ve already had a Bollywood movie night with my friends, visited old teachers at my high school, and (again) gotten takeout from Sorrento’s. It still felt strange packing my bag to go home–although it was more frustrating than strange, since I had to fit three weeks worth of clothes into a carry-on suitcase–but waking up in my own bed in my own bedroom the next morning felt like the most normal thing in the world. And when Christmas break is over, I’m sure it’ll be just as easy to transition back to life at Hopkins.