I see freeways full of girls in tiny Hondas and Toyotas with their entire lives filling every window. They've got their giant sunglasses on, hair in high ponytails, and they are singing out loud to every song on the radio. It's that time of year again.
They are going home.
I made that trip a few times. After finals my Freshman year, my Dad came to retrieve my Hefty bags full of my belongings. He left separately, giving me time to say goodbye to an entire floor of new friends. It was raining, and we were all crying. The only thought I had on the two-hour ride home was, at least all my girls will be home for the summer.
After finals my Sophomore year, my Mom came to retrieve my Hefty bags full of my belongings. She left separately, giving me time to say goodbye to a new boyfriend. I cried my face off. The only thought I had on the two-hour ride home was, this will be the last summer we're all together at home.
That was 2000, the last summer of my childhood. I was 20. It would be the last time I shared a mailbox with my parents, a bathroom with my brother, and the last time I lived rent/mortgage free. I spent the summer charming and flirting my way into large tips at a resort and at a local Mexican restaurant. I set my alarm for 4:50am each morning, and usually set it each night after midnight. The girls and I drank underage at places we knew we could. I remember that 4th of July at the high school, feeling so old compared to everyone there. If I had two hours before a shift, I'd head to Pelican to work on my tan with my baby-blue Oakleys on. My mom would leave notes on the kitchen island, phone messages in the bathroom, and leftover dinner in the fridge. I had it good that summer. I was home.
Late that August, I packed up my Honda quietly. I'd gotten good at packing and unpacking and subsisting on a few boxes of clothes and borrowed shampoo. My parents were both at the sink when I left. I opened the door to the garage and hollered up to them, "I'm leaving ... bye." I couldn't face hugging either of them in my kitchen. I couldn't manage outwardly acknowledging I was leaving home forever. After all, I was only 20.
I cried all the way to college that time. I knew I had to grow up. When I called home to say I had made it safely, I apologized to my mom for not saying goodbye, really. She reminded me it was my decision always- to go, to stay. I knew she was right. That next summer, when I was 21 and definitely not going home, was different. It took me weeks to find a job. I asked the lil' dude's Fairy Godmother for rent money. I added summer classes in hopes of finishing my degree in four years. I found a place to change my oil- a task only my dad had ever done for me.
Home for the summer. It's where I always want to be. I don't want to sit here in May and fill up my calendar. I want to delight in long, dusky evenings on the deck with the Dad. I want to reap the benefits of my garden, and let the lil' dude eat sun-warmed cherry tomatoes straight off the vine. I want to push her stroller to the local coffee shop for root beer floats and iced mochas. I want to scrub her feet clean along with mine each night in the tub. I want her to have my memories. I want her to have her Pelican and best friends on the 4th of July. I always want her carloads full of stuff to come home.