It’s been a long semester. The car pulls up slowly, right next to the grass struggling to change its hue from a withered and weary tan to a blossoming and vibrant green. The world is tense, preparing itself for spring. I step out of the car and breathe in the small-town air, a smile dancing upon my lips as I walk into the door. It’s funny – when you live somewhere, you don’t notice its distinctive smell. When you go to a new place, one of the things you notice first is the smell. It is one of the first impressions you have of a new world of sensory input. But in your home, where you live your entire life, you can’t notice the smell. It’s a missing factor – everything smells normal. Until you leave, and live somewhere else. Then, in those moments when you first get back, before your nose comes to its senses and remembers that it isn’t supposed to notice the scent, you can tell what home smells like. And it smells like, well, home. For me, it is the smell of candles and dogs, and when I open the door it envelops me, and, once more, I smile. I hear barking from the kitchen, where my two dogs have been spending their time home alone, and I unleash them and hear the paws scatter across the floor. They go nuts, flying about, a chaos that makes me smile. Pet this one, pet that one, get my toy, play with me… all of that craziness that makes having a dog both a joy and a stressor. But for me, a college student visiting for a weekend, it’s a welcome embrace, a love and affection that make one feel special and appreciated. When they’re calm, I take a moment and look around. Home. What a lovely place to be.
My sister who drove home with me is upstairs, unpacking. I have a breath alone, and look around. How can a place hold so much sentimentality? When you break it down, it is just walls and a floor, filled with stuff. Everything is perishable, everything will eventually cease. And yet….. it is so special. The wallpaper, the carpet, the lighting, even the dog hair on the floor. It’s home. My home. There is a sense of shared possession, the feeling that the world around you is your own. Your space, a universe separated from the world, where you can exist without the outside influences of depravity and worldly mindsets. I walk around slowly, and the floorboard creaks. It reminds me that sometimes the little things mean more than you realize. Things that you miss that you don’t consider significant until they’re gone. The calming aura of the room. The finicky-but-beautiful antique clock on the wall, sometimes ticking, sometimes not. The blankets on the couches, the dog toys across the floor. Soon the house will be a bustle of people and activity. I will likely have to vacuum and clean up for the weekly Friday night family visit, and there will be conversation and all sorts of craziness going on. But for now, I can look, listen to the soothing ambiance, and smile at the open doors and open arms that await me. Tomorrow, I will be returning to campus, and my school life will continue once more, but for now, I can enjoy the peace and warmth of this wonderful, magical place. And boy, is it good to be back, because, as the colloquial mantra never ceases to remind us, there’s no place like home.