By Rachel Young
I wrote this after going to a doctor’s appointment during the COVID-19 pandemic and it made me think about what leaving for college would mean to both me and my family.
Sitting in a stroller, I see my mother struggle to open the doctor’s office door. My brother is running up and down the hallways pretending to be a race car driver. I know my brother likes toy cars, watching Ben 10, and that we like to play pretend at my grandmother’s while we wait for Mom to come home. I wonder how come no one makes things easier for Mom when she is trying so hard.
Sitting alone in the dentist’s office at fifteen, I’m waiting for my turn with music playing through my ear buds. I’m trying to be more responsible for myself so that Mom does not have to come running to save me. My brother is at home staring at his computer smashing away at the keyboard with the friends he meets on the internet now. I no longer know what he likes to play and we don’t talk much anymore. Hearing the door open to my right, I see a mother trying to make her way in with a stroller, her son running about the hallway, and I run to hold the door open.
With high school coming to an end now, I’m breathing through a mask in the doctor’s office I have been going to since I was born. No more unlocked door, no more toys, and no more screaming babies. Just a quiet, empty room with children old enough to walk on their own. My mom is by my side and no longer needs to push me in a stroller, and next year I will never see this office again. I wonder if college will make this different, scarier, to not have Mom with me. I used to sit on her lap to get shots, burying my face into her shoulder. With my mom in the waiting room, now I sit alone hugging my hoodie as I look away from the impending needle.
My mom used to look at all the things I could not bear to see so I never had to. She hugs me tenderly when I come out of my room after a bad exam. She makes my favorite foods like she can read my mind when all my thoughts are too jumbled in my head. She’s always there for me: when I rode the train with her on the first day of high school, she waited outside for me to get out of class so I wouldn’t get lost on the way back home.
I wonder if home will mean something else to me in a few years and if I might end up losing my way back as the years pile up like miles. I wonder if I will be okay alone. In a couple of months I won’t have my mom by my side. My brother will no longer be there to shovel snow in my stead. My dad will not be there to ply me with chocolate bars when I’m studying for finals. With college coming, I begin to hold those I love tighter to my chest because I don’t want to let them go, and I don’t know if the distance will begin to weaken the bonds we have.
When I was younger, growing up was a milestone to be celebrated, but I never realized I would be leaving behind the warmth of my family. Just when I think I’ve figured out seventeen, eighteen’s impending arrival has me scared that everything I’ve ever known will suddenly get up and leave me without a word.
I suppose that even when I am at college, in my heart I’ll know what my parents’ love for me means. I’ll never lose the parts of myself that have been formed by them. My obnoxiously cheerful greetings come from a time when my dad’s health weakened and I wanted to brighten his weak hellos when he came home from work. My untimely habit of laughing at all the wrong moments comes from my mother who has taught me to laugh at myself when I stumble, but to continue trying harder next time. Even far away from home, I have hope that I will create new friendships and discover that the possibility for warmth is possible so long as I am ready to feed the flames. When I remember all the parts of myself my parents have given me, the dark clouds of thought seem a little bit lighter and the waves of emotions settle to a calm sway because I know I can always find my home within myself.
I started this piece after I went to the doctor’s office for the first time during COVID. I realized this would be the last time I would be in this small office because I’m turning 18 and next year I may be far from home because of college. It reminded me that I might not always have my mom by my side in places where you have to make important decisions or hear sensitive information. The possibility of being away from home for the first time made me wonder how my connection to myself and my family would change. This piece is about the worries of growing up, the changing bonds of family, and finding home when everything seems to be moving under your feet.
Rachel Young is a senior at a high school in Manhattan, NY interested in exploring multimedia and developing her creative writing skills. She hopes to develop more confidence as she solidifies her ideas and learns to express herself more clearly. In her free time, she enjoys bullet journaling, watching hockey, finding new foods to make, and listening to Taylor Swift.