By Heidie Raine
I’m currently sitting in the Dayton airport, gate B19, three granola bars into a flight delay. The plane that
came from Philadelphia has a bad nose, so while it gets rhinoplasty, we’re waiting for another jet from
D.C. Then to Chicago we’ll go — a jamboree of travelers depleted of phone batteries but rich in free
Chicago is a 90-minute drive from my mother’s house. It’s close enough that I can convince my dad to
pick me up tonight, but it’s far enough that my mother has requested I take the bus shuttle back to the
airport come Monday.
Still, something about circling Lake Michigan to land and breathe in Chicago’s air (it smells distinctly of
urine) makes me feel warm. I know what that place looks like. It’s my state. It’s where I learned to ride a
bike, had my first kiss, went to high school, returned to every holiday.
But tonight, I’m not flying to Illinois for a holiday. I’m flying back because I miss my mom; I miss my
church; I haven’t been home in five months; I need to begin my wedding dress fittings; the race track
that my stepdad loves is hosting its annual Wheel Stand, and I want nothing more than to sit in a folding
chair and watch funny cars crank by in the company of sunburnt men with ponytails.
These are the treasures I surrendered when I moved out last August. In exchange for my hometown’s
specialties, I received the gentle kick of growing up. My address changed. It’s a whispering reminder that
while I’m always welcome in my mother’s home, I’m a visitor there.
Why am I so reflective in this sticky, rural airport? I can’t say. Maybe going home makes my Ohio
residency feel more distant, more severe. Maybe I don’t know how to inhabit my childhood space with
my grown-woman life. Maybe I feel like I’m cheating — like missing home means I can’t handle the rigor
of marriage, graduation, the next steps. Maybe I’m realizing that I haven’t seen my parents in nearly half
a year, and I wonder if I’ll see age in their faces that I hadn’t before.
Planning a wedding accelerated the feeling. I registered for sugar canisters and throw blankets that look
nothing like my mother’s. Last week, my fiancé and I bought a couch — a new one that we’ll take with
us when we move. I’m filling my apartment with things too big for my Illinois bedroom closet, but it’s
appropriate. I’ve started thinking about what it would be like to invite my parents over for a
That’s weird. It’s weird to hold ambition and homesickness in proper tension.
But even among my single friends, there’s a shared impression that it’s time to dive out of the nest.
What does the recent graduate with no car, debt, and summer-camp work experience do?
Their best. They find cheap rent and thrifty housemates and hunker down until the right job interview
and wave of confidence comes rushing through. Then slowly, with oceanic patience and God’s grace,
they sneak into adulthood. The exact mechanics of that maneuver remain an ancient secret that most
people figure out by 27.
I suppose these are the meditations of a 21-year-old soon-to-be graduate, soon-to-be a wife, soon-to-be
scholar-in-training, but not-yet any of those things. And as everything in my life whizzes around, there’s
something serene about catching the late flight home to my childhood bedroom where I can wrap
myself in the sheets that knew me at 14.
This weekend, I will amble through familiar trails and sit in familiar coffee shops and catch my breath. I’ll
cheer on funny cars at the race track whose tar stench used to make me nauseous but now beckons to
When I come home to Ohio on Monday, I’ll resume the laundry and homework that I put on pause. But
hopefully refreshed — hopefully with a dose of some peculiar, nostalgic adrenaline to remind me that
before a foundation can be laid, the builder must shuffle through many plots of bumpy, untested
Heidie Raine is a senior English major with a concentration in creative and journalistic writing. When she
isn’t doing lit theory homework, she likes drinking La Croix and reading Brian Doyle essays.