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College Breaks: Coming Home AgainBy Evan Nehring
Coming home on breaks from college was wonderful and difficult. Wonderful because it was safe and warm and Mom and Dad were there to be the responsible ones. Difficult because this entirely hopeful new future life I was experiencing wasn’t at home. In fact, it became increasingly difficult defining where home was.
My parents moved away from my high school town two months before my high school grad. That was all fine, but when it was time to go “home” for breaks it was two provinces away in Saskatchewan.
My dad cleared a spot in his office at the bottom of the stairs and I got myself all set up: CPU, monitor, keyboard, mouse, printer…the whole works. As I logged in, I realized that these projects I’d been working on and the fun stuff I’d found were there with me now. I had found a way to carve out a space for my new life in my parents’ world.
I didn’t live in the basement. There was plenty else to enjoy over the holidays. There was a certain emancipation, though, to having a purpose outside of my parents’ agenda even while visiting their home.
The launch doesn’t mean that you never come back to your parents’ home. The launch doesn’t mean your childhood home is any less special or personal. Home becomes even more precious when you realize that it’s no longer yours, not in the same way.
Two decades later...I still take my family on the long ride north at Christmas time. We cut west out of the shadow of Wausau’s Rib Mountain, through the valleys of farmhouses, silos and dairy cattle. Marathon City leads us to Abbottsford. We sometimes miss the old drive through downtown Chippewa Falls as we rocket around on the bypass.
Then we angle off at Interstate 94, the same highway that brought me east from Fargo twenty-seven years ago. The thick rush of semis and speeders pulls us on to Hudson and the crossing of the kilometer-wide St. Croix River. Packer territory gives way to Viking land.
Sometimes we stay on I-94 to take the downtown scenic route through the Twin Cities. We slice through between the towering domes of St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Minnesota Capitol. Then Minneapolis’ IDS Tower rises from the horizon again, this time accompanied by the Capella Tower and the Wells Fargo Center.
Highway tunnels, exit ramps, emergency sirens, congested lanes, hurried, harried, all-business, fast, slow, fast, slow, then we bend west toward the rollicking prairie meadows again. Brooklyn Park, St. Cloud, Sauk Centre (oo lala!), Alexandria and Fergus Falls. Then one last glance at the Rothsay prairie chicken before we enter the land of the oil boom: North Dakota!
Back across the Red River, we exit north to follow the river to the Canadian border. 75 minutes at 75 miles per hour between Fargo and Grand Forks, and again between Grand Forks and Pembina.
“Yes, sir.” “No, sir.” We haven’t forgotten the key to an easy border crossing: direct, courteous answers. And we’ve left the land of my grown-up adventures for the land of my childhood adventures. Emotion begins to swell.
Interstate 75 turns to Main Street, Morris, where we signal a west turn at the corner motel at Highway 23. Slowing to pass through Lowe Farm and Roland, our eyes light up with the dancing twinkle of the Christmas lights in each village. Snow stretches across the frozen prairie like a comforting quilt. Miami, Somerset, Mariapolis and St. Alphonse, Baldur: all snuggle into the cold winter night.
Navigating S-curves carefully with my sleepy, precious cargo, I finally see the sign for Manhatten Beach Camp. Down the hill and through the woods to the very same campgrounds I left that fall of ’86. Grandpa Bruce’s wood stove has home glowing with the warmth of family. Grandma Merrilyn waits, too, at the window until all are hugged and securely inside.
It’s almost unspeakable that the family would scatter across two countries with drama too-good-for-Hollywood for a quarter-century, only to be together here again. The joy and adventure of the launch come full circle on the welcoming road home.
Two decades later, I still get that safe, warm feeling when we I take my family on the long ride home again.
Comments Are Always Welcome...So, what's fun, interesting or meaningful about your ride home? Does your path cross mine?
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