I remember waking that day after a bout of dreamless sleep. I remember the strangeness that resonated through me knowing that, in mere hours, Florida would be a drifting dot far beneath me. I remember the airport was filled with unfamiliar faces and scents that I tried to dissect individually, tried to stow away for later.
Bags were searched, shoes removed, hugs exchanged, luggage stowed, seatbelts buckled, armrests gripped with whitened knuckles. Take off was quick and invigorating. I remember pressing my face against the glass of my window smilingly, ignoring my sister’s discomfort with heights as we soared. I felt the plane angle downward what felt like minutes later, pressing my seatbelt into my pelvis. As we dropped, my excitement peaked.
â–º QUARTER FINALIST 2012 TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
We were deposited in Rhode Island, as I recall. My older sister Renae, and I – did I mention we were alone on this endeavor? – peddled uncertainly through the motions that were expected of us, snatching up our luggage and such.
My grandmother, with her eyes like an owl’s and her hair like wispy fire, tapped her toe at the foot of an elevator. She met us for great, heaving hugs and marveled at our newly-grown curves. My sister was probably seventeen or so, and I thirteen.
Following the pleasantries, we were promptly shipped to Gran’s home, which would have been charmingly brown and 19th-century were it not for the stench of her many feral kittens that clogged my nostrils. I think it was the untamed garden that captured my interest the most – the thing splayed over the full expanse of her land. So, so beautiful.
Gran was kind enough to offer us refuge in her home for the duration of our stay. We slept on couches that pretended to be beds and eagerly ate whatever strange cuisine Gran tossed in front of us. One of the most eccentric things that characterized my grandmother was her insistent feeding of the wildlife that spilled into her home. Squirrels, for example, were free to come and go as they wished. This came as quite the surprise to me when I woke with a squirrel a foot from me, nibbling at a nut Gran had left for it.
At any rate, Renae and I experienced the main attractions of Hull, Massachusetts and then branched into the many curious wonders of Boston. The colors of Quincy Street, the small, abandoned loft where my parents once owned a restaurant, the ice cream we gobbled at an adorable corner store, the massive Barnes & Noble that adorned the edge of the street, the throaty laughs of my cousins, the strange smell of the air (so different from that in Florida!), the ride home with my uncle and aunt – these memories I hold dear. Boston perpetually exists within me as a kaleidoscope of strange, luminescent beauty.
Too soon, we were shipped back to Florida. The ride back was nowhere near as captivating as the first – this time we were propped in a non-window seat. My iPod obliterated the world through most of it. My sister snoozed lightly at my side.
And there was a moment there, that I thought I saw her smile in unconsciousness.
That trip changed me. As I’ve said, Florida was the only home I’d ever known, my four-person family the only love I’d ever experienced. In Massachusetts I found a new home, a new family with all new brands of love to offer. I left a piece of me in Massachusetts that I wholeheartedly intend to retrieve in several months. I’ll let you know if anything has changed.
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