Leaving home is an exercise in self control. If you you show too much joy, you will hurt your parents’ feelings; if show too much sorrow, your enough to leave home. So, as a wise 18 year old I decided to be restrained enough to give my parents the confidence to leave me and all my belongings in a room which I shared with another young woman. Even though my parents felt my roommate was a bit ‘racy’ this was the fall of 1966, the dawning of the Age of Aquarius. I felt confident also that I could go to college and be on my own. And in fact, I could and I did. Leaving home, however, is not without a few problems.
The stout German food–at a College hidden in a swell of small hills and trees–made me long for a piece of succulent chicken and delicate pasta shells with a red marinara sauce and a good crisp salad. The large cuts of yellow gravied turkey with the side-dish of sauerkraut were strange hills to climb. After I had carried a number of serving platters out of the school’s kitchen to students in the dining room, I was able to sit down and taste what I had been eyeing with trepidation. Used to eating all kinds of ethnic food, I was not put off by the aroma of it. Rather, I was worried about the absolute yellow-like-a-sunflower of the gravy and sauerkraut. Strangely colored was–well–strangely colored.
However, no one else complained about how the food tasted, and I ventured to ask about the yellow gravy. “Oh the gravy is yellow because it has food coloring in it,” my table mate said. “But why, yellow?” I asked. My table mate shook her head, “I don’t know.” She turned toward the girl sitting on the other side of her; I could no longer hear the conversation. My appetite cleaned the plate pretty well, and I was glad that the food was good. As time went on, I realized that this particular meal was either greatly loved by the students or was a part of someone’s tuition paid for by the pound. This yellow topped meal was served no less than 3 times a week.
Only milk, water, and lemonade were served in the dining room. While I don’t remember exactly, I don’t think tea or coffee were served. Wine certainly was forbidden. So I learned that my family who had been drinking wine, sinfully, at every Sunday meal, although mine and my sister’s were heavily diluted with ginger-ale. Wine equelled sin; my family had sinned at every Sunday meal, every Sunday in and every Sunday out. I realized that the United Brethren objected to wine drinking as a matter of principle. Leaving home opened my world wider than I would have imagined.
Some of the women students were United Brethren, and I learned that my class mates pinned their clothes together. I looked at a group of people who lived gently enough that neither the pins nor the pricking of the pins generated problems like a wardrobe malfunction. Pins were used to fasten clothes rather than buttons which were considered a vanity. Women’s hair styles were flat, sedate, and hidden underneath a white linen cloth hat. My hair, on the other hand, was big and naturally curly those days. I tried to tame it by looking at it with a severe manner before I tried to tame it with a wet comb.I realized by the end of the first semester that I was not able to stop sinning in these small matters and by the end of the year, I had been accepted in a large, state-owned University in a city close to my parent’s home.
Marrying before I was 21 gave me enormous freedom: I learned how to drive; I could study at any time; I did not have to make big meals nor clean up after them; I finished school and found a job teaching English. I was as happy as a pig in mud. I love to teach, love the wobbly 8th graders hidden under their big shirts and afraid of the changes going on in their bodies. I love it when kids I teach can read at grade level by the end of the year; when my students don’t boil the fish in the class tank; I especially love it when the students I teach bring a parent in to meet me. And I especially love it when a student whom I was worried about failing pulls his fat out of the fire and soars! Change is good, especially this kind of change. Leaving home has all kinds of advantages, and as I continue to grow, I learn more about leaving home.
Home is where the heart is. Leaving home has taught me that, sometimes, there are not many reasons compelling enough to require proof. Buckaroo Bonzi said, “Where-ever you go there you are.” And I think that about home– where-ever I go there is home. I’ve never really been able to choose where my home is, except now. I am at home where my heart is and for the last thirty some years that has been marriage and family. We are not promised success although we do not expect failure. Leaving home is almost a contradiction in terms; I left home as soon as I could; my father left my childhood home by dying. My ex-husband left home through his constant travel and absence. My children left home along the traditional paths, college and marriage. I? I am leaving home again to see places that I think I remember.