01 Dec It’s Just Called Home
“Who’s that?” a friend asks, looking at the school picture hung on my wall. Amidst twenty some odd polaroid pictures of college students and a few old ticket stubs, the 4-year-old in glasses, dressed head to toe in pink on her school picture day, is right in the middle.
It’s an innocent enough question. But, it’s a question that I know I will never truly be able to answer, for words can never do justice to the feelings of the heart. But it doesn’t hurt to try.
I tell my friend about a slice of heaven in the Appalachian Mountains, called Louisa, Kentucky. She doesn’t know that to me, it’s just called home.
I tell her about the famous bridge that connects two cities, two counties, two states, crosses multiple rivers and has a turn right in the middle of it. She doesn’t know that I’d heard those words a thousand times, and that the people of Lawrence County would never let me forget them.
I tell her about the school where the air conditioning never worked, and of course I tell her about the air mattresses we slept on. She doesn’t know about the Principal, and the Facilities Manager and the Pastor who made that 90-degree classroom floor the most comfortable place on Earth.
I tell her about the best cooks in all of Appalachia. She doesn’t know about Wendell’s American flag apron, or how Ross would always leave me some iced coffee in the fridge.
I tell her about my staff. She doesn’t know about all the tears we shared (most of them were mine), about all the peppermint tea we drank, or about all the Cheeze-Its I stole from Steve’s desk.
I tell her about getting lost on mountain roads and Caleb and Shelby running out of gas on the highway. She doesn’t know that a delay or detour just meant a few more minutes adventuring with my staff or listening to another one of our favorite songs.
I tell her about our projects. She doesn’t know about the week I bought 15 boxes of the wrong laminate flooring. Twice. Or about all of the rotted floorboards we found but weren’t planning on. Or about all the roofs I refused to climb on.
And finally, I tell her about our families. I tell her about the little girl in glasses, wearing all pink on her school picture day. I tell her about the little girl’s birthday party, and about the dress she wore to her Kindergarten orientation, and about hugging her and her sweet little brother goodbye. But she doesn’t know how my heart broke when our van pulled away for the last time. And I know she will never know exactly what I did last summer, or why it’s so important to me. But when my friend says, “I thought you were a camp counselor,” I can’t help but smile, and tell her some more.
Nadia Hassan is a sophomore at the University of Michigan studying Biomedical Engineering and is pre-med. She has volunteered for 3 summers with ASP, and was most recently on Summer Staff in Lawrence County, Kentucky in 2017.