At 18, college prospects had me looking northeastern. Well, looking anywhere-but-Oklahoma. Love the homeland as I do, it was time to set sail. A brief campus tour of the University of New Hampshire with my (alumnus) step-dad left me swooning for the autumn leaves and red brick. Before I joined the rowing team and gained a handful of new brothers, before I understood what “hiking” truly meant (or mountains for that matter), and before I appreciated the gravity of the phrase “Winter is coming,” the Granite State won my heart with its steamy greenery and stone. It has been my chosen home. Not only that, my badass black-belt mama resides here! On this visit we managed to squeak through entire seasons of The Killing and even get along in the kitchen. Imagine.
Milton marked the final destination of my West to East road-trip. I unpacked and immediately dug in my heels to study for the RD exam with just one week left on the clock before exam time. I can proudly admit that I remained diligent and plowed through my work despite the constant bombardment of social prospects with my NH fam. But, when I did occasionally come up for air, the study breaks were superb.
One of the highlights of the entire NH stint was rallying the troops for an evening hike up my favorite nugget of a “mountain” (Mt. Major in Alton) so as to enjoy the July 4th fireworks over Lake Winnepesauke. Many of my world’s collided that night – Catan buddies, UNH rowers, Organic Garden goddesses – and with spectacular results. We hiked up at dusk and snacked on the mountain top. Charlotte even played bartender with homemade rose-lavender simple syrup and champagne (she fancy) while we snacked on brie (brie!) finger sandwiches from Ben and Allura. To my surprise we were the largest clan on the mountain and our real estate was premium. We got to watch the sun elegantly slip below the horizon while many tiny boats made their way to gather in the Wolfeborough Bay. The fireworks were scattered at first. Then they were everywhere before us. Delicate, miniature, and enchanting. We felt like a real tribe up there. We even made it down in the dark in one piece. I love these wildlings.
In between studying and yanno, major meltdowns, I managed to convince Jonny, Krystal, Aki, and Mike T to come contra dance with me! The sweat-stains were vast as was the merriment. I even dosi-doed with surprise guest: Phillip Pampreen, younger brother of Steven! The family confidence quota is strong in the Pampreens. Never have I known a teen fellow as strident in his affection for old-timey colonial boot-scootin’. My newbie buddies were open-minded and scooted their boots right along with the pros. It’s nights like this one that assure me I will both dance for my entire life and keep this very same company.
My final days in The Shire were spent fervently sewing like a mad woman, cranking out headbands like no one’s business. Some years ago I fashioned something of turban with a built-in elastic for the purposes of keeping hair from my eyes in the kitchen. Once when Caroline and I were lounging outside of the catering kitchen on break, a woman approached and asked to buy one of my headbands. And thus a business was born. These little doggies have been turned into countless tanks of gas and groceries gallore. But aside from the cash money, nothing beats the feeling of selling something you’ve made with your own hands. Unable to operate my Etsy account while overseas, my dear cousin Michelle helped me offer my wares at the boutique where she works in San Fransisco: Molte Cose. May these little treasures sell while I am away so that this birdie might fly home for the wedding of a very special cousin next year.
Like all good things, the New Hampshire train had to pull into the station. I had other trains upon which to hop. With my packing complete, final get togethers included a family feast with Akiyoshi and one last glorious breakfast at the Big Bean in Newmarket. The french toast was stacked high and the group hugs were tightly knit. Aki, angel that he is, drove me down to Boston for my flight to San Fransisco.
I’m half-ashamed to admit that I never cried. I will miss the bejesus out of these shiney faces – my mom’s especially. However, these are smiles I will keep in my life for years and years to come. My excitement for the great things and joy they will bring while I’m gone was rivaled only by the expanding anticipation for my own journey ahead. We will meet again, soon, perfect people, you. Likely on mountains, with brie.