Home, A Way from Home

By Jeffery Cohen

Home, A Way from Home

As the final diploma was handed out and commencement drew to a close, I found myself shaking hands with college friends I would probably never see again. We were all headed off in different directions, down untraveled roads, ready to begin a new life. The only problem was, my road was a one way street that led back to my parent’s house.

Now, you might think that that bothered me. It did . . . but not as much as it bothered them. What I’d never realized was, my folks had grown quite fond of their newly emptied nest. So, they welcomed me home, not quite with open arms, but with the understanding that I would always have a place to come back to, if I really needed it . . . and I REALLY needed it. With no money, no job and no prospects, I didn’t have much choice, and we all knew it. I couldn’t help but wonder if I was making a big mistake. It didn’t take long to find out.

My first morning home, my bedroom door flew open. “Breakfast is ready,” my mother announced.

Feeling like a vampire whose coffin lid had been pried open, I shielded my eyes from the morning sunlight as my mother pulled up the shades.

“What time is it?” I whispered, still trying to raise my eyelids.

“Seven o’clock,” she said, matter-of-factly. The last time I had gotten up that early, the dorm was on fire at school. “Your eggs are getting cold,” she warned two minutes later. Then she stood there, hands on her hips waiting, until I dragged myself out of the bed. And that was just the beginning.

There were all kinds of what I thought to be new rules, until I was reminded that, these were always the rules. Four years at college tended to make me forget.

Dinner was always at six. If I was late, Mom wanted to know why.

“I was worried. I thought something might have happened to you,” she said, ladle in hand.

“It’s only ten after six,” I explained.

“So, where were you all that time?”

Whenever I found an old movie that I was just dying to see on TV, my Dad found a baseball game, or a football game, or a basketball game that he couldn’t miss. I started to wonder if old movies were only scheduled during sporting events. So I’d wait until everyone was asleep, then I’d sneak out into the living room and quietly turn on the television. Ten minutes later a voice shrieked from my parent’s room. “What are you doing out there? It’s almost twelve o’clock. Are you going to stay up all night?”

The law was laid down daily. “Don’t put your feet up on the new furniture. No snacks in bed. Don’t eat junk food. It’ll stunt your growth. Hang that jacket up. Put those sneakers away. Close that door. Were you raised in a barn?”

As I lay in my single bed in the tiny room that I’d grown up in, I stared at the four walls, still remembering the Jack and Jill print wallpaper that lurked behind several coats of paint. I was certain that I could hear the tiny water-toting duo from my childhood whispering to me. “What are you doing back here? Shouldn’t you have your own place by now?”

For the next six months I worked hard at any and every odd job I could find until I’d finally saved enough money to rent an apartment. With my meager resources, I have to admit, the place that I did find was not the newest building, and it certainly wasn’t in the best neighborhood. But the way I figured it, a little paint, a little creativity, and it could have great possibilities.

I decided to decorate the entire place in an Asian motif. I hung brightly painted paper lanterns, wound armfuls of artificial cherry blossoms around tree branches I had scrounged up. On regular trips to Chinatown, I searched out tea pots, ginger jars, Buddha figurines, and anything that might look as though it had been snatched from the Ming Dynasty. The truth was, for what I could afford, my objects of art looked more like they’d come from Ming’s Curio and Novelty Shop. After weeks of scrubbing, painting, arranging and rearranging, I felt the place had finally begun to take shape, so I invited my family over.

My father took his time moving from room to room, inspecting every corner. Then he shrugged his shoulders, nodded his head and said, “It’s alright.” For my Dad, that was quite a compliment.

My mother smiled broadly. All she said was, “It’s a miracle!” I wasn’t sure if she was commenting on what I’d done with the apartment or voicing her relief at my finally moving out.

My brother was quite taken with the ingenious style I had decorated in, and from that day on, always referred to my place as “The world of Jeffery Orient.” All in all, I felt as though I’d gotten the stamp of approval.

That night, after everyone left, I breathed a sigh of relief, then I climbed into bed with a bag of potato chips and a couple of packs of Twinkies, kicked my shoes off and dropped them on the floor next to my jacket, then turned on the TV to Casablanca. Just past midnight, as Rick smiled at Ilsa and said, “Here’s looking at you kid,” I gazed around the place and grinned with satisfaction. It is more than alright . . . greater than a miracle . . . even better than China itself.

To me, it was home sweet home.

About this writer

  • Jeffery Cohen Freelance writer and newspaper humor columnist, Jeffery Cohen, has written for Sasee, Lifetime and Read, Learn, Write. He’s won awards in Women-On-Writing Contest, Vocabula’s Well Written Contest, National League of American Pen Womens’ Competition, Southern California Genealogy Competition, and Writer’s Weekly writing contest.

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3 Responses to “Home, A Way from Home”

  1. Erika Hoffman says:

    Anyone who had to go home after college to live or anyone who had a kid come home to live after college will empathize with this story. I was both of those “anyones.” It’s not easy for parents or kid. Some of those memories last with you–forever.

  2. Kathy Smith says:

    Thanks for sharing this! It is certainly relatable, as most of us have been on at least one side of that fence. Me, I’ve been on both. And didn’t enjoy either one! I appreciate both the honesty and the humor of this piece. :)

  3. Linda O'Connell says:

    You certainly brought the reality of the situation into focus with humor and truth. I think you can always go home, but only for a visit.

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