As I began neatly packing the car full of my belongings, aggressively trying to fit pretty much everything I owned into the back, I hear “Heres my flannel for when you miss a bit of home.” I turned around to see my teary eyed father handing over one of his favorite flannels. He knew I had a love for those soft, plaid-patterned button ups. I put out my hands to pull the flannel close to my heart and am pulled into one of the tightest hugs I think my father has ever given. We shed tears and share squeezes that I don’t think I will ever forget as he begins a short speech about how proud of a father he is and that they’ll miss me more than anything. A few hours later, my mother, father and I embark on an 8 hour drive north to Marquette, MI where 4 years later, I would graduate from NMU and 6 years later, well – Im currently sitting in a softly lit coffee shop on third street, the smell of espresso whirling around my nose, the sight of Blackrocks Brewery down the road, and my thoughts tumbling around my brain.
Im here, I’m back, Im “home”.
I spent 4 years in college, and the last 2 years have been a whirlwind of adventure. Throughout those college years, I lived through some of the hardest days – some focused around school, most focused around my own personal struggles. And to be honest, the only reason I made it through would be the sole fact that I have the biggest army of friends and family that most people couldn’t even dream of.
Oh, and that flannel.
Rough day at school? Put the flannel on. Snowed in? Put the flannel on. You have an overwhelming amount of tears flowing from your eyes? Put that damn flannel on girl and go hug your friends. Miss your family? Put the flannel on and never take it off because you’ll never stop feeling that…. And thats the god damn truth right?
I always thought I was this independent girl who could conquer anything she wanted to on her own, I still like to think that but only in certain situations. See, the thing is, you need family. Whether this family is blood, or your best friends turned life long friends. You need them. You need sisters who will answer your call at midnight, drop everything and make the 8 hour drive just for a hug and a few hours of sister time. What about parents? You need those little letters that come in the mail that are full of encouragement, or a phone call that simply says “I believe in you, and I love you”.
Oh, and that flannel.
*I* need that flannel.
That flannel is home. That flannel is family when I can’t be near. That flannel is a hug from my parents. A hug from my sisters, my brother, my niece, my aunts, uncles and cousins. That flannel is everything when I can’t make it home for a holiday, for a dinner, for a 1st birthday.
Looking back on the day I moved to Marquette, I never thought a flannel could be so important to me. I mean, come on its a flannel! But looking back on that same day, I never understood what It was like to be away from a family that means the world to you. You can call, you can FaceTime, write letters and communicate every single day but It will never be the same as sharing a cup of coffee in our living room, enjoying the family’s presence and of course, laughing uncontrollably. It will never be the same as seeing their smiles in person, and hearing their giggles from across the table. It will never be the same as simply just being present.
I will never take that for granted. I used to.
But never again.