We stumbled down 17th Street in the dark. Our path illuminated only by the intermittent flicker of street lamps and the occasional passing car. Laughter and conversation passed effortlessly between us. Our walk from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to Constitution is a memory unmarred by the seriousness that comes with having lived more years of life. An evening that can only be experienced during those unique college years, when the future is still full of possibility and the present is tangibly electrifying. Lively conversation gave way to long stretches of quiet as we huddled on the top step of the Lincoln Memorial and watched the sun rise above the Capital.
Later, a new group of strangers to my life sat squished together on a couch in a warm and welcoming living room. Thirteen bodies filled the space intended for less as we shared life. Joy, pain, confusion, aspirations, hopes. The occasional tears and more frequent smiles. It wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t effortless, it wasn’t easy. However, respect was earned, differences were addressed, and a community was intentionally created.
The me I am retraces the long faded footsteps of the me I was. I walk down 17th, recalling the laughter. I sit, surrounded by tourists oblivious to my nostalgia, on the top step of the Lincoln Memorial and this time, I watch the reflection of the sun set bounce rays of orange and red against the Capital as the day comes to a close behind me. I drive through the streets past the four houses, which at various times had been my permanent addresses, reminding myself of joyful memories.
Squeezing six fully grown college students into my dorm room at 3700 O Street in Georgetown to watch a movie on our first weekend in town. Inviting friends, from various stages of my life, to meet each other and enjoy a cookout on the rooftop of that glorious summer sublet in Foggy Bottom. Sharing meals and my favorite TV shows with the kind family that graciously welcomed me into their home, and lives, my first year living in Arlington. I can’t resist a smile when I think of all the memories and joy that came from the lovely back porch on Nottingham Street.
Somehow, in the coming and going, in the recreation of friend groups, and in the navigation of shifting relationships, I’ve found home. Home lives in the memories; in the streets, the steps, the couches, the movies, the conversations, the meals, and the porches. I’ve done a lot of leaving, yet I can go confidently. Knowing that when I return to the people I love, I will always be returning home.