January 19, 2012

Where the Heart Is

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After three bags of Planters roasted peanuts, 15 pages of Lolita, two unsuccessful napping attempts and one surprisingly charming conversation with a recent retiree and my in-flight neighbor on an uncharacteristically pleasant Delta flight, I was home.

Suburban South Florida, with its cheerful sun and toasty 80 degree warmth, is a far cry from Ithaca, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t need a break from what I’m told has been a remarkably “mild” winter. I was unfortunately unable to return home for either fall or Thanksgiving break, so it had been nearly four months since I saw the inside of my bedroom, four months since I held my dogs, drove a car or ate authentic Latin food, and four months since I felt compelled to bust out denim shorts — truly nothing says winter is upon us quite like a pair of cut-offs and the gentle slap-slap of flip-flops plodding against hot pavement.

Florida was always home to me. Holiday lights coiled around Queen Palms and plastic Santa Clauses sporting tropical print button downs are all but uncommon. I couldn’t wait to see old friends and my family, take a recess from demanding coursework and hit the gym every morning (a thoroughly unrealistic goal I’m sure I’ve set for myself every school break since freshman year of high school, yet can never quite seem to bring to fruition).

For a while, everything was truly fantastic: reconnecting with friends, hanging out in all our old places, not having to layer, sleeping into the afternoon and, come to think of it, slowly becoming nocturnal. My bed at home is twice the size of my bed at Cornell, there’s a Chipotle just down the street and I forgot how incredibly glorious On Demand is. Steadily I sank into a realm of wondrous un-productivity, admittedly allotting too much time to watching VH1 — that 100 Greatest Songs of the 2000’s countdown never ceases to get me!

But my sliding glass door that needs a little jiggle and a push, my toaster oven with its broken dial that needs to be forcefully nudged to the right degree, the way I have to strategically grip the television remote to manually lock the batteries in place because the back cover has been missing for years — these were the unnerving little slices of disillusionment that began to make it plain. I had forgotten some of those seemingly negligible quirks of my own house that had once distinguished me from guests merely crashing on the couch. And though these singularities would come back relatively quickly, none of it was the same. It all remained somewhat unfamiliar, and I a bit foreign.Though I do love Florida, not to mention home cooking (unfortunately, my culinary expertise ends at Easy Mac) and, naturally, the laundry help (even more unfortunately, I spent the first two months of college cleverly washing my things strictly with fabric softener), I missed Ithaca so unbelievably much. That once-cheerful Florida sun grew scornfully bright, and that toasty warmth became a roast.I missed calzone runs to Nasties, I missed Collegetown, Sunday brunch at RPCC, the view of West Campus from the top of Libe Slope and 2 a.m. stress rants with my hall-mate. I undoubtedly missed trite midnight girl-talk, 20-minute naps that morph into entire stretches of sleep, wearing scarves and storing so much canned soup, Ramen and boxed juice that our room more greatly resembles a bunker than a dorm.

I even missed studying French until all I can squeak out is an unintelligible mix of oohs and nasally groans, locking eyes with my roommate battling physics beneath the halo of a desk lamp and sharing a single glance that conveys a garbled bundle of thunderous screeches and frenzied expletives — a look invariably followed by irrepressible giggles, a smile and the knowledge that everything will be okay.

I lived my entire life in the same house, in the same cul-de-sac, under the same brilliant Florida sun, but I have never felt that any place has been more right for me than Cornell. Whether in section discussing the work of Virginia Woolf, or just with friends learning of the wonder that is Nutella, I am enveloped in an unabating sense of awakening (honestly, where has Nutella been all my life? I have utterly no idea).

I was told while applying to college that it didn’t matter where I ended up, that any place I went, I’d grow to love. Perhaps I’m a bit partial now, but I truly can’t imagine a place I’d feel so perfectly happy than right here. It’s all the work; it’s all the people; it’s the lack of sleep. It’s all of it.

So now, if I were to have two sparkling ruby slippers fixed upon my feet, it wouldn’t be to Florida, but to my wonderfully unkempt double in the basement of Eco House that magic would whisk me on home to.

Lianne Bornfeld is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. She may be reached at lsb233@cornell.edu. Northern Exposure, a column from the perspectives of alternating members of the Class of 2015, appears alternate Fridays this semester.

Original Author: Lianne Bornfeld