The Ties That Bind, But Not Too Tight

On the first official snow day of the New Year, there is a sense of calm that pervades the cold, bitter air of my small Westchester suburb. With eight inches of snow appearing overnight, the schools are closed, and most adults have stayed home, working over the phone or on their laptops. My own parents are typing furiously, the sounds of their fingers hitting their keyboards reverberating across the room. The ancient heater knocks loudly on the walls, creating a rhythm of sorts that’s somehow both irritating and relaxing. I am curled up on the couch re-reading the fifth Harry Potter, still in pajamas despite the clock just striking 2:00 P.M. It is January of my senior year of high school, still a few weeks to go before the freedom of second semester, and there is work to be done. I have papers to write and tests to study for, but that will have to come later, after I find out, for the twelfth or so time, if Harry and his friends have defeated Lord Voldemort. In a few minutes, I will check on the status of the ready-made chocolate chip cookies my parents and I threw into the oven a little while ago. None of us claim to be bakers, but these cookies seem impossible to ruin. Yet sure enough, when I gingerly open the oven, each cookie is attached to its neighbor.

“I guess we put them too close together,” my father says with a shrug of his shoulders, but we laugh and eat the burning-hot cookies anyway, licking the gooey chocolate off our lips. When I go back downstairs, I grab my book and return to the couch, my stomach happily full. After I read a few more chapters, I will do a bit of work, and possibly even please my mother by attempting to organize the chaos that is my room. In a couple of hours, I will go driving with my father through the snow-covered streets. I need to experience driving in bad weather, he says, and I agree, albeit unhappily. Later tonight, I will watch a movie with my parents, maybe Winter’s Bone, one of the last remaining films I need to see before the Oscar nominations are announced. If all goes according to plan, I will barely leave my house all day, and will accomplish next to nothing. It will be perfect.
As the only child, my bond with my parents is immensely strong. It has always been the three of us, a family of dark brown hair and pale skin. I am a reader like my mother, a writer like my father. I have my mother’s love for lists and order, my father’s dark sense of humor. Like most teenagers, I often choose the company of my friends over my parents, but unlike many others my age, I’ve never felt the desire to leave home, and my parents, the moment I’m able. We are a team, my parents and I, a threesome who find enjoyment out of watching movies and burning cookies. We are all aware that days like today, lazily spent in each other’s company, are numbered. In seven months time, everything will change, for better or for worse. I will be at college, although the specific school has not yet been decided. Most likely, it will come down to a sprawling, popular upstate university, or a smaller, close-knit school in the city. I have a few months before I’m forced to make a choice, but in the meantime, I waffle between the two. I can easily picture myself at both schools, cheering on the football team at the first or exploring the city streets at the second. They are entirely different schools, but I love them both. I don’t want to have to decide.

Wherever I end up next year, I am sure I will be happy. I will join interesting clubs, take challenging classes, and make new friends that will change my life. Most importantly, though, I will be on my own, connected to my parents only by phone and computer. It is a fact that both frightens and excites me; every choice, every action, will be completely my own to make. Of course, my parents will always be an enormous part of my life, but college will change things. I hope I am ready.
For now, though, I will push those thoughts aside and enjoy what’s left of the day. There’s a book to read, a movie to watch, and a slightly burnt, misshaped chocolate chip cookie that’s calling my name.

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