An Ode to Home by Sara Dunklee

Author: Sara Dunklee

Read Time4 Minutes, 29 Seconds

I’m nine, and I laugh as my dad jokes about a water moccasin coming to chase our canoe. The summer breeze kicks my face as I push the canoe paddle further back into the murky waters. The sun is bound to set soon, but the tide is at its highest. Sometimes the water splashes up so high that I can get a taste of it on my lips, and it’s packed with more salt than any potato chip I have ever had. I’m stagnant for a second as I hear the familiar sound of my mom talking on the walkie-talkie. “Sara, when are you and dad coming back to the house? If we want to get Dino’s for dinner, we should probably be ready to go soon.”

I look to my dad sitting behind me in the canoe, who has also stopped his paddling. He nods his head, and I picked up the walkie-talkie from the bottom of the canoe to respond to my mom. “We are heading back now, we’ll be there in ten minutes.” As I lay the walkie-talkie back down, I grab for my paddle and begin making j-strokes in the water to turn the canoe around.

My favorite parts about canoeing is watching my paddle, dashing fish, or any type of movement making ripples in the water. It is always quiet on the Warwick River, and I often feel grateful for being able to grow up right on the water. I have fond memories of getting countless pairs of shoes ruined by the mud I treaded through near the water just to crab or fish. When my friends would ask me for horror stories when I was younger, I would tell them of the time I was ankle deep in mud trying to crab, and a snapping turtle the size of a truck tire appeared in front of me with beaming red eyes. During my first time ever fishing and being nearly yanked into the water by my fishing line when I was three years old because I caught two catfish at the same time, I became a believer in beginner’s luck.

Once returning to the pier, my dad and I climbed out of the canoe and onto the pier, where we quickly pulled the canoe out of the water and rushed up to the house to stash our lifejackets and paddles away.

My mom was patiently waiting for us in the living room, and we soon took off for our favorite local Italian restaurant — Dino’s Pizza Shop. It was and still is a staple to the Denbigh area of Newport News, it has been there so long and is far more authentic than any Olive Garden. My perfect meal at Dino’s would be described as sharing garlic knots with my parents as an appetizer, two large slices of Hawaiian pizza, and finishing off with a piece of homemade coconut creme pie to take home.

As I ordered my go to meal at Dino’s and waited, I thought of how I would be seeing my closest friends the next day. Our houses were all in the same neighborhood and formed a perfect triangle on the map. For the majority of the times my childhood friends and I would spend time together, it would be at my house. We would huddle around the dining room table to play games such as Risk or Apples to Apples. Our most intense games would always be interrupted by one of my cats jumping directly into the middle of it. In all honesty, we would laugh and scrap the game for playing with the cats instead.

Before leaving the restaurant at Dino’s, I waved goodbye and gave a gap toothed grin to the owners of the restaurant who rang up our meal and wished me and my parents a good day. On the car ride home, I had my face pressed up against the cooling glass and took in the activity bubbling in the streets. I always see people walking, running, or biking. The faces I see aren’t just one color — there is an equal amount of white, black, and brown. I have been exposed to so many different cultures growing up because of the diversity of my hometown, and for that, I am grateful to grow up somewhere like this since there is always something to learn.

Upon arriving home, the shade of the sky has went from hues of oranges and pinks to dark blues and blacks with silver stars slowly dotting the sky. It is late for me, so I go to hug my parents tightly before turning in for the night. They squeeze me right back, and they wished me sweet dreams as I pranced up the steps to my room. One of my cats, Stan, hops onto my bed and is curled up by my feet. He purrs the whole night, and I eventually drift off to sleep. Life is good.

Although I love Charlottesville and I look forward to going to college in less than a month now, there are many things I will miss about Newport News. To any of the college bound kids reading this, take the time now to enjoy what you can about your hometown, because there may come a time when you’re in your dorm and wish you were in the comfort of your home.

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