Oxford defines home as “the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household.” It would ring true for most people to say that home is more than just the four walls you grew up within. Home is many things, many places and people. Home is Ann’s Thai on a Tuesday night with friends after all the fields are cleared and the gym lights are shut off. Home is parents who ask about every match and audition even if they don’t quite understand your reply. It’s found in the teachers who let you stay in their room after class because they know you’re overwhelmed with deadlines and applications. It’s the smiling eyes above the masked face of a stranger passed in the school hallway, a thought shared through that knowing glance. Home is the hidden curve before you cross Cypress Creek bridge. I smell it in the fields being burnt at the end of the harvest season. I taste it in a Buck’s Corner rainbow ice cream cone after school.

When I first came to East Duplin, I didn’t know if I could ever call it home. My parents were not alumni and I knew almost no teachers. Chinquapin seemed so far away from this foreign place. I rejected the idea that I could grow to love it here as much as I did my precious world 8 miles down the road. The truth about small towns is that they grow on you. A lot of teenagers are grasping at straws to leave until they realize that the small corner of the world we reside in is not so confining after all. There is a warmth to small towns unlike any other place I’ve visited. After a few years of getting to know each backroad and shortcut, I have come to truly embrace this as my home.

The time is quickly approaching that I will leave this haven located just east of I-40. Upon leaving, though, I have come to understand that I am not uprooting myself, but branching out, extending the breadth of a quickly growing tree. I am indebted to almost eighteen years of love and care that have shaped me into the young woman I am today. If I were to thank everyone who has helped me along the way, I could fill an entire newspaper. These 400 words will have to do for now.

So to my home, thank you.

Cora Haste is a senior student student at East Duplin High School.