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When I turned sixteen, my grandparents took me out to the lavish Sixteen restaurant in Chicago. “Sixteen for sixteen,” they said. Over microscopic spoonfuls of diced cucumbers, which the restaurant dubbed “a salad,” my Grandma handed me a velvety grey box lined with gold. I opened the box with the same finesse and caution one applies to handling a freshly fallen autumn leaf, because I already knew what was inside. When my older sister, Sedona, turned sixteen just two years earlier, my itinerant grandparents gave her a charm bracelet; however, this was no ordinary chain of metal, but a record of her life, the charms marking her own travels and adventures.
Inside my box was a gold chain, decorated with my own memories.
A trolley car came first, reminding me of the trip my family took to London when I was five. I remember the London Eye, the startlingly realistic figures at Madame Tussaud’s, and the strange affection I developed for English accents, an oddity that still holds to this day.
Next came a golden camel, a souvenir from my thirteenth birthday trip to Jordan. In a pleasant surprise, I had found that I adored Jordan, from the ruins of Petra in their stony grandeur to the salty waters of the Dead Sea: there was a regal ancientness to the dramatic slopes of the mountainsides.
There were more golden tokens of my travels, including a glittering outline of Switzerland and a miniature sombrero from Puerto Vallarta, but what really struck me were the relics of all the different homes from throughout my life. The small can of baked beans from Boston, my first home, swung impatiently as I gazed at it. That reminder brought me a brief a wave of sadness, as I thought how picturesque life had been in Wellesley, Massachusetts, how it stung like salt on an open wound when we drove to the airport for the last time. After Boston, that hazy innocence washed away to reveal a deep crack in my family’s foundation, as we settled into a short-lived year outside Detroit, represented on my chain by a gloomy bronze Model-T Ford. After my parent’s divorce, I moved to a Chicago suburb with my mother and sisters, faced with the terrifying experience of attending a large public school: here, it was no longer deemed socially acceptable to read alone in a classroom while your peers played cops and robbers outside. Cue the small, circular etching of the Chicago skyline dangling from my wrist. After three challenging years, I found myself on the small campus of Elgin Academy, a small college preparatory school. I loved every inch of those tiny grounds, and the city around them, where I was suddenly surrounded with people who had such differing views from mine, and yet thought the same way as I did.
Now, seven years later, I will be leaving another home and setting off on a new journey. The thought of never coming back to the place where I have lived for the past ten years of my life sends a hot wave of pain through my heart. Pain, but comfort, too. Wherever I go, and whatever I do, I know that the place I love so much will always be jangling from my wrist, jingling with every move I make. And I know one other thing. I know that when the time comes, I will be ready for the challenges that stare me down. I am tucking away the part of my life that I have been living, but I am opening up a new chapter, and I am completely exhilarated.
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