An array of colors splatter across the night sky.

Oohs and aahs filter through the air amidst the sporadic booms.

In the middle of all this noise I sit, surrounded by my friends, whom I haven’t seen in over four months.

Only one sentence replays over and over in my head as I gaze up in wonder at the firework display.

I’m home.

Okay so maybe that was a bit of a dramatic rendition of what happened on the 4th of July (the day after my plane landed in Newark, marking the beginning of my break). But hey, celebrating America’s Independence Day in my hometown made me feel some type of way.

My first week back was bittersweet, to say the least.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved being smothered by my mother’s kisses. I had forgotten the happiness I derived from bantering with my sisters. The sights, the smells, the noises; everything reached out to me and encompassed me in their familiarity.

Driving through Verrazano Bridge on the way home from the airport!

But I couldn’t ignore the differences.

Rooms in my childhood home have changed from orange to beige, purple to white. My mom’s hair is shorter now; it’s difficult to run my fingers through it as I had often done before. My sisters share memories with each other that I can only ever exist vicariously in. My friends share inside jokes with one another that I can never truly be apart of.

I can see the effect my absence has had on various parts of the life I left behind. But in the same sense, I’m excited for the next four weeks to once again grow accustomed to my past!

New Zealand may have been where I began. But America is where I became who I am.

“The past beats inside me like a second heart” – John Banville