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  • Home would be a place to for us to find again, a place we knew well only months ago. We were bottles tossed into the lake, brought back to the shore from which we left. Did the rocks and waves change the message inside? We'd put the cork back in and try again.

    Our return home was long enough for us to remember the sweet taste of freedom and home cooked meals. The dining hall would remain closed for a month, and we were brought back to where we started from. Taste buds alight with the memories of before, the dinner table and not the dorm desk. We'd set off, fully stocked with nostalgia, and find the places we had found before.

    We would chart the city, wipe the map clean and discover it anew. We'd pretend as if we did not know how to find the end of the maze, as does the child in his coloring book, tracing the path out with his finger before drawing the bold, dark pencil line. All of it would once again be new to us, we explorers of our own home.

    The places where summer shined brightest would be our beacons to find our way through home in the winter; a constellation in the bleak winter city arranged in a symbol that we'd be the only ones to recognize. Memories would work their way back, covered like the streets in an easily removed layer of white. The sheet served only to keep the dust off.

    Brought back again to the wooden playground that carried the name of the town. No one had been here for months and would not be back for months, for we stood guard on a cold January night. We searched the castle for hidden messages, notes from explorers that came before us on their own cold January night, erasing the line on the worn page of their own map and drawing it in again.

    I asked, "What is a hot toddy?" I had forgotten my field journal and was completely unaware of what the secret code was.

    Naturally, as adventurers, we had to sit down and consider this unknown language. We flew above the wooden spires and bridges, snugly in swings and tossing back and forth, just as our bottles did and continue to do on the lake not far from here.

    "Would you like a hot toddy, Joel?" We expected a comment back that would joke about how random the statement seemed to be. We were unprepared for the response, pith helmets would not protect us here. His eyes grew narrow, nearly shut, his voice so gruff that I half imagined that the playground was speaking for him. "If it involves saran rap, I want it." The swinging immediately stopped. It was hilarious.

    And now I'm reminded of our exploration once again, settled not in a swing but a chair inside a coffee house. Here, the toddys are cool. We'd be taking a different path than those unknown few before us.

    Perhaps the eraser is unnecessary when we've only drawn on the first page of our coloring books.
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