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Young Writers Think Warm Thoughts of Home, and Recall Cold Days

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YWP News: Vermont Writes Day is coming on Feb. 13. More info at youngwritersproject.org.

This week’s prompt: Home: What are you most proud of about your hometown or state?

Most people don’t know what it’s like coming from a small town: It is a life completely different from any other. In a big city, you can walk down the streets every day and not know anybody. In a small town, everything you do is watched and everybody knows everything. That is what I love about Vermont …

We have forests that we can roam and explore; dirt roads that we can try to get lost on but always find our way back; jacked-up trucks and tractors. Our schools are small one- or two-story buildings … Our teacher taught our parents and knew our grandparents. Parents can go through a yearbook and name the parents of almost everyone …

Vermont — Newbury, Vt. especially — is a place where families do not raise their children alone, but with the help of the community. It is a place where everyone helps one another. It is a place where we are close — a big family.

With each step, I exhale a breath of fresh, clean mountain air.

Leaves stir up under my feet, the wind plays with my hair.

My imagination runs wild like a young animal bursting with energy.

I gaze at the mountains afar and reminisce about ripping down ski slopes, my aching

knees, the snow billowing up around me,

as the final skiers race to the lift for the last ride of the day.

The wooden trails bring memories of slow walks on horseback.

My best friend on four legs, enjoying the company just as much as I do.

The smell of wood burning, the slide of wool socks slipping into heavy boots.

The chill that freezes to the core.

This is home.

My home will always be where the wind howls and the pines tremble.

Where the leaves fall and create brilliant hues.

Home remains where splashes of water echo in your ears,

and muscles are exhausted after a day in the pond.

Nothing can compare to the first change of color in the leaves.

Or the first snowfall.

The first peak in hot temperatures or cool spring rain.

My tread leaves a path behind me, bootprints in the snow,

trampled leaves and twigs, barefoot in the grass and footsteps in the mud.

My journey goes on. New stories are told. Memories are born.

Families and friendships are created. Right here. Right now.

In this moment. Vermont.

Prompt: Cold: What is the coldest you’ve ever felt?

The cold envelops me like a blanket’s alter ego. 

I stand, waiting for the warm arms of hypothermia.

I wait. Time slows to a halt. 

My body begs for warmth like a child begs for a toy. 

My backpack becomes heavier. 

My arms become weaker. 

My eyes become heavier. 

Then I see it, far off in the  distance. 

The yellow, slowly approaching. 

My soul lifts, my body perks up. 

I know the end is near.  The warmth is coming. 

Then it reaches me in its yellow glory, slowing to a halt. 

The bus doors open.

I climb the steps, head off to school. 

Only to repeat the same thing tomorrow. 

I walk towards the door, my feet slowly falling on the old wood floor, creaking, like a haunted house. I place my hand delicately on the brass door handle, and twist, the old mechanism clicking and clacking until the door finally swings open.

The snow comes whooshing in, overtaking the warm glow of the house.

Like a sandstorm, the frozen pellets hit my face. They’re like needles dipped in dry ice. The cold completely demolishes the defenses of my thin sweatshirt and freezes me to my center. I stumble back and fall flat on my back.

Immediately, the snow lays itself on the floor, as if it were a dog, getting ready for a nap. It creates a thin layer on the carpet in front of the open door. I scramble up and slam the thing shut, locking it and pushing to make sure the monster doesn’t come in again. Once I make sure it won’t do that again, I walk away from the entrance in astonishment. I have never, ever been that cold before.

Playing hockey, I have been to a lot of really cold rinks, but none of them compares to the coldest I have ever been.

I was on top of Mt. Washington, where usually you can see really far out and get great pictures. But my family was unlucky. We hiked this huge mountain on a day that was forecast to have thunderstorms and lightning later in the afternoon.

We got up at the AMC hut only a mile and a half below the summit, and began our hike. I was wearing a sweatshirt and a raincoat but I could feel the damp air seeping into my clothes. By the time we had been hiking for two hours, there were constant 75 mph winds and the fog was so thick I could not see my dad only 8 feet behind me on the steep and rocky trail. I honestly thought I could fall off a hidden cliff at any moment.

During that hour I was probably the coldest I have ever felt, but not in the way you would think. There is a feeling inside one’s chest when you are really nervous. I had this feeling. I was shivering as we hiked but it wasn’t from the cold winds (well maybe partly). It was because I was so terrified of this hike. We were totally alone, we couldn’t see, and a thunderstorm was approaching. There were so many things that could have gone wrong. Finally we reached the top and that’s when the physical cold crept in through all my layers and I collapsed inside the building, so relieved to be safe and warm.