Before I left for school this past September, I was fully looking forward to getting out of Vermont. I’ve lived here for all of my 18 years and I was ready for something new. Traveling from my home in Middlebury to Endicott College north of Boston logs approximately four hours, the perfect distance: not too far, not too close. I didn’t want my parents just popping in on me whenever; but if I were seriously injured, I might want them there for me. In the weeks leading up to my departure I never entertained the thought of missing home. I’ve always been good at being away. I think I’m just good at adapting, which is a helpful trait when it comes to college.
My parents drove me to school on a rainy day. We lugged my suitcase and duffel bag and many boxes up a hill and two sets of stairs, I hung my clothing in the small closet and straightened photos of summer happiness with friends on my desk, and then it was time for them to leave. I knew my mom would cry and as we walked back down those stairs and down the hill to the parking lot, I didn’t feel sad. And I’m not saying that’s a good thing. Maybe I should have cried and asked my mom and dad to stay a little longer, but I didn’t. Sure, I was a little nervous about being alone — and I mean really alone — but I was also excited and I knew that I couldn’t put off the future so I accepted it and embraced it. I hugged my parents goodbye, promised them that I would call, and waved to them as they slowly got in their Vermont-plated car and drove out of the school’s gates.
I was ready, as I knew I would be.
What I wasn’t ready for was about a month later when I found I was missing certain aspects of my life back in the Green Mountain State. The place I had craved to get away from seemed more desirable as the semester rolled on. It wasn’t that I missed living at home or anything like that, it was more that I missed a certain something from Vermont.
A big part of my longing was for the food. Now, the food at my school isn’t that bad, it’s really not. But I was growing tired of salads and sandwiches. The food at college is definitely not Mom’s cooking. I was longing for everything from steak and shrimp on pasta to mashed potatoes sprinkled with salt; from fresh fruit to cold smoothies.
And one of the biggest culture shocks for me was the absence of real maple syrup. I’ve been totally spoiled with the presence of that jug in my refrigerator at home. One Sunday while on a weekly call with my mom, I brought up this matter. She and my dad were coming soon for Parents’ Weekend, and I used that opportunity to request certain things — food items mainly, with maple syrup ranking high on the list.
Sure enough, on Oct. 5 my mom and dad and a slew of other parents poured through Endicott’s front gates. When my mom called me from the parking lot I ran down the stairs and skipped down the steps built into the hill. I located their car after a few seconds of searching and enveloped them both in hugs. My mom pulled out a bag of apples from Happy Valley Orchard and a smaller plastic bag of Rainforest granola from the co-op in Middlebury. I smiled broadly and thanked them. My dad, laughing, produced a pint bottle proudly advertising “State of Vermont Pure Maple Syrup” on the side in brown, red and green writing. I freaked out. I had been tweeting and talking to my friends for weeks about how my parents were bringing me real maple syrup, and they didn’t believe how deeply I loved the deep amber goodness.
Believe it or not, some of these friends had never tasted real Vermont syrup, a fact that blew my mind. One of my friends, Mike from Connecticut, was intrigued by my infatuation with the syrup. I asked him if he wanted to try some, and he looked at me as if I were crazy.
“Without pancakes or anything?” he asked, shocked. I nodded and unscrewed the cap on the jug, tipping some back down my own throat. I passed it to him and he looked down at it, sniffing it slightly. I encouraged him to just try some and he raised it hesitantly to his lips. Mike took the tiniest sip and I stared at him, waiting for his response. He took another sip, this one a little longer, and handed it back to me.
“So…?” I prompted him.
“It’s really good,” he said, smiling. And I kid you not; we didn’t put the syrup on anything except our tongues until the last week of school before our winter break when we finally brought it to the dining hall.
I am content in my new, second home of Massachusetts but I am happy that I will always have Vermont and that sweet syrup waiting for me.
Editor’s note: Alex Munteanu is a January intern at the Independent.