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A Sense of Home - 1st Prize Winner - LittleStar CISB Short Story Competition ‘HOME’

May, 2017
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A Sense of Home

Maybe I’m a lot like Dorothy in The Wonderful Wizard of OZ, clicking my heels together saying, “There’s no place like home.” Even before the school bell rings, telling me classes are finished for the day, my feet are already in motion, doing the happy clap-clap-clap heel dance!  My home makes me feel alive and makes my senses wake up to a world that is alive, happy and comfortable. It’s my beacon of hope, always able to bring me to a safe shore no matter what obstacle I’m facing.

To anyone else, my home isn’t anything special at all. It’s not a place where presidents would go. It’s not a mansion with ten swimming pools, but just a small house with two swimming Poels (pronounced pools)… My father and I. It seems as if there is always a light burning out or a pipe needing to be fixed. Scrapes and scratches in the wallpaper, tile and wooden doors mark my rights-of-passage from toddler to today. I’m reminded, from time to time, of their cause…the ‘infamous skateboard crash’, the ‘I can ride a bicycle in the house’ challenge, or the ‘stickers look great everywhere fiasco’! The kitchen doorway is ticked with several marks and dates showing how much I’ve grown over the years. The furniture is a mix of old and new, but each piece somehow says, “It’s okay. Touch me.” The chairs are all hotspots of comfort. The house isn’t lavish or elegant either. The walls are decorated with pictures of ‘priceless art’, as my dad would say, even though they are only pictures I’ve made over the years. There are photographs everywhere.  Some are embarrassing because I didn’t have much hair as a baby. The dog and cat toys can be found under several of the living room chairs and sofa. Sometimes, the carpet is pushed up in rolls like waves on an ocean because the dog has been super happy to see me and just couldn’t stop until he slid on the carpet. My room is filled with stuffed animals. This always makes my decision of which one I’ll sleep with – a tough one. Big starry lights hang from my ceiling. Rey, from Star Wars, and Cinderella movie posters are hung on my walls alongside pictures of my first rollercoaster ride and trips to Disney and Universal Studios. So even though my home is a mix of a little bit of this and a little bit of that, it is very, very comfortable, warm and inviting. And that’s only part of what makes my home spectacularly special.

Up on the 26th floor, you can hear all the sounds of the city. This ‘music’ of the city bounces along the concrete canyon of buildings, with each street competing for a chance to be heard. In a way, it’s like a symphony. You can hear the whistling wind as it squeezes through the door and window cracks mixed with the orchestra of cicadas conducting another concert for the people passing by. Then there is the rhythm of the reverberating sounds of honking horns, the thump-thump-thump of the garbage trucks, and crazy drivers yelling at each other, all adding another beat of energy to the mix. A techno-trance is occasionally added with the sounds of sirens and alarms wailing with their rapid pulse. The constant rumble of cars rolling down the elevated expressway is like a never-ending applause. Sometimes, the music of the outdoor concerts down the street floats up to my home. And during the holidays, the boom, boom, boom of the fireworks is like a grand finale to the chorus of songs below my balcony. I really enjoy the show when the lightning and thunder, with the soft, pitter-patter of the raindrops falling on the balcony muffling all the other sounds. It’s so powerful! Sometimes, I think even the clouds stop to take a listen to the echoes below. So when I think about it, my home is also a concert hall, free to anyone who wants to sit back, relax and listen! The sounds make me feel alive.

I remember going to Nana’s and Grandpa’s home and smelling the cows for the first time. It’s not that it smelled great, but it left a lasting, happy memory. Well, my home has its own peculiar scents, too. The smell of dirty, stinky running shoes fills the entryway, but every time laundry comes out of the dryer, the smell of lavender fabric softener fills the air, driving the smell of the disgusting old shoes out of the window! When the dog comes in from the rain, I can smell him before he arrives to initiate his ‘water-fight’, shaking attack! When dinnertime comes, a delicious aroma fills the air, which sometimes consists of things in my favorite meal, such as meatballs and spaghetti. Sometimes it’s the dreaded cauliflower or broccoli. Nothing is better than a holiday turkey or cookies baking away, tempting me to open the oven door, again, just so I can inhale their hypnotic, floating flavors. I love being pulled out of bed by the scent of bacon dancing around my nose as if I was a fish seeing a juicy worm on a hook. When I lay down on the living room floor to read a book, I always grab the blanket my dog, ‘Mikey’, has claimed dibs on. It’s not the greatest of blankets, with its frayed edge and tears, but it always draws my beastie-buddy over with his shampoo smelling coat. It’s comfy and he’s wonderful to cuddle up with on the living room floor! On the balcony, rose bushes in bloom would certainly attract me if I were a bee. The lemon tree and basil plant leaves are pleasant to hold because of the zesty, oil residue they leave on my fingers. The best fragrances in my home are found in the good night hugs from mom and dad. I can close my eyes and tell who is who. I don’t think they know that I can tell who is who by how they smell. Their shower gel and shampoo gives them away. But don’t tell them that. I like getting ‘do-over’ hugs!

The tastes of home are better than a five-star restaurant! I love coming home from school seeing pasta Alfredo with bacon piled on top of my plate. Also, the juicy, mouth-watering hamburgers have such a fantastic taste that it drives me insane! I really want, but can’t have another, and another, and another hamburger! Remember that holiday turkey? Well, it has a taste that rivals its cooking aroma! Instead of asking are we there yet? I’m asking is the turkey done yet! Making cookies is fun, but sampling the cookie dough batter, licking the beaters and spatula, and, of course, like all good chefs, popping some into my mouth for a taste test is just one of the of terrible burdens I must endure. (Reminder: Ask dad to make chocolate chip cookies this Friday!)  And what is it about mayonnaise and ketchup? I have no idea, but I’m constantly reminded it’s a sauce, not a meal! Even birthdays have a special flavor. A homemade angel food cake, which melts in my mouth like cotton candy, is simply delicious. And if you’re lucky, dad and I will whip up a batch of our ‘rainbow eggs’. These are fried eggs with food coloring streaked across them. They may taste the same to you as a regular fried egg, but to me, they have the added ingredient of a pinch of love. There is one thing I’ll always cherish too. When I was in pre-K classes, my dad and I would grab the jar of peanut butter and the jar of jelly, and a couple of spoons. We would sit on the kitchen floor, and with a quick swoop into both jars, we would pull out the perfect mix of peanut butter and jelly. We still do this today, and it tastes just as wonderful as the first scoop. Best of all, I can only find it on our ‘menu’ at home.

My home is filled with love. My pets bring out the best in each other and my family. My dad is the family veterinarian, helping me to take care of the hamster, the fish, the dog and cat.  Sometimes there are occasional stray birds or the tadpoles we catch in the fountain. And each animal seems to like the surroundings of my home too. At home, I get to see happiness play out every day. My dog playfully squeezes my cat, gently to the floor, as if he is waiting for the cat to say, “Okay! I give up already!” My cat will watch the fish swim about and meow at them all day as if he is having a conversation. I think ‘Sully’, my cat, has named the fish. There is ‘Meow-Breakfast’, ‘Meow-Lunch’, ‘Meow-Meow-Dinner’, and ‘Purr-Snack’. But he never bothers them with the cat-fish translation. ‘Hammie’, my hamster, seems so content when he shows me his skill in turning a wheel and nuzzling my hand looking for another sunflower seed. There is nothing more comfortable and relaxing than holding my furry, warm cat on my lap while I’m watching TV on a cold winter’s day or working through my homework assignments. He’s sitting here with me now, giving me an occasional ‘meow’ and lots of purrs. When he starts pushing down on my lap with his front paws, I think he is trying to make kitty biscuits, kneading my lap like I would knead dough. Then, I tell myself, there’s nothing better than lying on the floor with my fuzzy Old English Sheepdog, who is so happy to be my pillow, and even happier when I invite him up on my bed to be my blanket too. But then, I tell myself, “No!” The absolute best feeling is when my parents, for no reason whatsoever, give me a warm, soothing, unconditional, heart-melting, “I’ll always be there for you” hug. It can make a bad day, such as not getting to go to the toy store, or not getting to go outside and play with my friends, into a spectacular day at home. It makes me feel like I’m on top of the world!

There is no place like home. All the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and touches make me feel loved, alive, comfortable and safe. Some are good, and some are not so good, but when you add them all up, my home is like my little heaven. So if you see me clicking my heels together with a wide, beaming smile on my face, I hope you can imagine where I’ve gone!



By Samantha Jocelyn Poels,

9 years old, Shanghai High School International Division,

1st Prize Winner in Group I, LittleStar CISB Short Story Competition “HOME”



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