Ahhh, January — the indisputable worst month in the life of a high school senior. The holiday frenzy is over, and the only reminder of that excitement is a stray ball of wrapping paper lodged between couch cushions or a forgotten gift found in the closet, hidden behind a stack of wool sweaters. While the weather spared us this past December, the new year promises to bring frigid temperatures, snow, sleet, and ice; my freshly showered hair is sure to freeze during each early morning trek into school.

Midterms are fast approaching. And thanks to our shortened February “recess,” there is no foreseeable break in sight. Usually, after I air my grievances with the first month of the year, I commit to putting my head down and powering through it, hoping to wake up to a thaw and the second-semester-senior slump I have patiently awaited. If you haven’t guessed already, I find myself longing to be somewhere else during this time (preferably the tropics). However, I’ve recently begun to subdue my aversion and view it through a new lens, thanks to some help from the much-older and much-wiser Class of 2018.

Around mid-December, Route 7 and Connecticut Coffee become populated with familiar faces and bumper-sticker conglomerations — college kids are home for the holidays. Before this winter, I never quite understood the unadulterated joy surrounding the homeward bound journey at the end of first semester. But this year, just as November became December, I awoke to a flood of text messages: “I come home in 13 days! That’s so soon!” or even better, “Get ready to expect me at your front door in 327 hours.” I have never, in my life, witnessed such elation from students returning to Wilton. And, as promised, my friends did rush to my house the night of their arrival, abducting me for a quick trip to Gofer and a long drive on some of our favorite back roads.

What I learned from those just one year my senior, was to alter my perspective. To me, Wilton in the wintertime isn’t anything special or exciting, it is just part of my routine. But to them, Wilton is no longer a constant but instead a beloved vacation destination. They spent the last three months adjusting and attempting to make new homes on college campuses, miles from familiarity. Most hadn’t ventured into a grocery store since August, making Village Market all the more appealing. Some longed for a real mattress instead of an uncomfortable extra-long twin, while others had the simple wish of non-dining-hall fruits and vegetables. They couldn’t wait to see their parents or drive their cars or attend sports practices and games as if they were back in high school. Despite the dreary weather, Wilton was the only place they wanted to be. So now, as this long month trudges on, I’ll focus on the luxuries my hometown offers me and appreciate the comfort provided by a place I know so well. When I return next January, just as other graduates have, the scenery will seem more exotic, the climate more temperate, and the Athlete’s Special more flavorful. And eventually, when I spend most of my year outside Fairfield County, the holiday break will allow me to slip back into my local routine once again — and I couldn’t be more excited.


Maddie Burke is a senior at Wilton High School. She shares this column with five classmates.