You know that feeling you would get when you were little on the last leg of a long road trip when you are about to get to where you were going? That feeling for me came every few months when it was time to make the 8 hour car ride from my house in Falls Church, Virginia to Maryville, Tennessee to see my Mammy.
Once we got off the exit that spits you from Knoxville to Maryville and we started passing Walmart and Chick-Fil-A, my mom would see my little face and sleepy brown eyes pop up from the backseat in the rearview mirror of her white Toyota minivan. I would anxiously start putting on my shoes and grab my hot pink brush from the center console, trying to get myself ready for the Olympic sprint I was about to make out of the automatic doors and into the sweetest hug of my Mammy.
Looking back, I would make the 8 hour drive to that slice of Heaven a million times over. The excitement of knowing where you’re going will result in you feeling more loved than you thought possible is a feeling that cannot be explained. Mammy taught me what it meant to like someone because of who they are, and to love them despite of their shortcomings.
Mammy passed away my junior year of high school and ever since then I let that car ride feeling fade away, I maybe even stopped looking for it. I’m still experiencing the pain of losing her everyday, and I still miss that car ride feeling of anticipation before seeing her. I’ve come to realize that that feeling was the feeling of coming home. I hadn’t really had that feeling again until recruitment, when I was standing in line outside the AOII house.
Waiting in line on that slanted sidewalk leading up to the house at the top of the hill during recruitment, I felt a joy and an excitement that I was about to walk into this house and be shown what made it a home. I felt like I needed to throw on my light up sketchers and grab my hot pink hair brush from the middle console and get ready to feel loved. The slanted sidewalk felt like I was passing the Walmart and Chick-Fil-A, and being grabbed at the door of AOII felt like coming home to a hug from Mammy.
On all of those car rides, I didn’t want to brush my hair and wake myself up before seeing Mammy because I felt like I had to perform for her or that she would love me any less if I came barreling into her house barefoot and hair like a rat’s nest. I wanted to be my best, most awake, and content self so that as soon as she wrapped me in her hug I was living in the present moment, and that I could soak in second of pure joy without worrying about the little things. From recruitment up until right now as I write this, I know in my heart that this sisterhood is the sisterhood I prayed I would find coming into college. AOII is not just my sorority, it's another place to call home.
There is something about the people that love you the most and their ability to make anywhere feel like home. It isn’t a magic phrase or a really cool video, but it’s when they look past everything about you and see you for you. The feeling that you have to perform goes away and a peace wraps you up like a blanket. I’m thankful everyday that the women of AOII let me see a piece of my Mammy, and that I now have a new slice of heaven where I can always count on a hug when I walk through the doors and someone to tell me how loved I am.
Mammy never just said “I love you” she always said “I love you more, my sweet Caroline.” while she just added a few words to the end of I love you she did two monumental things: she always reminded me that even when I thought that I always had someone who was going to love me more than I love myself, and that she knew who I was. Going through recruitment at AOII, I felt that they knew who I was, and that were going to love all the parts of myself that I hadn’t learned to love yet. They liked me because of who is am and loved me despite of my shortcomings.
I’ll forever wonder what I did that made me deserving of having a sisterhood like AOII. The house at the top of the hill is a house made of love, filled with a lot of women that make me a better me.
I love you more, AOII <3