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The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Quick Take: Navigating melting memories of home

Pennsylvania has changed, I’ve changed — the whole global temperature has changed.

As a proud member of the GW student demographic who says they’re from “just right outside of Philly,” winters in my home state mean a lot to me. I spent my childhood bundled up at bus stops, throwing snowballs at my four siblings and huddled around the living room fireplace, warming up my fingers and toes while my mom stirred the hot chocolate in the kitchen. 

But as a now 20 year old, when I take the train home for a long winter break, the trip doesn’t quite hold the same Polar Express whimsy I hoped it would. I find myself nostalgic for the winter wonderland that once was my hometown. Pennsylvania has changed, I’ve changed — the whole global temperature has changed — and now winter breaks on the East Coast are a lukewarm ghost of a familiar feeling.

I used to build igloos in my neighbor’s backyards and race my triplet brothers up and down our elementary school’s big hill on a blue plastic toboggan. I used to comb out snow dingleberries from my dog’s stubborn fur and make Coca-Cola slushies with the fresh powder from my backyard. Winter in Pennsylvania used to mean — well, winter. December through February were formally marked by snow days, freezing temperatures and icicles dripping from the waterfall behind our house.

But I didn’t see any snow stick to the ground in Pennsylvania. I can’t even remember the last time it has well and truly snowed in the state. And to this day, my mind struggles to comprehend how it can be 50 degrees in the Northeast at the end of December. In total, I was home in Pennsylvania for a little under a month for winter break, and not once did I see snow fall from the sky up until the day I drove back to D.C. to move back in.

It felt like the weather was mocking me, forcing my eyes to take in both a physical and emotional change to my definition of “home.” In truth, my mind struggles to comprehend a multitude of different realities: My siblings moved away. My dog died five years ago. My new college home is in the South, technically speaking.

But just when I began to associate this lack of precipitation as a sign of my childhood slipping through my fingers, it started snowing in D.C. The first day of classes were canceled, and I experienced my first — and potentially last — snow day.

Instead of sledding with my brothers, I threw crudely formed snowballs at my friends. Instead of waiting for my mom to hand me a mug of hot chocolate, I passed them out to girls in my sorority, who gathered around our kitchen table. I put on a 10-hour loop of a crackling fireplace on our TV as a joke, but we kept it on all day, and I swear the house felt a few degrees warmer. I tried and failed to build a snowman outside of our house, and if a passerby walks past 607G 23rd St., they just might see the lame attempt. 

So, maybe the universe wasn’t mocking me. Maybe it was trying to send a message about the transience of defining “home” and mistaking change as an unwelcome feeling. Or, maybe climate change just means that weather occurs irregularly now, resulting in the barest Pennsylvania winters I’ve seen but snowstorm warnings in the DMV.

It’s one of those two, for sure.

Paige Baratta, a sophomore majoring in political science, is the editorials assistant.

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