It's a Big World. Don't Forget Your Toothbrush

Jonathan Fondell

I'm in Ireland, in my student apartment, packing my backpack for my trip to Sweden, and I get to the toiletries. I consider shampoo very briefly but decide I'll find some when I get there. Maybe. Deodorant, of course. I'm not a pig. Shaving stuff, no, I'll just grow a little burly Nordic beard. Floss, yes, but I know I won't use it. Toothpaste, yes. Toothbrush.

 

Ah. Right. Toothbrush.

 

That's the one that gets me every time. Because, really, a toothbrush belongs at home. Be­longs in a toothbrush holder. I used the same toothbrush holder for twenty years. In all that time it's never moved from its spot in the upstairs bathroom of my prairie home.

But I haven't been home in months, and even then it was only for a few weeks. My tooth­brush has been adrift for years. At Concordia it was in a little basket, and that was bad enough. Here in Ireland, it's been in my shaving kit the entire semester. Nothing like living out of a suitcase to make you feel adrift.

I've had a lot of firsts over here, but probably the most profound is that this is the first time I've flown when neither point A nor point B has been home. I've been doing it all the time over here: it's exhausting. I get off a red-eye flight in London and I still have to walk the whole day with seven kilos or less of underwear on my back before I can snatch a quick five hours' sleep at a hostel. I return to Ireland, to a sparse student apartment and guilt-trip schoolwork. It's a whirlwind adventure, but comfortable it is not. I crash for eight hours, I move my toothbrush from backpack to shaving kit, I move on with my life. I do it again two weeks later.

My backpack doesn't play nicely with my shaving kit – too many hard edges – so the toothbrush is actually demoted even further here. I put it, the floss, and the paste in a knockoff Ziploc. Stuff them in the backpack. I got my toothbrush in Ireland; it's followed me to three countries, given its all. It doesn't deserve this dishonor. I decide to just buy a toothbrush holder when I get back to Concordia.

 

I've done a lot of growing this semester. Growing in cultural understanding, in accent

capabilities. Growing in city-recognition. In culinary skill. In willingness to walk places. Growing in tourism savviness. Probably growing around the waistline, because while they don't have DS here they certainly have loads of candy I haven't tried yet. But even in the midst of all this

adventure and change, I can't help thinking about home. Pondering whether or not I am homesick. Wrestling with the new. Relinquishing the old. Wondering if the key is to remember where your home is, or if it's to make wherever you are into your home, even if only for a few hours. If the train from Stockholm to U mea can be as much of a home as your apartment in Ireland can be, as much as your little cornfield town on the Minnesotan plains can be. Wondering just how this whole thing works.

Because home may be where the heart is but, honestly, I think at this point my toothbrush is a better indicator.