The traffic was heavier than I expected. I pushed a Bruce Springsteen CD into the car stereo and settled in behind a semi. The airport was less than ten miles away but even the toll road leading to Denver International Airport was crowded. My cell chimed with a text. I quickly glanced at the screen.

“My flight just landed. But we’ve got to taxi in.”

It felt like my stomach did a summersault. My oldest son, Austin was home for the holidays after his first semester at Baldwin Wallace University in Ohio. I stood at the gate and wished I had made a “Welcome home” sign like the other parents. But when the escalator rose and he stepped off it, I practically ran to my 20-year-old. He picked me up and swung me around the airport without a care as to who watched.

“Hello beautiful,” he said and I felt like the luckiest mom in the world.

Austin is my traveler and makes the time away so memorable with his welcomes. He spent his sophomore year studying abroad in Morocco where he decided to transfer schools in his pursuit of his undergraduate degree.

“Ohio’s cold,” he said and I laughed.

I grew up across the river in Kentucky. “The winters are a wet cold,” I said and nudged him in the ribs. “That’s why I sent an extra blanket and your jacket.”

I knew the car ride to Laramie to see Kyle, his identical twin brother, would be filled with a lot of talk and laugher, but what I didn’t expect was his reaction when I pulled into Laramie.

“Oh, wow.” Emotion caught in Austin’s voice. “I’ve really missed this place.”

My son wanted to spend his first weekend home at the University of Wyoming where he spent his first two years of college. As I drove past White Hall, tears stung my eyes.

“That was your freshman dorm hall with Kyle,” I said and Austin nodded as he looked out the window.

“I had such a good time here,” he said and I knew the decision to transfer schools for his major wasn’t an easy one.

Austin and Kyle were born in California, but my sons are rooted in Wyoming. When they began first grade in Star Valley, I didn’t move until they graduated eighth grade. When Ron got a job in Cheyenne, I wouldn’t leave Casper until they finished high school at Kelly Walsh in Casper. So, when Austin left Wyoming, he was leaving his family, friends and support system.

I pulled up to the Pi Kappa Alpha (PIKE) fraternity house and his face lit. “I can’t wait to see the guys,” he said.

Austin and Kyle were founding fathers of their fraternity and worked beside their brothers to become a chapter and have a house at UWyo. The PIKE house was decorated for the holidays and when Austin walked up to the door, it opened and my son was embraced by his Wyoming family.

Mary Billiter can be reached at marybilliter@ymail.com

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