We drove along the interstate in the early morning, having returned late the night before from several days of work travel. This was my last weekend of class, and the anticipated relief mitigated my fatigue from tightly compacted commitments. One practical exam remains and my classroom studies will be complete.

The sun shined brightly and few cars shared the road. The open drive was in sharp contrast to last week’s slosh, where the lines of the road smeared into red and white lights and a heavy charcoal sky. On that rainy night, with our flight plans washed away into the sopping soil, I struggled to carry my sleeping son into my sister’s house with his long limbs and heavy head limp against my shoulder. Over the last nine months, his young boyish stature had given way to a new phase somewhere closer to manhood. Inches and pounds were shifting the scales between us.

In class, we had been replicating the work of master chefs like Thomas Keller, Eric Ripert, and David Boulud. The minimalistic work was intricately assembled.  Prep consumed our time in class and after hours of chopping and sautéing, we plated foods with small dollops of truffled potato foam, loose scatterings of blanched Brussels sprout leaves and asparagus ribbons, two or three fava beans, artful smears of complex flavored sauce, and teeny brown buttered croutons strategically placed with tweezers. Though each of us prepared the same food, our individuality reflected back in distinctly designed plates.

Before we left the city, we walked the streets heading towards the Brooklyn Bridge.  We came upon St. Paul’s chapel, with its yard bearing gravestones hundreds of years old often scribed with details about relationships and the lives lost. The church itself is beautiful and has remained standing despite the collapse of its surroundings. Its survival attributed once to the fortitude of its supporters and then from the grace of fate.  We lit a candle, and I left the city feeling purpose in this unintended finish.

I have traveled approximately 21,600 miles by car, plane and train, and between the miles there have been millions of moments in a prism of hues. The adventure, once daunting and unknown, is now to be regarded in hindsight. I passed through my first day wearing a new uniform; birthdays and anniversaries; dumpsters, boxed-up memories, and a house-closing; practical exams; holidays; burns to the skin and bleeding fingers; a broken heart and its reconstruction. I have learned about butchering; healing; chemistry; patience; and community. I’ve experienced new flavors and ingredients; the effect of quiet reflection; the persistent shaping of opportunity; and contrasts of the unexpected.  I have seen and felt love raw and cold and in its warmest oozing state.

After much was lost, in shared company along big city streets and the warmth of a kitchen, I have found myself home.

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