Posts in "Nostalgia"
Humidity and Lightning Bugs
Humidity and Lightning Bugs | Freckled Italian

I was at Costco the other day, looking at salami and prosciutto when a man walked by wearing Ralph Lauren cologne and I swear my entire morning stopped in its tracks because of the combination of that familiar fragrance combined with rotisserie chickens and whatever warehouse smell bulk grocery stores all have in common.

I stood there, transfixed and temporarily brought back to summers in Roanoke. Of living on Smith Mountain Lake, driving into town with my mom in her black Suburban, of buying what seemed like way too much food and wine and soda but always ended up being just the right amount, because friends were always filtering in and out of our house every day in June and July, and because (most importantly), we really only seem to be friends with people who can eat.

It’s so much more than the house, though.

I’ve been missing summer in the south lately--that deep, humid heat that settles into your bones and gives your hair texture you didn’t know it had. The way that long after the sun goes down and the fireflies come out it’s still 85 degrees and sticky. Summer in the south is big and magical for more than just the humidity and the lightning bugs.

It’s s’mores and cheap beer around a fire pit; it’s bug spray and sunscreen residue on your skin and the shocking splash from a backyard pool or even just a sprinkler to run through as it cools you down and rinses the watermelon juice from your wrists. It’s a late-night Blizzard from Dairy Queen with friends, and pup cups for the dogs who played all day together in the yard.

It’s the way I think of my late friend Zach and cry every time I hear “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” It’s fireworks and sparklers and hot dogs on a grill. It’s the way a leather couch feels on your bare legs as you slide in to watch a movie after a day outside in the sun. The deep, almost overwhelming greenness of the forest as I-81N opens up suddenly to mountains on the way from Charlotte to Roanoke.

When I was working on my first cookbook I would come home after an early morning rowing workout and pour cold brew over ice, opening the back door to the yard as Ender wiggled through my legs to roll around in the grass. I’d sit there with bare feet, in leggings and a sweaty tank top with my coffee and my laptop, under the shade of an oversized umbrella, taking in the morning before that North Carolina heat crept in for the day.

But now I’m here, in what feels like a different world sometimes. Sleeping with open windows as the chilly eucalyptus-scented Bay Area air cools our house down every night. Wearing a sweater every morning, working almost only through nap-time, putting together a 3PM toddler snack--sitting at our kitchen table with an afternoon cup of tea, planning our next trip to the coast to pick strawberries by the ocean as our daughter stacks her blocks and moves her stuffed animals from their woven basket to my grandmother’s light blue armchair. So happy to be where we are, and so sad to be so far away from other places. On days like this I somehow feel homesick and content and melancholy and joyful all at once.

Life is an incredible tangle of feelings and experiences and I’m so grateful for each and every one of them.

But I could use a drive down a country road.

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Home for Thanksgiving
Home for Thanksgiving | Freckled Italian

Thanksgiving has been my favorite holiday for as long as I can remember—for me it was all about a chilly morning on Smith Mountain Lake; a hazy fog floating above the surface of the water. We’d wake up early and drink coffee as we rummaged through old bags of winter running gear for gloves and headbands and lace up our shoes to go downtown and run a 5K with thousands of other Roanokers who also put their turkey in the oven before they left and have mimosa supplies locked and loaded in the fridge for when they return.

I haven’t been to Roanoke for the holidays in a few years because my parents broke up and moved out of our house on the lake. At first I didn’t go back because I was mad and a little passive aggressive, and even though I lived only a few hours away I decided to just stay put in Charlotte with Rob and drink beers and eat tacos outside by the fire at Sycamore Brewery, which we could walk to from our South End apartment. Charlotte didn’t feel like home yet but I could see it for us on the horizon.

We also haven’t gone anywhere for Thanksgiving since we moved to California in 2016—that first year we had just gotten settled and didn’t want to leave, and then last year Sophie was born and we were in the hospital and got discharged on Thanksgiving. We nervously buckled her tiny body into the infant carseat and I sat in the back staring at her as Rob drove extra slowly and carefully down University Avenue in Palo Alto, stopping to pop into Starbucks for salted caramel mochas. As we drove across the Dumbarton I looked out the window and across the bay—one hand on our sleepy daughter’s chest—and made a mental note to never forget this moment or that feeling. The chilly morning, the hazy fog floating above the surface of the water.

My perception of home (and comfort) was so rooted in that house at the lake and now it’s so many different places (mostly friends’ houses along the East Coast), but especially our own house here in California—where the coffee is abundant and Ender is curled up and Sophie says “uh oh!” as she tosses her sippy cup onto the ground for the fifteenth time. And if I have a weird day I can drink a cup of tea as I season chicken legs with lots of salt and put them in a dish with olive oil and a ton of garlic and roast them while I play with my daughter who is going to be walking any day now. Rob will come home from work smelling like the evening autumn air and Acqua di Gio, and we’ll give the baby a bath and read her a story before putting her down in her crib, and then we pour two glasses of wine and re-watch Gilmore Girls for the third or fourth time because it’s cold outside and Thanksgiving is right around the corner.

A few months ago we went to Berkeley for a Death Cab for Cutie show with my brother and his girlfriend, and we were late so they were already well into their set when we arrived. The venue was packed and the stars twinkled overhead and as we climbed the stairs to get to the top of the amphitheater I was struck by the sensation of hearing familiar music in a new place. We stopped on a big landing to catch our breath and decide where to go next (getting from the pit to the lawn at The Greek is a serious hike), but I didn’t want to move from that spot yet. Maybe it was because I hadn’t been out without Sophie in months, or because fall mornings and nights always make me weepy in the best way, but suddenly the world was still and all I could hear was Ben Gibbard’s voice echoing I’m thinking of what Sarah said—watching the lights flash across the stage, marijuana smoke rising from the crowd—standing in a sea of strangers with tears rolling down my face, once again making a mental note to remember this moment and that feeling.

And then we were back in the car, scarves loosened and seat warmers on, reliving the show already through Spotify, deciding if we should get late-night In N Out or not. We drove home to a dreaming baby and hot tea and comfy beds and the kind of rest you get when so many people you love are under the same roof.

Next week Rob, Sophie, and I will pack our bags and fly across the country, and on Thanksgiving morning we’ll buckle her into the jogging stroller for her first Roanoke 5K. We won’t wake up to that fog on the lake but we’ll be cozy and warm and all under one roof as we lace up our shoes and search for matching gloves. We’ll introduce Sophie to friends she hasn’t met yet and celebrate her first birthday and tell her the story of how when she was just a newborn, we brought her home for the first time on a chilly Thanksgiving just like this one.

Thankful for more moments; more memories, everywhere we go.

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Eight Years
Eight Years | Freckled Italian

March is so close that I feel it every day in the chilly morning air, as dew drops settle on the cherry blossom branches right outside my bedroom window, whispering brr brr brr but promising a warm afternoon that always forces me to slip out of the sweater I wear over my tank top and let my bare arms soak up the rays of sunlight on my drive home from the barre studio.

No matter where I am, this time of year always brings me right back to spring in Farmville, Virginia; where I was a junior in college, spending more and more time with a guy named Rob Peterson. My roommates and I shared clothes and sometimes fought over stupid shit but we loved each other and listened to a healthy mix of Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, and Taylor Swift; and Fearless was the soundtrack to any drive. I'd hop in my car and drive with the windows down from my apartment, across High Street and onto Back Hampden-Sydney road with the windows down. Once or twice a week I'd actually run those 6 miles, Love Story blaring in my headphones even though ol' Taylor obviously never very closely read Romeo and Juliet

My roommates and I were super young and never wore enough sunscreen and got burnt at baseball games; we drank too much almost every weekend and got tattoos in Richmond and sometimes drove 45 minutes to eat burritos from Chipotle. We read and studied and watched movies in bed together and never wore pants in our apartment; and we had our boyfriends over for weekend sleepovers where we'd make big, family-style breakfasts of pancakes and scrambled eggs to sustain multiple hours of Guitar Hero. 

It's crazy to me that Rob and I have been together for eight years now. Crazy in part because it's so significant--almost a decade!--but also because before he was in my life, he wasn't. One day I was getting ready for a Halloween party with the girls and without even knowing it, my life would never be the same. Just a few months later he's bringing me coffee in the library as I'm finishing up a poetry paper before spring break because he's my boyfriend and that's the kind of thing your college boyfriend does; and then a few years later he's standing in front of all our friends and family as I'm walking toward him in a wedding dress.

Time flies, so when spring comes around I like to slow down and really savor my nostalgia. I drink iced coffee and read poems from my Norton Anthology of American Literature and play the same four or five songs on repeat. I never want to forget that magical time--being only 20 years old, living with my best friends, reading non-stop, running really fast, wearing sundresses every weekend, and first getting to know the guy who ended up being my husband.

It's a love story, baby just say yes.

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