Posts in "Nostalgia"
But I Could See for Miles, Miles, Miles

Six years and approximately two and a half lives ago, Rob and I lived alone, together in Minneapolis.

I was so young but felt really incredibly grown up—I had just quit my full-time job and joined Rob in Minnesota, hoping to blog full-time and kind of doing it, but also picking up temp jobs wherever I could. I felt like I was finally writing for a living, even though a lot of the work I did was answering phones at a receptionist desk and entering numbers into spreadsheets for random offices in the greater Twin Cities area.

We had a small but cozy apartment in Bloomington, just down the road from Mall of America but close enough that we were in Minneapolis or St. Paul almost every Friday for a happy hour, spread out on a breezy patio or snuggled up to a dimly-lit high top by the bar, depending on the time of year and the weather.

We had no dog, no daughter, and not very much money; but we had each other and we were planning our wedding and working and sleeping in on the weekends whenever we wanted to. I cooked a lot and took pictures of everything and wrote every day. I bundled up as winter approached and ran, missing my girlfriends that I used to run with back home in Virginia. At that time, Virginia still felt like home—it was the only home I had ever had. I grew up and went to school and graduated and started working in Roanoke, Farmville, Charlottesville, then Roanoke again.

And then winter came to Minneapolis and it snowed all the time and I made hot tea or chocolate in the kitchen almost every night and drank way too much coffee every morning. We got used to driving in the snow and went snowshoeing exactly one time and ventured out onto frozen lakes, feeling as small as ever with the thick ice below our boots and all around us. We slurped spicy Pad Thai noodles and steamy pho while the snow fell down silently outside.

Knowing you’re only going to be somewhere for a short time is a special kind of gift, especially for people like us who have moved quite a bit over the years. We put down very shallow roots and never got too attached to our routine in Minnesota. But at the same time we loved it so much—the food, the coffee and beer, the people, even the intense winter weather. Living in the midwest was never our longterm plan so we went all in on experiencing the area—from music festivals in Wisconsin to a show in Chicago, Juicy Lucys and poutine and art museums and brunch spots and writing dates at a favorite coffee shop with my friend Daci.

My mom and brother came to visit a few times and we showed them around our favorite spots, and I always missed them too much before I even dropped them off at the airport. I’d say goodbye, all bundled up as I climbed back into the car, Bon Iver playing on the radio as I drove back home or maybe stopped for a coffee somewhere in the city.

Summer came around again and we started planning our move. Rob was a contractor and we decided to take a position in Charlotte, North Carolina. It was close to “home” and so many friends and lots of family. California was never on our radar, which is so weird to look back on now since we’ve lived in the Bay Area now longer than Minneapolis and Charlotte combined.

We never really knew what our life was going to look like, or where we were going to settle down for good. But we could imagine it.

We unpacked our things in Charlotte and missed Minnesota—we went back to visit, planning to be there at least once a year to see friends and visit our favorite spots. And we did go back, but before we knew it four years had passed and we were living on the west coast with a toddler and a dog, having to drive three hours to Tahoe to see snow, and in the meantime wearing boots and a hat on 55 degree afternoons.

So last weekend we went to Minneapolis. My mom met us there (we’ve always hypothetically planned to do this, but it really is a great halfway point between the coasts) and we rented a Northeast apartment on Airbnb and made a giant list of things we needed to eat before we left. And it felt…familiar. Comfortable. Nostalgic. But not like we were home again, the way it did the first time we visited after moving away.

On Friday we spent the afternoon at my friend Daci’s house, and as we sat on the floor watching our kids play together, she laughed and said “what did we used to do before this?” People always told me I wouldn’t be able to remember my life before kids, and while that’s not entirely true, it is kind of true—at least right now, in this phase of toddlerhood and amended itineraries because the Uptown Minneapolis bar we used to go to for happy hour doesn’t have high chairs.

My mom’s flight was earlier than ours on Sunday, so like the old days we got into the car and headed to the airport, just the two of us; full from a long weekend of too much food, sad to be saying goodbye again so soon. Snow flurries swirled across the dashboard and Bon Iver played on the radio and after I pulled her bag out from the trunk and gave her one more hug until Christmas, I drove away as usual, not to our empty Bloomington apartment this time but to the Airbnb where Rob and Sophie were waiting, warm and sleepy in their pajamas on the couch under a blanket. I stopped for two more cappuccinos and a muffin, feeling endlessly grateful but also homesick in that deep and confusing way—melancholy for a place that maybe doesn’t even exist anymore. We have had so many homes that sometimes I don’t know which one it is that I miss the most. Usually it’s a combination of all of them, and this time it included our current one—the big kitchen with a greenhouse window, my new gym that I slip away to at 6 AM three times a week, the Pure Barre studio where I teach and have made such wonderful friends, Sophie’s weekly play and music class.

A few hours later we were landing in California and after getting into our own car, driving to pick up the dog on the way to our house and get back into the swing of our weekly routine, I looked out the window at the bay and thought, “it’s really good to be home.”

We still don’t really know what our life is going to look like, or where we are going to settle down for good. I miss Minneapolis in a way that is different from the way I miss Charlotte and parts of Virginia. And one day maybe I’ll miss California as well, as we settle into a forever home somewhere else. It’s hard to tell.

But I could see for miles, miles, miles.

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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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