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.

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.

On The Equals Record | Seasons Change

In Lynchburg, Virginia, home of Liberty University and just an hour away from my own alma mater, there are always Paneras and Starbucks full of Baptists fresh from Bible Study...zipped snugly into their North Face jackets and so surely into their faith. The leaves have changed color and the air is crisp and chilly and smells like campfires in that grey morning fog and when I am home for Thanksgiving, I pass through on my way to the J.Crew Factory store and even now, I will feel just a little bit jealous of them.

I wrote this short essay about fall and faith for The Equals Record three years ago and I just came across it again this weekend. I'm so thankful for blogging--it's strange and wonderful to have this little snapshot of me in Minneapolis, still thinking about the things I thought about in Charlotte and now California.

And I needed this reminder from my past self: I feel overwhelmed with the possibilities, and grateful that, even when it's hard, I didn't stay in one place forever.

Read the full piece here.

New Jeans and Holiday Weekends

If Memorial Day is the beginning of summer and Labor Day is the end of it, then the 4th of July is the point at which I start thinking about autumn. I daydream about hot lattes in warm mugs, about new jeans and smart, structured jackets and that crisp smell of a cool morning.

I didn't know I didn't like summer until a few years ago--probably when we moved back to the Southeast from Minnesota. Growing up in Virginia, I understood and even felt the magic of summer every year--the muggy mornings, cicadas chirping away in the distance, fireflies flickering in the early evening. My brother and I used to set off into the streets of our suburban neighborhood for giant games of flashlight tag with our summer friends--the kids who we didn't go to school with but were inseparable from every summer vacation. No school, no worries, just pools and sprinklers and popsicles all day. I get it.

But this weekend Rob was home and we did something we don't usually do--we went clothes shopping. He and I will occasionally buy ourselves a new shirt or pair of shoes here and there, but it was a holiday weekend and there were sales and we're moving to California, so we basically bought ourselves a new wardrobe for the Bay Area. 

I've been feeling so up and down about the prospect of moving across the country, but this weekend made me feel even more hopeful than I have before. Maybe it was sweating through upper 90-degree afternoons, or maybe it was coming to the realization that I'm going to need more jeans and a new jacket for fall in California. A lot of it was just being reunited with Rob for a long weekend. But I think most of it is that part of me that always comes around this time of year--the one who doesn't want to wish the summer away, but can't seem to help it.

I am learning, a little bit more every day, to just be. That it's okay to be excited for the future, and sometimes it's okay to dread it a little bit too. Summer is here. There are friends to laugh with and rosé to drink. The mosquitos will bite. But fireflies will flicker; and big, fat, pink peonies will gloriously open up in the vase you place by the kitchen sink. 

And autumn will come around eventually.

Ten Years Ago: Graduation Memories

This weekend I was in Virginia for my cousin's graduation from Roanoke Catholic.

I graduated from the same school ten whole years ago. I knew it had been that long, but it didn't really seem true until I was looking at the program for the ceremony and saw "Class of 2016" written on the front. Ten years! A full decade. What's most amazing to me about that isn't the time that has passed, but how easily it is to remember exactly how I felt back then.

Like anything was possible, but not really in an adventurous way. I grew up in Roanoke and loved my church and my school and was only going two hours away for college. I had been so predictable for so long, and I still wasn't sure if I wanted to be the same person or a different one.

I remember the exact dress I wore, and how my mom bought it for me when we were on vacation earlier that spring. I don't remember where we were but it was a gorgeous linen sundress that fit perfectly and made me feel like a grown-up--it's one of the few pieces of my wardrobe that I haven't gotten rid of over the years. The salesperson checking us out overheard us talking about graduation and asked me if I was excited about high school. I balked, wondering how young I actually looked as I told her that I was graduating from high school, not 8th grade.

I was dating someone but I was still in love with my ex-boyfriend, and both relationships were messy and confusing. I broke up with the boyfriend that summer before leaving for Longwood, and I remember feeling like I just needed to move on and I'd figure everything else out as soon as the fall semester started.

I tried, but there was a lot to figure out. So many new freedoms that I wasn't used to. My friend Wes texted me soon after I arrived on campus that first year and asked if I wanted to go to the park. "The park?" I replied, "It's 10 PM." He laughed at my surprise and we went to the park and sat on the swings, talking for hours, which quickly became a tradition of ours. It took me months to wear flip-flops to class, and I never did muster up the courage to chew gum in an academic building.

As I sat there in the church last Saturday, watching the excited faces of a class of 17 and 18 year-olds, I couldn't help but be astonished at how different my life is now than I thought it would be then. The friends I thought I'd know forever, the church I believed I'd always be a part of, the family business I would manage with my parents.

I didn't know that I would move so much, or that I would marry an incredibly tall, incredibly kind man who knows exactly who I am and makes me feel like I'm enough for him every single day (I think at the time I must have believed that the men--boys--in your life either drove you crazy or made you cry). I didn't know that I would battle anxiety with every transition I encountered in my life, or, more importantly, that when it comes you don't have to suffer silently through it without help. I didn't know that I'd make friends in college who would stick with me into adulthood, even when you've fallen out and think it's over.

And I didn't know that I'd one day be so comfortable with myself. Apparently ten years is enough time to grow up and become who you're really supposed to be.

I wouldn't change a thing.