Berkeley, Sept. 5

This time a year ago, I was on vacation in the UK, specifically Edinburgh, the Highlands, then London. It may prove to be the last solo trip I ever take, sans work travel, and thanks to Facebook’s memory feature I’ve been reminded of this fact and have been spending my days in nostalgic reverie.

It’s one of the places, if not the place, that I feel happiest. My spirits soar. I’m smitten, even a decade after my first visit to the UK, with the history and terrain, the cheeky sense of humor and the slang, the quirky food stuffs and proper tea. The dial tone, the Queen’s English, Sipsmith gin, Bank Holidays, Christmas specials, Mumford and Sons and Oasis, Barbour and tweed, the Peak District, popping out to the pub for a pint (or three), Graham Norton, Cadbury Dairy Milk…hell, even the dreary weather can be romantic with the right mindset.

Since my first visit all those years ago, I’ve kept a porcelain clock on my nightstand on London time, changed my cell phone to the 24-hour clock, visited countless duty frees for that Cadbury Dairy milk (it really is better than what they make here), and am now addicted to the British house-hunting show Escape to the Country (on Amazon Prime).

But, I wonder how much all of these sentiments would wane if I ever were more than a visitor. I wonder how much of the magic would shift if the banalities of the day-to-day were to creep into my Anglophile dreams, as surely they would. No matter where you are, there’s always the grocery shopping to be done, the dishes (or washing up as they say), the rush hour crowds on the train and traffic in the street.

All this to say, it’s apparent to me that there are niceties here in the US for which I take for granted…properly-sized stoves (and kitchens overall), ice in sodas, the all-American road trip, hot dogs with ketchup, March Madness, even the unjudgey culture in which “Dude!” and “Awesome!” are accepted in casual conversation.

I’m just another soul whose heart wants what it cannot have; given over to my continued nostalgia. I’m a realist and know that I long for a thing that can never be.

Minneapolis, Aug. 23

Being back in the Midwest, even if only for a few days, has me realizing how much it’s possible to miss a thing once it’s suddenly before you again.

The recognition was instantaneous as the Lyft whisked me from the airport to my hotel tonight. I may have grown up hours south of the streets we traveled along, but what I saw from the car window was home.

I left nearly three years ago and am only just now beginning to comprehend what an ex-pat life I’ve been living. Then, I sought and found something different, but here now is the familiar. The achingly familiar…

The trees: oak, ash, maple, and elm. The verdant shades their leaves parade as they dance on this furnace-like breeze.

Place names like “Hiawatha” and “Minnetonka,” “Peshtigo” and “Oconomowoc.” The way each rolls off my tongue as I cast them faintly out the open windowpane.

Rusted out grain silos holding court against newly-built apartment complexes. Building upon building of burnished crimson brick.

The unfailing humidity of late summer…but when did my pin-straight hair suddenly turn frizzy?

Clouds: big, bulbous things with heat-lightning in their bellies. They’re putting on a show for anyone who chances to look upward from their dinner table, or more likely, their phone.

The incessant hum of locusts droning outward from hiding places in heavy-laden branches and overgrown grasses.

Rivers swollen from a summer deluge. From hearty, well-fed, rain drops; dousings and sheets of rain.

And upon arrival to my hotel, there’s “Please” and “Thank You” and smiles from strangers.

The Midwest is just as I remember it, though not quite as I left it.

And it’s never felt more like home.


Berkeley, Aug. 8

My grandfather, once he’d retired, used to wait on the front steps for my grandmother to come home from her factory job at the honey bee company. There, she would magic the honey and beeswax into candies, candles, soaps, and the like for an unidentified yearning marketplace. While he retired and spent his days alone, she kept working for a number of years after.

So he’d sit, waiting for her car to pull around the bend in the neighborhood. Loyal, like a puppy.

It was one of those late summer evenings that takes on a golden tinge, framed by overladen trees and branches, a lingering warm breeze, and a slight hum of insects that somehow never seem to pester in memory.

The steps were concrete and just wide enough for me to sit beside him while visiting that summer. We chatted about now forgotten things, and he passed the time by relocating ants that came his way. He seemed boyish in his impatience for my grandmother’s return, doting in his insistence upon watching the drive for her car.

Nostalgic, now I’m the impatient devoted one, waiting on my own front steps.