My first love was a Midwestern sky on a Friday afternoon — the way it seemed to kiss everything, even the disjointed pieces of life, with a tinge of yellow breath. My second love was the way wet grass touches bare feet, needy yet gentle. I find myself thinking on these things mostly when it feels like the California sky has been bleeding baby blue for three days straight. I miss the way apple cider tastes with mud football, the way hot chocolate goes with ruddy cheeks. I never miss home as a whole — more in chunks. Little nuances.
My birthplace and growth place is itself a tiny chunk of northeastern Ohio, 30 minutes from Cleveland and 15 minutes from endless brown-green hills. When I first came to California, everything felt too red and orange. I miss brown-green. I miss a good rainstorm. You don’t have those; I’ll tell you what they’re like. It’s an unforgiving patter, like 30 children throwing tantrums on my roof. On Sundays, I can make out the faint ringing of church bells in the background, gentle and sweet like a patient mother trying to calm the children. Those are nice. I do not miss high school Sundays or high school. But I miss my rainstorm children.
Speaking of high school, I don’t have nostalgia for it. What I do miss is the way my plush carpet oozed up between my pink toes after a long day at school and the way my dogs’ breaths smell — but I do not miss high school. I miss my friends, but I cannot say I will ever miss what it meant to a friend at 15. The intensity. I have nostalgia for the firsts though — you know, those nights. When you took your first sip of beer or had your first kiss. We were baby deer. I have nostalgia for that. And sleepovers we had on school nights. When we fell asleep, drinking tea and watching horror movies, just two or three small bodies crammed together. I miss you, that.
I miss the quietness of being alone. I have a nostalgia for the way it felt to drive home alone on a Friday after school. My own home. My own place. To curl under soft sheets and hear my thoughts and my mom cooking and my brother playing piano and my dog’s barking as my dad returned home from work. I miss the way my nose feels against the chest of my dad’s suits. I don’t miss yelling at my sister. I miss her laugh. I don’t miss curfews. I don’t miss sneaking in.
When you go to college, they tell you that you will miss home. You will miss the simplicity of childhood. You will have nostalgia for it. It will be painted in longing tones of gold. Your adulthood is the ever-gaping hole of unknown blackness; your childhood is loose gold strands tangled in a hairbrush. I am not in accordance with this doctrine, this doctrine of nostalgia where it is some widespread disease, where at some point in your life, you will inevitably wish to regress back to your child-self. Nostalgia is to wish to return to the way things were; I simply do not. I was raised in the most wonderful gray house in existence — but it remains gray. Not gold.
Rather, I miss it in pieces — the separate faces of a pyramidal glass figure — and I miss it beautifully, not in this disease-stricken way. When I long for rainstorm children or my mother’s freckles, it is not with a reciprocal distaste of this Monday, this Tuesday or this Wednesday. It is celebratory: I celebrate the beautiful sections of my life, and in this way, I celebrate in wholeness. I honor it. I honor it with fragmentation. I do not paint my childhood in overarching strokes of gold, but I do find the small pieces and collect them in my heart. I create a collection of nostalgia, my Midwestern sunsets and my first kiss. I create a collection of fragmented nostalgia.
Sarah Adler is a staff writer for The Weekender. Contact her at [email protected]