On Coming Home

Today I ripped down a collage that has decorated the walls of my California bedroom for ten years.

When I was twelve I made this depressingly conventional bit of tween art clipped from the pages of tween magazines. Its guts was glitter and brightness and glue. Break hearts not curfews. Girl power. Work it, girl. Don’t be a statistic. Think, don’t smoke. Pictures of the men I wanted, but none of the women I wanted to be, and only the barest hints of the woman I’m becoming. Romance! True beauty. Sensationally beautiful. Love the skin you’re in. If you love someone set them free. Lover! Life is a blur. Fight your fears. Write on.

Across the top it said “Brave New World.”  

I just spent a week packing up my Evanston apartment. We salvaged boxes from dumpsters, packed them, moved them, gave things away. Threw things away. Little things, big things, things that cost and things that didn’t. We watched a garbage truck crush our couch. Occasionally we would eat, but spiritlessly. Will you forgive me, reader, for saying that we pitied ourselves a little? It was ostentatious. We sighed often.

Now I’m in California and packing stuff in boxes again. We–a brave new we, my family–are remodeling the house. For us, for now, a life in boxes. But not all our things are equally willing to embrace the boxed life. You see, in earthquake country, we glue our treasures down. And I find that certain stubborn angels of a past life will not unstick so easily.

But we pry off the angels, do our best to smooth over their determined remains. We drape the empty shelves in plastic and let the painters in and try to imagine life in fresh colors. A brave new world for all of us.

Then there is the food of home, which is not brave or new but old and safe and reliably nourishing. In n Out burgers do not make everything right, but it’s hard to walk away from one feeling less happy. In high school I came here almost every day. Once I ate a burger here with seven patties on it, and seven slices of cheese. It was ostentatious. Today on a bench by the drive-thru I ate less. Hunger feeds me more now than it did when I was a girl.

Home. When you’re here you taste the secret sauce of youth. You dip your feet into the person you used to be. You feel her weight, feather-light, insubstantial, nothing at all. It says one hundred and five pounds on her driver’s license, and next to it the picture of a fifteen year old girl.

When I remember who I was when I lived here, I feel shamed. I don’t know why. Oh, but I do. It is cruel to be that young. I never want to be so careless, I mean so carefree, again. But don’t I? Don’t we all? Again and again and again.

Only that kind of thinking has never accomplished anything, has it, reader? A happy indulgence to think that way. Because I know what happens now, what comes next, and it’s thrilling and scary and sad. Now I start to imagine a life with new rooms in it, and maybe slowly I will furnish those rooms, stack the shelves with treasures, neglect to glue them down.

10 thoughts on “On Coming Home

  1. Rachel (Alive in the Fire) says:

    Hey Angela,
    Wow. You have such a beautiful blog! I have been reading it intermittently throughout summer since I saw it in that NU magazine that interviewed you at the end of school. You have such a lovely way of incorporating your life and vision for the world into your posts about some of the tastiest food, um, EVER 🙂 Great work! I have yet to make the cold noodles recipe you listed awhile back, but it’s on my list of to do’s. And now that I’m in a new apt in Evanston with a rockin’ kitchen and some sweet cookingware, I’ll definitely attempt some more complicated things.

    Hope all is well with you and that you’re enjoying post-graduation adventures! If you like, feel free to swing by my yoga/life blog (Alive in the Fire) and/or see my freelancing editing site (editZING!). Best of luck in all you do, and keep up the fantastic posts!


  2. Taylor says:

    Hey Angela,

    Love the post! I love In n out, was one of my favorite things about living in CA. Very impressive you ate a 7 layer burger! Love the pictures and post hope all is well in Cali.

    – Taylor

  3. sippitysup says:

    Another touching post. It’s sweet to look back at the boy (or girl) we once were and look for that child in the man (or woman) we have become. Ironically I had In n Out for lunch today on my arrival back to the mainland. It’s funny the things we miss about home even after two short weeks in Hawaii. GREG

  4. sammybakerdavisjr says:

    Hey, I’ve been following your recipes but this particular entry hits a little closer to home. It’s beautifully written. I’m in the process of moving myself and just started a blog about it


    Keep writing!

  5. Steven says:

    For a young grandfather here in the once great state of NY, I find your writings so very interesting and fresh. Keep it up, Steven

  6. Sweetsonian says:

    I understand — so much. Mostly about being shameful of our youth, for some unexplicable reason.

    I haven’t been home in almost a whole year. But I find myself confused between what I call home and what my parents call my home. Apparently, we both call reference my new home as my “home.” It just seems so unnatural for my parents to say something like “What day do you go back home again?”

    “What? I just told you, I’ll be in L.A. on Thursday.”

    “No. DC. When do you go back home.”

    Oh. Right. I’m just so used to them using the term the other way around.

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