We Would Have Lanterns Hanging In The Trees

I woke up this morning wanting to go home. I want to see wide open skies, and rolling hills, and bathe in the scent of freshly cut grass streaming in through my open car windows, one of the sweetest smells there is. I want to drive out Dogleg Road, across 40, and up the gravel driveway of the house where they sell the very best sweet corn, Silver Queen, on the honor system. I would eat half a dozen ears myself for dinner, with a side of sliced tomatoes and cottage cheese spiked with chives from the yard. I want to keep driving, all the way to the Lake, and find the bar still standing and Jerry still working the Pit. I want him to make me a burger with mushrooms and onions and special sauce, layered with fat summer tomato slices, but this time when I eat it I want to know that it’s the best burger I’ll ever have; I didn’t know it back then, or I’d have ordered one to go. While the band plays a cover of Suite: Judy Blue Eyes, I want to tap the long-legged, sad-eyed waitress on the shoulder and tell her that she won’t be here long; this is a layover, not a stop. I will fold twenty bucks into her hand so she’ll remember me.

I want to go to my grandmother’s house, not the one she lives in now but the one she lived in when I was a kid, right down the street. I want to help her water her garden, the sharp green smell of tomato plants everywhere. I’ll rest my feet in the shallow little pool set into the rock garden, a metal basin painted flaking cerulean blue. I will pop the buds of those waxy blush-white flowers and watch the ants crawl out, like I did every summer, but this time I’ll commit their image to memory so I can find and plant these flowers myself as an adult. I will know the secret, that adulthood is coming to take me somewhere else, far away from all of this, but I won’t know yet that salvation hurts sharply, sometimes.

I want to take the baby to the Dairy Isle for ice cream one more time, like I did every day that summer we spent together when I was 17 and she was 4, 5, 6 months old. It was so hot I never put her in anything more than a diaper, and still our skin stuck together wherever we touched. I’ve never had ice cream that good, vanilla soft-serve with a chocolate shell, the sharp relief of stepping back under the cool canopy of the trees, a smidgen of ice cream passed on my finger into her peony mouth. I want to see it all with the eyes that don’t yet know how shabby our surroundings are. I want to whisper to her, in the long afternoons before her mother gets home, as we sit in front of the one window air conditioner listening to Pink Floyd, that she will go the furthest of us all.

I want to be back on my grandparents’ boat, eating a turkey sandwich with bread-and-butter pickles and sharp mustard and Havarti, with a towel wrapped around my wet bathing suit, my shoulders warm from the sun. I will make my Gram promise that in the morning, we’ll get up early and take the dinghy to the marina where they still make homemade cinnamon donuts, just the two of us, and that I can be in charge of the motor. I want to anticipate the boat ride to the winery across the lake the way I did before I knew that something wasn’t right about combining children with all that drinking. It was exciting and beautiful to me once, and I want to be back there, under that sun, just for a day.

I want to stop by my aunt’s house and watch an impromptu party bloom around me, one cousin with a six-pack, one with deviled eggs, three with new babies, aunts and uncles and folding chairs and barbecue smoke. I want to stand in the kitchen, wrapped in the warm chaos of it, washing vegetables from someone’s garden while the bigger little kids chase the dogs underfoot and someone squeezes by to check the oven. I want to see the faces of people who have known me since before I knew myself, and pinch the cheeks of the looming, F150-driving men whose diapers I once changed and whose little-boy tears I’ve kissed away. They have their own babies now, and we will never know each other, really. I won’t even register as the kooky aunt who lives in a far-away city; I’m too far gone even for that.

This nostalgia creeps up on me, a yearning for a time that may not have happened, a place that might not have really existed even when I was there. In the belly of that yearning is my real wish: to be a different person right now, with my own house and my own backyard and tomato plants and my own family and friends coming over to grill and eat pasta salad and watch the kids run around catching lightning bugs while the grownups play old songs on the stereo. Even that word, stereo, makes my heart seize a little on days like this. We would have lanterns hanging in the trees. Baby, get me some more ice, please. I want a kid of my own, holding the lightning bug jar, smelling like grass and clean sweat and joy. Of all the lives I ever imagined for myself, expat and city girl and strident leftist and bohemian, I could never have predicted how much I would crave the simple things I ran away from, nor how hard it would be to find them. TC mark

image – The Graduate
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  • Valerie Kraucunas

    that made me cry a little bit.

  • Anonymous

    amazing. 

  • kmg

    This was lovely.

    I hope you find a place where these old rituals exist. And when you do, let us good ones know.

  • Jake

    Exceptional. Absolutely sweet and exceptional.

  • Anonymous

    “I could never have predicted how much I would crave the simple things I ran away from, nor how hard it would be to find them. ”
    Cries as she reads this from her desk in an office building in the middle of Los Angeles. Dreaming of the plains in Southern Colorado in the summertime. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/grc15r Gregory Costa

    And one day you’ll look back at the days of your grandma in her new house with nostalgia…that’s life.  I remember I always thought that my memories of my grandmother would always remain vivid, almost tangible.  Each year since her death, she becomes a little more faded, and when I think about that…then I grow nostalgic. 

  • Rnaglover

    I’ve never felt nostalgic for home until now.  Thank you.  It needed to happen.

  • Guest

    I have never cried reading a Thought Catalog article until now. This was beautiful. Very easy to relate to.

  • http://www.facebook.com/discobiscuits93 Kayla Ann Stockman

    This made me feel empty. I miss my childhood. Everything about it. Even the bad stuff.

  • Spacemtn

    ok

  • momma

    Simply beautiful. Thank you. I think some things have not changed much and you can still go home little girl.

  • Lala

    sharp

  • sam

    where did you grow up?

    • Anonymous

      Central Ohio.

  • wanderlusting

    I want to be your Grandmother, sweet child.

  • Kavitadas

    Just beautiful – the words, the sentiment, the imagery. It took me back to the sights, sounds, and feelings of my childhood.

  • Dylan

    beautiful. no other words.

  • Guest

    Sitting in a library in socal, re-reading this to fill in the raw emptiness that the first read bored out.  This is beautiful and painful.

  • Guest

    ahhhh, this was lovely. I just teared up.

  • http://www.twitter.com/mexifrida Frida

    this makes me sad because it’s too late for me to go back, even at my age. 
    it will just have to remain a memory.

  • http://twitter.com/brandonlowry Brandon Lowry

    truly one of my most favorite TC articles.

  • Em

    Beautiful from the first sentence to the last. Thank you for sharing your Thought with us.

  • kaylee

    memory is a fickle siren’s song.

  • Nikki

    I’m in my first year at University of Pittsburgh, and I’m originally from Alaska. When you said you missed the wide open skies it struck a chord. I miss my wide open skies and mountains, I can really relate to this, great essay.

  • http://www.facebook.com/TheDaveJuliano David Andrew Juliano

    Thought Catalog needs more of this and less of the snarky, better-than-everyone crap that comes up every once in a while.

  • Andrew

    Perfect. Can’t explain how it made me feel, but I know for a minute there I missed those places I’d never seen, thanks to your imagery and beautiful attention to detail. Great TC article.

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