At my eighth grade graduation party, I received three gifts that I can remember: a wheelie suitcase, a bottle of lotion called “Paris,” and a vacation to Sunset Beach, North Carolina. I was born near the Atlantic, and our summer vacations to the big houses on stilts had been immortalized in my heart since I was old enough to plaster crayoned homages to beach hot dog stands all over my bedroom walls. It had been several years since we’d made a beach trip. The gift elevated my parents to the level of gods. When I opened a bottle of the lotion nine years later, “Paris” smelled like twice-rolled Soffe shorts, an iPod shuffle in a thunderstorm, and the firm conviction that pink and blue braces would spark a summer romance with the skateboarder down the street.

The Ski House

My full-time job involves working at a camp. Sure, I write curriculum and manage employees, but I also set my hair on fire and confiscate bear spray. Life’s a balance. I began working at this camp when I was eighteen, in a position where I did not write curriculum or manage any employees. Before that, even, I was a camper. I now have so many memories of this place that I have barely any recollection of the experience of attending summer camp myself. The cabins in which I was a camper have been bulldozed, long gone. One of the old boy’s cabins was repurposed into storage for our cross-country skis. I walked into the Ski House last spring; it smacked of rust and concrete, and a blue pajama set, and bare feet, and candy orders, and a severely maimed roasting stick named Sir William deStick the Second.

Bic Ballpoints

In college, I was always losing pens. If you hated that girl in your class who would lean over every day mid-lecture with an open palm and a sheepish smile… I am a monster. For a time, I dated someone who enjoyed collecting flocks of pens that he somehow bewitched out of street gutters and the Commons Lawn. Unfortunately, this useful and complementary skill was not enough to keep us together. My husband still crushes pen caps to oblivion between his teeth, a trait that is on the list of reasons he terrified me when we first met. I love, love, love, love, love to write with pens, particularly on the first sheet of a fat notebook or the top layer of a stack of receipts. An uncapped Bic ballpoint smells like eager summer love letters, Mansion-Apartment-Shack-House, and blood brother tattoos for wussies who hate blood.


Almost every Saturday for the entirety of my childhood, my father made us pancakes. Sunday mornings were for cinnamon rolls, Saturdays for dad’s fluffy flapjacks. Dad is always up and smiling by 6 a.m., saying unreasonable things like “Good morning!” while he slides the spatula onto the griddle. When I was a kid, I loved the sound of the coffee grinder and intermittent silence. I hated, however, the outside of the pancake, so I would peel it off and eat the middle parts, squeezing it between my fingers. Brent and I have our own banana pancake practices, but cutting open a Bisquick bag will always smell of thin Duke University t-shirts, thoughtful eyebrows, and hour-long explanations of the electoral college.

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