I called my parents this evening (well, okay, they called me and I missed the call, and then I called them and they missed the call and eventually the Powers That Be got bored of messing with us). After a couple of minutes chatting about my little brother’s social graces (much better than mine as a high school freshman, i.e. he has friends) and my cousin’s awesome music camp where they got a bunch of teenagers to produce a credible Mozart Requiem at the end of the week, my dad casually said, “And of course we’ve been doing gardening and housework all day for the 4th of July.” And I remembered that, again, I would miss the most quintessentially ‘Murican holiday of all time by being in England. I’ve been missing the 4th of July for years now; since at least the summer of 2010. When people ask me about it, I say that I don’t want to go back–not now, not ever–and that’s true, as far as it goes. I don’t want to live in the States, I don’t want to have a career or start a family or build my life there. But I started my life there, and that does make a difference. Sometimes, especially in the summer, there are things that I miss about America. We do a lot of things pretty poorly, but some things we get right. To wit:
Oreos. I swear they’re smaller here.
Highways. You can’t really do a good road trip in England. It just doesn’t have the same feel to it as this:
Milkshakes. English shops sell something called “milkshake”. It’s essentially flavoured milk, a sad, pathetic shade of what it claims to be. I particularly miss the ones from Chaps, a downtown Charlottesville institution.
County fairs. Their combination of livestock, quilting and jam exhibitions, healthful snacks such as cotton candy and funnel cake, stomach-dropping rides, all in the dying heat of a late-summer evening…that constitutes my childhood, in some ways.
Heat haze. Where the blacktop meets the horizon and it looks like water.
Flipflops. Every day from April to October.
Ceiling fans. They’re beautiful, they create a delicious breeze, and the low humming sound the blades make is the most comforting in the world.
The Blue Ridge Mountains. Just…unghh.
Guitars being plucked. Like this:
Bandanas are cool. Srsly.
The University of Virginia. Especially the Lawn. And all the frat houses on Rugby Road, which are the most gorgeous big old red-brick neo-Palladian things.
Coffee. Look, I am sorry, but screw instant granules.
Thunderstorms. They just don’t seem to exist in England, and I miss the way the world feels scrubbed and fresh after they pass over.
School buses. Obvi.
Wilderness. In Virginia, you can drive for fifteen minutes and be in the middle of East Jesus Nowhere. In most of England, you can be pretty sure there’s a tea shop somewhere nearby. Which is often a good thing, but sometimes you want to be in East Jesus Nowhere, and uncertain of how you’re going to find civilization again.
Cheez Whiz. GET ON BOARD, REST OF THE WORLD.
Accents. Simply watch O Brother, Where Art Thou?. People actually talk like that. (Not everywhere, of course.)
Summer nights that are warm enough not to need a jumper when you sit outside.
Whitetail deer. Everywhere.
Baseball. Watched on TV on aforementioned warm nights, with a beer. Your team always loses.
Football. Watched in freezing, windy, bright-blue-sky conditions, with a beer. Your team always loses.
Diners (and their cheeseburgers).
Flexible Flyer little red wagons (a brand name which, now that I think about it, sounds like a burlesque act).