Childhood memories are rarely indifferent. If we remember something at all, we either truly love it or it fills us with hate, rage, shame, fear, regret.
The childhoods of our memories are hybrids of blurry nostalgia and dark monsters under our beds.
It’s exhausting sometimes. We learn the world piece by piece as we grow up and then the process begins again as we see everything we learned from the outside and realize everything we learned is wrong. And we learn it all again.
Over and over again, we react to what happened and then and not to what’s happening now. We live one foot in today and the other in that hybrid nostalgic/monster world.
I spent the last few weeks in Europe, wandering the streets of Paris, Barcelona, San Sebastián. Espresso in sidewalk cafes, wine on sun-filled terraces, sangria while lying on beach chairs in the sand.
But no food.
When you’re traveling, you’re at the mercy of the local cultural food whims. In Spain, no one serves dinner before 8:30. And then it’s sardines. In France, well, there’s mostly French food. Some organ meats. Snails.
When I got back to the United States, the first thing I did was go to the grocery store so that I could have whatever food I wanted anytime I wanted at all. (It really was almost the first thing, since I was up at 4:30am and didn’t have anything else to do.)
I thought, I can walk down to the beach (in daylight, I mean) and I can pack up chips and salsa and cheese and bread and lemonade and eat them at 6pm if I want. Or 2:30pm. Or 11am.
And then I thought, Oh. Maybe I’m finally relearning food.
Because as an adult, I don’t pack food and bring it with me anywhere. Ever.
I spent too many years with a home-packed lunch when all the other kids had money to buy lunch in the cafeteria, of driving past every restaurant on route 40 on road trips between our house in Oklahoma and my grandparents’ house in California and instead eating stale sandwiches or whatever my mom had packed for the trip.
Bringing your own food means that you can’t afford to do otherwise, that you’re left out from what everyone else is doing, that you’re isolated and different and not good enough and alone.
Only maybe it doesn’t. Maybe bringing your own food can mean that you’re in control and can have whatever you want whenever you want it.
And I know it seems stupid and petty and small. But it doesn’t feel that way to me.
This afternoon, I ran barefoot in the sun along a Malibu beach. And in my head, I kept repeating: you don’t have to run anymore. You don’t have to run anymore.