Category Archives: Family

How to Impress Your In-Laws.

Well, hi there! You haven’t changed one bit. I apologize for the unannounced summer hiatus– but now that fall is here, let’s get back to our normally scheduled programming, shall we?

We’ll pick up right where we left off: when my in-laws came to visit. Now, when I was in college, my Daddy would periodically sit me down, look me hard in the eyes and remind me that you marry the family. It was his mantra—honey, you’re going to be spending a lot of time with your husband’s family. Make sure you like them. I am deliriously thankful that I genuinely adore the family that became mine when Kellan and I said “I do”—in no small part because the thought of pretending to enjoy people for the rest of my life is positively exhausting.

Russ and Gina arrived in Albany on a Friday night. Now, let’s you and I get one thing straight: there are only two men on the planet that I will make a Key Lime pie for, Russ and my Dad. Frankly, I have neither the time nor the inclination for dessert that isn’t chocolate, but for the fathers in my life I gladly make an exception. Thus, 10:00 PM the night before the Dickens arrived found me baking a homemade key lime pie with a mind-numbingly divine graham cracker walnut crust that made the whole house smell of heaven by way of Amish country. Unfortunately, one clandestine bite of the startlingly bitter filling had me promptly scraping the entire thing out of my cheery red pie plate and straight into the trash. I started all over again at 11:30 because PETERSONS DON’T MESS AROUND WITH THEIR PIES.

Russ and Gina landed, and proceeded to ooh and ahh over our [SPARKLINGLY CLEAN] new house. Gina graciously overlooked my wine box tv stand and barren white walls, gushing instead about the natural light pouring through our oversized windows. The next morning, I sleepily waltzed downstairs looking like something on sale at a consignment store, and discovered my amused Father-in-law with a wide grin on his face. Ash, I was just wondering…do you have any milk that isn’t rancid?

APPARENTLY, prior to their arrival I had been too busy scrubbing the baseboards with a toothbrush to check the date on our milk. As the color drained from my panicked face into my pedicured toes, I had an overwhelming urge to channel the old couple in Titanic, slink back to bed, and pretend it wasn’t happening.

We sorted out the milk [I DIE], and he then casually asked me where my toaster was.

The thing about toasters is ours caught on fire two weeks into our marriage, and I promptly threw it down the garbage chute and never bought another one because CHEAP. [Also, effort.]  Thus, every time you want toast at my house, you have to channel your inner Laura Ingalls Wilder, set the oven to 375 and wait seven minutes. The whole thing is very Little House on the Prairie, with fewer Indian raids and less cholera. Russ’ baffled eyes widened as I relayed this information, unable to wrap his modern mind around the wholesome, pioneer lifestyle that Kellan and I had unwittingly embraced. You’re getting a toaster for Christmas.

Well. Something to look forward to.

On Saturday afternoon, Kellan and Russ ventured off for some father-son bonding time while Gina and I shopped and drank outrageously overpriced iced coffees. Arriving back at the house, we collapsed on the couch where I proceeded to turn on “My 600 Pound Life” because I like to heckle the enablers that keep traipsing in the front door with oblivious smiles and sixteen Happy Meals in tow. Gina, however, was so horrified at the whole thing that she had to escape upstairs to take a nap. Meanwhile, I practiced looking penitent in case I had to explain to Kellan why I watched trash tv with his Mama.

On Saturday night, I decided to make Greek food—because if a gyro doesn’t make you happy, I can do nothing for you. Unfortunately, I became overly excited whilst chopping cucumbers, and ever so daintily sent an economy-sized container of feta cheese unceremoniously tumbling to the floor, causing the whole house to smell distinctly like a pack filthy hobbits with severe bowel troubles were squatting in the kitchen.

All in all, the weekend was a rousing success. :) We laughed until our stomachs hurt, and I took a thousand mental snapshots, bottling up memories to tuck away and savor for the rest of my life. There isn’t anything more dear to me in the world than spending time with my family.

…and not just because I’ll be the proud owner of a toaster come Christmastime. ;)

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Filed under Family, My ghetto-fab life, Then I found $5.00

Life Around Our Table.

DSC_0146My family owns an old wooden table that once belonged to my great-Grandparents, and has been carefully passed down over the generations. Through the ingenious magic of extra leaves, it expands and contracts like an accordion, making room for up to fifteen smiling faces to gather around it. Twenty, if you don’t mind your elbows bumping.

Years ago, the old wooden table followed my family across an ocean to Kiev, Ukraine, into our first tiny apartment where my Mama could stand in the middle of the doll-sized kitchen and touch all four walls with her hands. I remember the very first dinner that we ate sitting around our table in that apartment—I was six years old, and Stephen and I were famished after refusing to eat anything but white dinner rolls on our trans-Atlantic flight. Armed with fifteen basic Russian phrases and an iron will, our Mother had hitch-hiked to the local market. She wandered wide-eyed amongst stalls where animal carcasses hung dripping above dirty meat counters, looking for all the world as though someone had mercilessly slaughtered half of Noah’s ark. The hard-won meal that she presented on the table that night was beef in some sort of unidentifiable gray sauce, and sleepy, hungry faces beamed and gushed how wonderful each bite tasted. Years later, Mom told us that was the moment she decided that she could live in Ukraine.

Our table has seen three different countries and more different houses, but wherever it was, we were home. It’s seen Christmas morning cinnamon rolls, Cookie Monster birthday cakes and two grinning little boys with curly blonde hair and spaghetti sauce all over their faces. It’s where we learned to pass food to the right, and to wait until Mama started eating to pick up our forks. It’s the table around which eyes scrunched tightly shut as we thanked Jesus for [most of] our food, and where we tattled on the other kids for opening their eyes during prayer. It’s where Ian gleefully discovered that he could burp the ABC’s, and while I’m sure my parents wanted to chastise him it was all so bizarrely impressive that they couldn’t help but egg him on. It’s the table that Kellan broke on the cool October night that he leaned across it to kiss me, and though Daddy laughed out loud and fixed it right up, Kellan never quite lived that down.

Our old wooden table is where we’ve told our stories, where we’ve learned who the people sitting beside and across from us are. It’s where we have celebrated wildly and loved fiercely, debated passionately and doubled over with belly-laughter. That table has been the heartbeat of our home for as long as I can remember, hosting grand Thanksgiving dinner parties and quiet peanut butter and jelly afternoons. My most savored memories are the ones we spent relaxing around empty plates for long, unhurried hours after the meal had ended, red wine still swirling in long-stemmed glasses and contented conversation echoing off the walls.

Part of the raw ache of grief is that you can never go back. There could be nothing more precious to me in the world than just one more night spent laughing around the old wooden table with my whole family, but Ian is gone. And nowhere do we miss him more than when we sit down to dinner and realize that we’ve forgotten again, and set six places instead of five.

The ache of missing Ian has created in me a homesick longing for soul-exhale of heaven. And somehow, I suspect that heaven will look just a little bit like what has happened around our old table for so many years.

Happy 23rd birthday tomorrow, baby brother. We miss you every single day.

While in college, Ian was interviewed about the a cappella group that he sang in. It’s unnerving just how often over the course of two minutes, he was distracted by a girl walking by…

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Filed under Family, Grief, Home, Ian

What Y2K and my Mother in Law Have in Common.

JCP_3574 bwNew Year’s Eve 1999 found me wide-eyed with unabashed glee at the prospect of the impending doom about to descend upon civilization as I knew it.  An uncertain world was curiously teetering on the brink of Y2K, and in a startling flight from rationality my parents had decided that we stood a better chance against the looters back in the Land of the Free than in our little apartment in the Soviet Block. Thus, my family had flown across the ocean from Kiev, Ukraine, to my Grandparent’s house in Suburbia, Michigan. Locks had been tested, toilet paper had been stock piled, and in a sadistic twist on Trick-or-treat gone terribly wrong, Grandpa had loaded the riot gun and was ready to greet any of the aforementioned looters. Mama had filled every bathtub in the house with cold water, and stacked ominously in the basement were enough flashlights, batteries and cans of low-fat New England clam chowder to launch our own rather unappetizing, well-lit cult.

Pondering that experience as an adult, I am now quite convinced that I would much prefer to die in some sort of apocalyptic event than be forced to eat room-temperature clam chowder glopped unceremoniously from a can.

The Petersons were nothing if not prepared, and my brothers and I were positively heartsick when Y2K held all of the excitement of a dirty Kleenex. The electricity didn’t so much as flicker, and Grandpa didn’t get to fire the riot gun even once. Thus, dreams and bathtub water swirled straight down the drain, flashlights were tucked away and I can only imagine that a local homeless shelter was the unlucky beneficiary of the aforementioned chowder. In summation: everyone suffered.

Fourteen years have passed since that underwhelming New Year’s Eve with the batteries and the bathtubs filled clear to the brim, and strangely, I find myself once again preparing for an event of apocalyptic proportions. Except, instead of Y2K, my MOTHER IN LAW is coming to visit this weekend.

Now, let’s you and I get one thing straight right off the bat: my Mother in Law is the sweetest, most selfless human being on the planet. Lest you think I’m exaggerating, I will tell you that my OWN Mother has decided that she is the kindest person that we know. Gina Dickens began treating me like I was her daughter long before there was a ring on my finger, and I wholeheartedly adore her.

Unfortunately, perfection has its pitfalls, chief of which is raising offspring who thinks it’s normal. In her entire life, Gina hasn’t so much as pretended to be mediocre at something, effectively creating wildly unrealistic expectations for her son that can’t FOR THE LIFE of him figure out why I don’t carry around an plastic bag full of alphabetized coupons. [Um, HELLO, I lost our scissors in the move.] Kellan grew up in a perfectly immaculate house where organization was paramount [I’m pretty sure the folders had folders], and the kitchen was always startlingly sparkling. I’m quite serious about this. I’ve spent three consecutive Thanksgivings in Gina’s kitchen, and have yet to see so much as a flour splatter. [AT THANKSGIVING. THE COOKINGEST DAY OF THE YEAR. She’s like a kitchen unicorn.] My kitchen, however, consistently looks like a bomb went off and the Red Cross failed to respond. And that’s just after breakfast.

I married Gina’s first-born son under the unspoken expectation that I would do my utmost to keep him alive. It was one thing when she came to visit last fall and popped into our tiny little apartment just long enough for lunch before she and Russ whisked us away for a weekend at the cutest little B&B around. [I told you. BEST.] It’s another thing entirely now that she’s coming to STAY AT MY HOUSE for a whole weekend. MY HOUSE, in which a TV is currently precariously perched atop a tower consisting of two Tupperware containers and one old wine box, because CLASSY. I sheepishly confessed that to her a couple of months ago, and she looked at me like I was a starving paralytic in dire need of some sort of fundraiser.

I’ve decided that the whole thing is very much like getting ready for Y2K. I find myself desperate to prove that I am a responsible, prepared adult, instead of someone who still pays for her coffee in quarters and dimes. I vacillate wildly from feeling immeasurably mature as I stockpile spare light bulbs and stamps, to being utterly convinced that she will take one look at the guest bathroom and very quietly put a protective layer of toilet paper over the seat. Kellan began to notice that something was amiss when I walked up to him last night with crazy eyes and very calmly informed him that if he left his mildewed towel on the floor one more time, I WOULD STAB HIM.

I spend every spare minute coming up with contingency plans, quite certain that I will accidentally blow the electricity, the freezer will melt and we shall be forced to eat damp cheese sandwiches by candlelight for dinner. And because she is perfect, Gina will smile graciously and make some sort of charming remark about how lovely the light looks flickering off of the walls while I internally panic because SWEET FANCY MOSES I AM GOING TO MUDDY THE GENE POOL. I’ll grin weakly as I desperately attempt to look like the sort of girl that wears sensible shoes and reads instruction manuals, instead of a girl that doesn’t own a mop.

Clearly, this is dire. Say your rosaries, friends–because we are T-4 days. If you need me, I’ll be dusting my wine-box TV stand and stacking cans of clam chowder in the basement.

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Filed under Family, Marriage, My favorite people, Then I found $5.00

Skirting the Edge of Scandal.

JCP_2338 bwMy Mama turned 52 yesterday.

Now, ordinarily I wouldn’t share that little nugget of information, given that women normally adhere to a very strict “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy when it comes to obnoxious numbers like age and weight. However, it just so happens that Facebook announced her age to the watching world on account of the fact that she has yet to master the internets, and so I’m afraid that at this point the proverbial cat is quite out of the bag.

And really, I don’t think she minds all that much.

When I was in middle school, I desperately wanted to get my bellybutton pierced. Desperately. Unfortunately, those were the years that I fondly refer to as the dark ages, during which my Mama had an inexplicable affinity for startlingly big 80’s hair and dowdy jean jumpers. Never mind that it was 1997 and both had long since gone out of vogue. The potential coolness of a silver butterfly dangling from my naval was utterly lost on her.

My Dad was even worse. He simply furrowed his brow, rolled his eyes, and told me in no uncertain terms that nobody ought to be seeing my bellybutton anyways, so I certainly didn’t need any shrapnel in it. No amount of wheedling and cajoling and but-they’re-cute-ing could persuade my conservative, nothing-good-happens-after-eight-o’clock parents otherwise. Thus, it was firmly pronounced that the day I turned 18 I was free to desecrate my body however I saw fit, but there would be no vaguely whorish piercings a second sooner than that.  My best friend Melissa and I made solemn, little girl pinkie-promises to go get our bellybuttons pierced together on my 18th birthday, and settled in for what promised to be an impossibly long wait.

In a devastating turn of events, several years later at the end of 7th grade, my parents announced that we were moving from our little apartment on Ivana Kudri street in Kiev, Ukraine, to a yellow house in Budapest, Hungary. I remember crocodile tears filling my panic-stricken eyes as I looked at my Mother in utter disbelief and indignantly shrieked the only pertinent question: NOW WHO WILL I GO GET MY BELLYBUTTON PIERCED WITH?!

In a fit of dementia and good intentions, my Mama calmly looked me dead in the eyes, and told me to listen up. Honey, if you don’t have someone to go get your bellybutton pierced with when you turn 18, I promise that I’ll do it with you.

Like astonishingly dainty elephants, Peterson women never forget. And so April 19th of my senior year of high school found Cindy Peterson and I sitting in a rather suspect Raleigh tattoo parlor called Warlocks. And let me tell you, if anything in this world will force you to reevaluate the trajectory of your life, it’s sitting in a plastic folding chair at Warlocks staring at rows and rows of barbed wire tattoos.

My wise Father had long since given up trying to talk us out of the whole idea, having begrudgingly resigned himself to the sad reality that the trollops living under his roof could not be stopped from skirting the edges of scandalous. He had, however, made me swear on my college fund to get pierced first, confident that if I watched a blonde with an aggressively pierced face and rather menacing black gloves shove a giant needle into my Mother’s belly, I’d never crawl up on the table after her.

The next day I proudly marched into homeroom and showed off my VERY CLASSY silver butterfly bellybutton ring. [Sorry, Dad!] I’ll never forget my friend’s eyes widening as she gleefully gasped, Oh, Ash. Does your Mom know?

It was one of the great delights of my life to smirk back at her. Please. My Mama is my best friend, and she did it with me.

That’s my Mom. She’s a daring woman who drinks life to the lees, as Tennyson would say. She is a truth-teller, a problem-solver, a fighter and a chocolate-cake-baker. She taught me to love wildly, to lead with tender ferocity of spirit, and to always keep a secret can of fudge icing hidden in the back of the fridge for just-in-case purposes. She taught me to anchor my heart to the truth that God only gives good gifts.  And in a sensible world full of pressed khaki pants and 401K’s, she taught me that there was beauty and value in letting my imperfect flag fly.

So here’s to you, Mama. All 52, pierced years of you.

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Our Father, Who Has Been in Hell.

My Daddy doesn’t cry.

Growing up, I never saw him cry even once. Oh, his voice faltered for one tenuous moment while speaking at my sweet Grandpa’s funeral in the old church on Hubbard Street, but no tears fell. This is, in no small part, why I find it violently disturbing whenever a man cries in my presence. It feels like the sky is falling.

As a little girl, my Mama used to tell me that one day, I’d see my Dad cry. She’d grin and lean in, as though she were about to share something precious, confiding in a whisper that every time the two of them watched Father of the Bride, Daddy teared up just a little bit until he’d finally ask her to turn it off. Your Father can’t even think about your wedding without tears springing to his eyes. Oh honey, that man is going to just cry on your wedding day, she’d tell me with a sort of prideful glee that I’ll bet only a Mama can understand. It was a promise that I savored, treasuring the idea that that my stoic Dad loved me so much that he’d actually cry when I got married. I used to recount that promise to friends, remarking how I’d need to wear waterproof everything on my wedding day because I was entirely certain that one look at my Father with tears in his eyes would send me careening straight over the edge.

Ian started chemo two impossible days after his diagnosis. Doctors wearing white coats and grim expressions were using words like aggressive, and as Ian’s abdomen continued to swell his shallow breathing was becoming increasingly labored. Every second mattered. Reeling from an incomprehensible diagnosis unceremoniously handed to a healthy twenty-one year old kid, we were sitting in a corner room at UNC Hospital, Dad, Ian, and I. Large windows overlooked Chapel Hill in October, and the Magnolia leaves had sparked into flame. We barely noticed, that day.

My tall, strapping brother looked so small laying in his white hospital bed. The chemo bag was hung, Ian was hooked up, and I remember being surprised that something as ominous as chemotherapy wasn’t more complex. As though there should have been more fanfare, more gravitas before poison was allowed to course through my little brother’s broken body. A smiling nurse quietly exited the room, and I sat on the edge of Ian’s bed as the chemo began to infuse, our Dad standing behind me.

So this was chemo.

Minutes later, Ian began to shake violently. The pale, curly-haired boy that had been cheerfully traipsing around his college campus just three days earlier was moaning and writhing on the bed in front of me, and as I lunged over him and held him I fought the panic in my voice as I screamed for someone to come help. I felt like I was drowning as I watched my little brother convulse on the bed in front of me, powerless to do anything but watch. Ian, I’m here, I’m right here. Daddy and I are right here. You’re going to be just fine. Just keep breathing. We’re right here. Nurses and doctors poured into the room, and I stayed trembling at the foot of Ian’s bed, my hands holding his feet. I’m here, Ian. I’m right here.

Fearfully, I glanced over my shoulder at my Daddy just in time to see one tear trickle down his face. It was the first time that I’d ever seen him cry.

I would later learn that Ian was experiencing Rigors, induced from too much of the toxic chemotherapy flowing into his battered body at once. His chemo drip was slowed, and eventually the horrifying convulsions came to a sputtering, faltering halt. I weakly made an excuse about needing to go get something, anything, and walked into the long hallway outside of his room with hot tears streaming uncontrollably down my face. I didn’t make it past the nurse’s station before gut-wrenching sobs threatened to send me to my knees. Sunlight poured into oversized lobby windows, and everything in my world felt dark and splintered. My twenty-one year old little brother’s body was rebelling, and there was nothing, nothing that I could do. I learned that morning what it’s like to feel helpless. To pray ragged, desperate, keening prayers, deeply guttural moans begging God the only way I could think to do it: please. Please. Please. Please. 

Ian would go into kidney failure later that day, and would be rushed downstairs into a dark ICU. I would sit there by his bed, holding his cold hand, begging God please. Please. Please. It was a scene that would be repeated time and time again over the next five months, by hospital beds and on 2:00 AM drives home from the ICU, always begging God please.

When I think about that day, and the many like it that would follow, when I think about holding tightly to Ian’s hand as he falteringly breathed in and out for the very last time, when I think about how God said no, I don’t understand. I believe that when our hearts are shattered, human instinct is to try and make sense of it all, as if a tidy answer will help us put the pieces back together again.

I don’t pretend to understand God. I cannot tell you why He said no to the one thing that I wanted most in the whole world. What I can tell you, is that before Ian’s first day of chemo, I thought about God as Our Father in Heaven. He is that, of course, but as I learn to stumble through life without my little brother I have learned to cling to Him as Our Father who has been in hell. Our Father who has been in hell, who watched the flesh be torn from his Boy’s body as He was chained to a post and violently whipped again and again. Until tattered skin hung loose and blood ran crimson and bone was laid raw and exposed. Our Father who has been in hell, who watched as thorns were pressed deep, as blood poured rivers down his Boy’s beaten face. Our Father who has been in hell, who watched smirking Roman guards stake his Boy to a couple slabs of wood. Our Father who has been in hell, who for hours watched his Boy slowly suffocate to death. Straining, gasping for air that his exhausted lungs could not find.

I’ll bet He cried, just like my Daddy did.

I do not follow a God that I understand. I do follow a God that understands me. Who understands wrenching pain and searing loss, who for the sake of Ian and you and me stood by while his precious Son bled out and suffocated. A God who is intimately familiar with the raw, howling, soul-wrenching bone-weary keen of grief. In the midst of it, I am grateful for the God that has been in hell. Who triumphantly walked through it and shattered the chains off the gates and declared it FINISHED so that death would not be the end of Ian’s story.

It does not have to be the end of your story, either.

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Filed under Family, God's faithfulness, Grief, Hope, Ian

Death by Brownie Pan.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetLittle sisters run the world, and apparently my schedule as mine proved when she asked me to change my flight and come back home a day early to help her get ready for prom. Which, as we all remember, I happily did. Change fees be darned, she was WORTH IT. Thus, I exuberantly handed my hard-earned dollar bills to the good people at Southwest, and hopped a Raleigh-bound flight.

Imagine my surprise when I showed up in North Carolina on a muggy Friday night only to have Emily Scott Peterson sheepishly confess that she’d mis-remembered her prom date, and it was in fact on SATURDAY night instead.

I laughed a little too hysterically and briefly considered beating her senseless with a brownie pan, and other various violent displays of testosterone. Quite frankly, there are a startling number of things in life that I abstain from only because of my highly illogical but very real fear of ending up on the Jerry Springer show, and this has been Emily’s saving grace more than once.

While Emily is not much with dates, she can rock a red hand me down dress like it’s her job. In a sea of high school girls channeling their inner Michelle Kwan and applying their makeup with a trowel, my little sister looked like she’d walked straight off the set of the Great Gatsby. She was positively elegant—everything from her sassy, beaded headband down to her painted toes. I spent a startling amount of time that night researching ways to transplant her long, ballerina legs onto my body, a surgery apparently performed only in the dark recesses of North Korea.

My other sister [who, might I add, is MUCH better with dates] graduated from Duke, and I was so proud that itProcessed with VSCOcam with m3 preset took every ounce of self-control in my body not to leap on top of my chair and holler like a deranged lunatic when she walked across the stage. This was something that my discerning husband wisely informed me minutes before the ceremony that Dickens do not do. Baffled and wide-eyed, I’d sputtered well, HOW will Keri know that I love her if I don’t YELL?!“to which he’d gently replied, she’ll know if you’re very, very quiet.

Stricken, I indignantly spat, FINE. BUT I’M HOLLERING AT OUR DAUGHTER’S BALLET RECITALS.

It’s truly astounding how often our hypothetical children become ammunition in our arguments.

Being home was a thousand different kinds of wonderful. Touching down in Raleigh, my heart raced like I was Mary Bailey being offered the moon by George, and I wanted to bottle up the feeling and store it forever. It felt like North Carolina was playing my song, and I savored every single note.

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What Sisters are For.

JCP_2516My little sister called me a couple of weeks ago, proudly informing me that she was going to prom.

This was a profoundly disturbing announcement, given that in my mind she is still a tubby two year old with sprightly chestnut pig tales, and a fond penchant for purple feather boas and all things Hello Kitty.

The only problem with the snapshot frozen in my head is that she’s fifteen. Fifteen, with a hot-off-the-press driver’s permit and ballerina legs a mile long and be still my heart, she is going to PROM. Just with a friend, mind you, because a date would send us all careening right over the edge, and we’re teetering dangerously close as it is.

Ash, can you fly home and help me get ready?

I’d already made plans to go home, because my sister in law is graduating from Duke and I choose to celebrate even the most mediocre educations. Emily informed me that maddeningly, her prom was a day before my flight was scheduled to arrive.

Personally, I don’t want to live in a world where big sisters can’t fly home to swipe mascara and take a thousand posed pictures. For heaven’s sake, it’s what big sisters are for. We exist to make sure that ears are pierced early and curfews are pushed late. We pass down jeans and nubs of old red lipstick and unsolicited advice about how to wax your eyebrows and transition from boxed wine. We solemnly promise that boys really do get a little bit better, when you’re thirty-five or so. And we fly home to help our little sisters get ready for prom.

So Friday night will find me back in Raleigh. There was hardly a choice to be made, given that our Mama would have tried to coerce her into wearing a matching bracelet/necklace/earrings set, and I taught Emily long ago never to take fashion advice from anyone that wore CLOGS for the better part of the nineties. My Mother may be the boss of us, but she adamantly refused to buy anything that had to be dry cleaned until approximately 2007, and I think we can all agree that that represents a startling lapse of judgment.

There’s just something about going home. About country roads that wind and bend for endless miles of green, and car windows rolled all the way down. About friends that share a hundred thousand “remember whens” and beloved coffee shops that I don’t need a GPS to find. About breakfast dates with my Daddy and piano keys that my brother used to play for hours on end and breathing in the sweetly familiar with bare feet and a deliriously happy heart. This morning, my body might still be in New York, but y’all had better believe that I’ve already gone to Carolina in my mind.

If you’d like to see Emily dolled up in one of my old prom dresses, feel free to find me on Instagram! This proud big sister will be blowing it up tomorrow night.

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