S and I spent most of the summer chasing memories. His parents retired and are moving out of the house that S considered home for half of his life, so everything we did had a sense of urgency about it. Everything felt like it would be the "last" time. We also buried his grandparents in the town where his mother's family spent their summer vacations and were able to revisit some of those memories with her. We came back to our apartment with boxes full of childhood toys, high school pictures, college books, and we inherited a car-full of old things that belonged to other people. I'll admit that most of the time, I felt like a voyeur. Not having grown up with his family, these things didn't mean to me what they meant to S. I'm learning quickly that this is an important part of joining someone's family and I felt honored to get to share these moments with them. One of the best parts of this experience, for me, was witnessing new memories being made for S's nephews (soon to be my nephews too!) -- camping with their family, riding "big kid" rides for the first time, participating in their grandpa's last church service before he retired. These are the things they will remember when they get older. It's kind of amazing to watch that happen.
When we came back to our apartment at the end of Labor Day weekend, I needed to relive my own childhood for one night. Every year, my hometown marks the end of summer with an "Italian Festival" held in a church parking lot. I honestly have no idea how old I was when I started going to the Italian Festival, but I do know that every year since then, except for the two years that I lived in Iowa, I've at least made an appearance for a few minutes to say my goodbyes to the season. As a kid, the Italian Festival meant going on the ferris wheel with my Dad. As a teenager, it was a time to reconnect with my high school friends. Now, because I'm still working on an academic-year schedule, the Italian Festival is sort of the last hurrah of vacation. For some reason that I can't quite articulate, it felt really important this year... maybe because I had spent the rest of the summer doing things that were nostalgic for S, or maybe because getting engaged makes me feel more officially like an adult, or it could be the pressure I've put on myself this year to find a better job. For all of these reasons, I cried over spilled zeppole. Let me explain: zeppole are pillows of fried dough, covered in powdered sugar, and they are the one constant of every Italian Festival. Summer just doesn't feel complete without them. S and I had been at the Italian Festival for about five minutes before the clouds opened up and we were caught in a thunderstorm. I tried to get some zeppole at the last minute before we left, but the moisture from the rain and the heat of the zeppole fresh from the fryer caused the bag to rip open in my purse, covering everything in wet powdered sugar and leading to luke-warm, soggy zeppole. I cried when we got into the car. In my mind, this one, last symbol of carefree, summer days had been ruined. S didn't quite get it at first; I'm sure he thought I had lost my mind. It's funny how we tend to instill small things with the monumental power of nostalgia. To me, those zeppole weren't just a dessert, but the markers of an occasion.
Of course, we went back the next night, won every game we played, and got six perfect zeppole before heading home.
S and I are entering a new chapter of our lives together and it's been a little bit difficult for both of us to let go of the previous one. The unknown can be scary, but if I have to jump into an abyss, I think I picked the perfect person to do it with. Now, bring on the pumpkin carving and Halloween candy.