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Things I Miss about America

Notes from a faraway island.

Photo by Frank McKenna on Unsplash.

It’s too easy to look at what’s happening in the land of my birth right now and breathe a sigh of relief that there is an ocean between me and all the vileness. Rumours of sharks swimming up freeways in the flooding after Hurricane Harvey. Actual Nazis who are not ashamed to show their faces while perpetrating violence. The grim spectre of impending nuclear winter. In my eleven years living in the UK I've seen both countries change in ways that seem so unthinkable I began to wonder whether we've slipped into a parallel dimension. Yet for all the woes Britain is currently experiencing, it seems for the time being to be the lesser of two evils.

But I'd be doing my home nation a disservice if I only think of the bad things. There are things I do miss about America.

Fireflies

Like stars that can be cupped in the palm of a hand, few things have the power to evoke wonder in the way fireflies do. New England evenings were too chilly for lightning bugs to be prolific but we'd see an occasional twinkle. The real magic was at my grandmother's house in Pennsylvania where it seemed like the Milky Way was hovering in her backyard on summer nights.  

Apple Cider Donuts

The cloudy, very lightly fermented brown apple cider of my youth bears very little relation to the sparkling golden firmly grown-up beverage I now consume in British pubs. Apple cider on its own is a common autumn favourite, but mixed into donut batter and deep fried it is a confection approaching the manna of heaven.  

Chipmunks

Of all the small woodland creatures common to my homeland, the chipmunk is the most quintessentially American. Cuter than a squirrel. Less wily than a racoon. Fresher-smelling than a skunk. Tell me you can resist those little chubby cheeks. You can't. The chubby cheeks win every time.

Root Beer

For non-Americans, the flavour of root beer is perplexing. It is not a taste that the non-American readily warms to. Until I found root beer at a Malaysian restaurant near where I work in London I hadn't realised how much I missed the bitter aniseed-like tang of this frothy beverage. I may struggle to get friends & neighbours in my adopted country on my side for this one, but at least I can seek it out when I go home for visits.

Autumn Leaves

The trees change colour a bit in the UK but it's nothing like the riot of gold, red and orange rolling over the New England hills where I grew up. It's not only the startling rich hues that I miss, but the scent of the leaves wafting on crisp cold breezes. A warm and woody smell like drying herbs, tinged with the snapping frost of winter on the way. The ephemeral pleasure of the leaves changing, a last jubilee before the barrenness of winter, is something I looked forward to every year.

The Bill of Rights

Okay, okay. I know things aren't going so well right now. I doubt anyone thinks that they are. But through all the shock and disbelief I have about each new political development, I remember that we are outraged and we are angry because the country is not living up to the ideals we have set for ourselves. Despite everything, we are not complacent and we are not normalising what's happening. People are speaking out and standing up. Every day I see renewed efforts to protect the rights enshrined in the Bill of Rights. Is the document perfect? No. Are we doing this perfectly? No. But we still strive. And that, to me, is America.

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