golden hour

by carolinenoelle

I often refer to my childhood home as my “home home” and it reminds me of the way we would talk about our romantic affections in middle school by saying “I like him…but I don’t like like him.” I love going home home, and not only because with mom and dad money, luxuries such as paying someone else to wash my car or paint my nails are suddenly a beautiful possibility.

I was home home recently, visiting my parents and siblings. The first day home home is like a dream. I wake up at six, excited like a kid on Christmas morning. I scour the house for old articles from the New York Times and make a full pot of coffee because — for once — I am not brewing for one. By seven thirty I have already learned that marriage is a modern indicator of adulthood, why children are drawn to stories about animals who act like humans, and that a new breed of “upscale hostels” are sweeping Europe. By eight o’clock I am driving my sister to school in the Toyota Highlander, honking at a girl who I used to babysit who is now seventeen and beautiful. Abby is wearing her Calvin College sweatshirt for “wear paraphernalia from the school you will be attending in the Fall” day and I feel elated that my younger sister thinks well enough of me to attend my alma mater.

The morning is spent on the kitchen stools, backs slouched over a sunlit wooden table where my mother and I read the paper, drink several cups of coffee, and discuss breakfast options, not deciding until almost 10:00 am, when we eat something that we have agreed is a worthy combination of healthy and delicious.


I need to have a home home because I’ve moved every year for the past four years.  A year ago I had already relocated most of my possessions to my private apartment located adjacent to the beautiful yellow home of a family of three, whom I babysit for in exchange for a no-rent, all utilities paid apartment. I tip-toed around the place for the first few weeks, waiting until a game of father-son basketball was over before I went out to my car to drive back to the neighborhood where all my friends lived. I slept through alarms without friends to wake me up. It’s been hard living fifteen minutes away from everyone, but I can’t complain — because that’s what everyone who moved fifteen hours away is doing: lamenting the fact that their Grand Rapids life is over, trying to find a way back or a way to stay with these people. We try out other cities — for years even — to return to what we love. And when we are here we talk about leaving.

Even though I had moved my bed and furniture into my apartment when my parents attended my graduation last May, I slept in the house I shared with my girlfriends right up until June 1, when we were legally obligated to abandon the premises. We spend the night of May 31, 2012 on the floor of the living room, surrounded by blank walls and empty pizza boxes. There were also an assortment of kitchen gadgets, a piece of paper with an arrow pointing toward them lay next to the assortment, where someone had written “TAKE ME!” in angry Sharpie. I had no need for 7 spatulas in my new apartment, so I took them and everything else abandoned to the salvation army, a home for the shared items we individually no longer needed.


I’m now getting ready to move to Easttown, the area of Grand Rapids populated by hipsters, dive bars, coffee shops, and basically everyone I’ve ever met who hasn’t moved out of Michigan. This isn’t even a real move, since I will only be there for two months  before departing on my “grand European adventure”, which I also like to call my “crazy hair-brained scheme that will probably sabotage everything I have going for me in my life.” (But what if it doesn’t?) I went over to see my home of two months last week. The porch is amazing, and the location is prime. The rent is $195 a month, which would make my friends in New York drop dead probably — or move here. I surprised myself when I internally reacted negatively upon hearing that I would be sharing a bedroom. Picturing it, something inside of me recoiled. I thought of my little apartment with space just for me and how I have become accustomed to watching Netflix and eating cheese in bed without fear of judgment and hitting snooze ten times in the morning before I wake up. What have I become?


Tonight, I am writing alone on the porch of this beautiful yellow home with my apartment attached. Something wonderful about Grand Rapids is that it is on the western edge of Eastern Standard Time and so it does not get fully dark here until 10:30 pm during the summer. Something not so wonderful about Grand Rapids right now is that it rained for almost the entire month of April and all the water caused some sort of mosquito baby boomer generation and they are attacking me and my Sangria. However, I refuse to sit inside because the light is perfect, and light is something I care about. There’s a certain slant, you know? All of this to say: I do love it here. I’m moving again, and like the golden hour, everything is the most beautiful right before it leaves you.