I was listening to “Skin and Bone” by Heartless Bastards as the bus I was on rolled into my hometown, which has to be as on-the-nose as a homecoming can get. Every time I visit my parents back home now, I get super nostalgic about this place that I spent years wanting to move away from.
It’s been a while since I’ve been in my hometown on the 4th of July. We used to go downtown to watch the fireworks. It was always too crowded to go right to where the show was, so we’d be a few blocks away, on some side street in a random neighborhood watching the show from my dad’s truck bed. You have to go downtown to see the good ones because that’s where the legal ones are, and as one man reminded us as he handed us 10% off of Chinese food: “Come to the free show–your tax dollars paid for that.” But now we just sit in the backyard and see what we catch, which ends up being a more spread out smattering of fireworks and a million more stars than LA skies ever reveal.
My mom constantly quotes the scene from “Pretty Woman” where the newly made-over Julia Roberts walks into the store on Rodeo Drive and tells the snobby saleslady who wouldn’t wait on her before: “Big mistake. Big. Huge.” Except my mom doesn’t wait until anyone’s made any drastic mistakes, she just uses it in every situation remotely related, i.e. if we’re driving somewhere and someone makes a wrong turn. I think the only time she didn’t say it the entire weekend was when we went to lunch and the waiter literally made a huge mistake and got everybody’s orders completely wrong.
My parents have remodeled almost every room since I moved out so the house I grew up in sort of exists only in memory. But the place is nice as hell now and I feel like I’m in a very suburban resort whenever I visit. There’s a little corner in the backyard with these grapevines next to an old bench, and my mom always tells me I could move home and write a novel on that bench (“like Steinbeck!” she says). It’s damn hard to resist when my mother is so nice and encouraging about me writing. Plus, a Nothing Bundt Cakes has opened up less than a mile from their house. I don’t know how to break it to her that I’m not even writing a novel.
I’m back in LA now, and when I went through security, I heard a TSA employee tell another to “pat down her hair,” and so the guy just reached out and pet my hair for a bit. I don’t know what about my hair looked suspicious, but I secretly enjoyed it. It was like they were saying “Good job. The way you put those shoes in that tub–you did good, Nhi Hong.”