August 21, 2009
I’ve always wondered why whoever it was that coined the phrase "you can’t go home again" didn’t just buy a GPS device. Sure, there have been a few that have directed people to drive into lakes, but maybe it was a lake near their home. And thanks to a massive government project my father’s childhood home is currently about thirty feet underwater, so he could go home again–with some scuba gear. But that’s another story. I thought about that phrase recently when I tried to repeat something I used to do a lot as a kid: drink honeysuckle nectar. If you’ve never done this, it’s very simple. You take a honeysuckle blossom and carefully pull the green part at the base away, drawing out the stamens. As they emerge there’ll be a gleaming drop of liquid suspended on them. Touch this to your tongue and the sweetness is like nothing you’ve ever tasted. Well, it’s probably like really strong sugar water, but in my memory it was the most incredible flavor. My best friend, who taught me to do this, and I would go through a hundred honeysuckle blossoms in a day. I imagined trying to collect enough honeysuckle nectar to fill a glass so that I could actually drink it. I didn’t realize that it was the sublimity of the moment, the fact that the sweetness was in such a small quantity, that made it so potent. Hey, I was seven years old and didn’t know sublimity from shineola. Besides, my mother was always saying honeysuckle nectar would make me sick. I don’t remember getting sick from it, but then parents are always telling kids stuff like that. Don’t eat that, it’ll make you sick. Don’t play with those matches, you’ll burn down the neighborhood. Go to bed or your house will end up thirty feet under water. Even if honeysuckle nectar did make me sick it never came close to making me as sick as school lunches did. And eating honeysuckle nectar required some thought and skill, unlike school lunches where everything was dished up for us and placed in its own little section of a plastic tray. The square of compressed gravy-covered beef substitute was in one section, the separated book paste whipped up to look like mashed potatoes was in another, the stewed prunes were up in the corner next to the slot that held the knife and fork. And there was always one kid at every table who had to take everything and put it all in the same section, mash it together, and then pour chocolate milk over it. It’s no wonder someone threw up every single day that I was in second grade, although it was never the kid who made the mash. So anyway, as I was saying, I never got sick the whole time I was in second grade. Was it a result of eating honeysuckle nectar? The world may never know. The other day when I tried to recreate the experience I couldn’t get a single drop of nectar to appear no matter how carefully I pulled apart each honeysuckle blossom. All I ended up with was a bunch of torn-apart flowers. So even though I can go home again, and do pretty much every night when I leave work, I haven’t been able to recapture a magical moment from my childhood. Maybe I need to get some scuba gear.