All my life, I’ve been restless.
No, that isn’t right.
All my life, I’ve been moving.
East to West, North to South, our lives were nomadic by choice and happenstance. We went where the wind took us, and when I was young and curious, I loved this life. There were tinges of sadness, sure, each time we left friends we’d gained, but it was tempered by the rush of newness that came with relocating. Learning is addicting, and when I was young, moving was the drug that fed me.
By the time I left for college, my family had relocated 17 times. Not all were to new places, and not all were what we’d call successful. I had grown to hate it. I hated where we were and what had happened to us during the years we’d lived there. In many ways, this pain became tied to the city, and to this day—for better or worse—it colors my opinion of it.
Now I’m grown, and the wind doesn’t carry me places like it used to. I’d be lying if I said there’s not a part of me that doesn’t miss it. And the remnants of this nomadic childhood have left their marks on me. I wake some days with the wind in my veins. It follows me, whispering promises it can’t keep and I can’t explore. Adulthood has its trappings, and the nomadic spirit doesn’t care for them.
We are traveling soon, returning to a place that felt like home from our first breaths off the plane—cold and fresh, with that unmistakable scent of newness. We stood in line for the bus and felt like locals. It was a heady feeling. I’ve been to abroad and lived in many places within the U.S., so I know firsthand that not everywhere one goes elicits this feeling. Sometimes a place is fun and new and interesting to explore, but it doesn’t pull at the invisible bands of your heart. It doesn’t whisper in your ear as you wait in the chilly morning for the bus, Hello there. I’ve been waiting for you.
Cities have personalities of their own. Even more, I’d venture that their personalities are different for every person. We interact with them differently. We bring different histories and opinions, hopes and emotional (and physical) baggage. Our socioeconomic standards dictate what we can do and taste and try. The color of our skin and clothes we wear mark us as strangers or fold us into the crowds. Our opinions of cities are shaped by the experiences they bring us, good and bad, uplifting and defeating, and one person’s treasure is another’s trash. Visiting Ireland the first go-round was like opening a part of me, blowing a warm breath on it, and gently buffing it awake. Hello, soft heart. This is what you needed, isn’t it?
It’s only in adulthood that I’ve realized how complicated my opinions are for each of the cities I’ve lived in. They’re colored by memory and pain and joy and history and, for some, years of hindsight and interpretation. Each has taught me something about myself and the world, and perhaps that one reason I find that familiar restlessness piqued once again. Soft heart, aren’t you ready to learn somewhere new? Soft heart, is it time to go?
Not quiet yet, I remind myself when the itch begs to be scratched. I’ll make plans to feed it in a different way and return to a place that soothed me one year ago. I’ll see if a return means just as much as it did upon first blush.
But until then, I’ll make a batch of these Lemon-Ginger Cookies, perfectly soft and chewy (my favorite) with that pop of citrus I crave. The recipe was passed down to me but I believe it hails from the Junior League of Birmingham’s cookbook. Birmingham is a wonderful city, a complicated and diverse city, a city deserving of its own post one day soon. Until then, bake a batch and enjoy your own bite of the Magic City. Let it soothe the last dregs of winter holding strong around us and whatever itches your heart needs to scratch.
Until next time,
Makes 5 1/2 dozen. Original recipe by Junior League of Birmingham.
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 1/2 cups salted butter, softened
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided
1/2 cup molasses
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 (16-oz.) package powdered sugar
2 tsp. lemon zest
5 Tbsp. lemon juice
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Whisk together first 5 ingredients.
- Beat butter and 2 cups granulated sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add molasses and eggs, and beat 1 to 2 minutes or until smooth, scraping the bowl as needed. Gradually add flour mixture, beating until blended after each addition.
- Scoop dough using a Tablespoon-size measuring spoon, and roll between your hands into balls. Roll the balls in 1/2 cup granulated sugar, and place on baking sheets. (You may find that the cookies do better when baked on parchment paper. On my newer baking sheets, the parchment isn’t necessary. Test a batch and see how they do.) Flatten the balls slightly using the bottom of a glass.
- Bake at 375°F for 8 to 10 minutes or until edges begin to brown and centers are puffed and set. Cool on baking sheets 2 minutes. Transfer to wire racks, and cool completely.
- Whisk together powdered sugar, lemon zest, and juice until smooth. Drizzle over cookies. Let stand until set.
Store the cookies in airtight containers between sheets of wax paper. The dough can be sticky, so coat your hands lightly with cooking spray, if needed, to help when rolling the dough into balls.