My Life In Picnics

It starts with a blanket, the smell of summer grass, the boys shouting down from the trees, a best friend. She loves bologna and cheese and brings an extra pickle for you. You trade cookies and swap smiles, plot games to play in drying sheets. You have a sandwich that was made by the same hands that smooth hair and soothe cuts—triangles, halves, and perfect squares, without the crust. There is a neverending delight in peanut butter and jam, in giggled secrets and bare feet, the whispered breeze in the beat of summer sun. You picnic every day, and it lingers.

2-beachThere is another kind of picnic, too, defined by dripping sodas, sandy fingers, and warm toes, when you crouch on soggy towels, exhausted and high, caught beneath the crash of the sea. In coolers loose with ice, the best intentions go awry, and melting missiles to fling at the boys cannot outweigh the disappointment of a dampened sandwich. Drenched in brine, you dine on slightly sodden potato chips and crumbling cookies laced with salt, feeling every grain of sand beneath your teeth. There is perfection in the flaws. With bodies heavy and bags light, you beg to do it all again. You eat ice cream in the car and fall asleep.

3-grillAnother summer, later on, you watch a curl of smoke break swift on dappled leaves and wait impatiently for lunch. The breath of charcoal is heady, the conversation dry, and your feet bounce beneath the seat as you throw faces across the table. There’s a muffled shouting from the park, the crush of woodchips underneath, a rough-hewn splinter digging into your bare thigh. You eat hotdogs thick with mustard, drink lemonade from paper cups. When the dusk falls, there will likely be s’mores. But, til then, you run back screaming; the boys fall rabid and give chase. Reaching the swings, you pump your legs and fly.

4-movieA different year, a different city, and the sun beats both down and up, reflected and absorbed through the concrete. Your body’s sticky in the fug, but the park beside the water boasts a breeze. You share a picnic among friends: a paper cone of strawberries, a wedge of cheese studded with herbs—you spread it on a warm crusty baguette. The movie’s starting shortly, a gentle hush sweeping the crowd, and you watch small boats disappear behind the screen. The music swells, you pour white wine, and, with the heat, you rise.

4-concertYears later, it’s an evening sharp and crisp, but the blanket is the same, and, far from home, you eat beneath the stars. Chicken salad, wild rice, the burst of grapes against your tongue, and you, you’re holding out for the dessert. Too dark, a heavy sigh, you burrow deep inside yourself and simply listen to the pull of strings and bow. Humming up from down the hill, a cicada chorus joins the ranks, their notes inopportunely chiming in. The sweetness stuffed in an éclair, the nocturnal rhythm beating out, and you are happy in how you’ve found yourself at home.

Liz Krisher lives in New York, where she is a fervent proponent of breakfast. A reformed picky eater, she has an adventurous but discerning palate and a passion for unpasteurized cheese. Her motto, passed down to her by her mother, is that ice cream fixes everything.

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