1. Jigsaw puzzles
    In our den was a yellowed laminate card table dedicated exclusively to the act of constant puzzling. My areas of expertise included the seemingly mammoth voids: the sky, the ocean, the grass.
  2. Open windows and cross breezes
    Every Sunday morning, without fail, my dad would open all the windows in our home and play smooth jazz on the radio in our kitchen. I could always count on being woken up by the sounds of Sade and the chilly breeze of crisp morning air.
  3. Pancakes with cinnamon in the batter
    A Sunday morning staple, along with the smooth jazz and open windows. Every pancake tasted like Christmas and Thanksgiving and sunshine and love.
  4. Industrial-sized dumpsters
    My family has gutted and remodeled all six homes that we've lived in. Because we did all of the work ourselves, we'd keep a massive dumpster in the driveway for however long it took to demolish the home's bones.
  5. Green shag carpet
    For seven months, my brother, mom, dad, and I lived together in one small 10x20 room. We slept on air mattresses atop a sea of green shag carpet, and we would lay awake at night telling ghost stories and re-writing the endings of books we liked and movies we'd seen.
  6. Empty garages
    Every Saturday afternoon, my parents would back their cars out of the garage, open the garage doors, and put an unmarked disc in the CD player. A dance lesson would ensue, in which my brother and I were taught how to two-step, swing dance, foxtrot, samba, etc. I still haven't found a man who dances as well as my dad.
  7. Hay bales
    Whenever my brother and I would accompany my parents to visit our family farm, he and I would play hide-and-seek in the pastures where the cattle grazed. Acres of Texas hill country were peppered with hay bales, and every game of hide-and-seek involved hiding behind one of the bales.
  8. Whistling
    Whenever dad came home from work, he'd walk in whistling. My mom whistled while she got dressed in the mornings; my brother whistled while he showered. I now catch myself whistling whenever I'm feeling particularly grateful or happy to simply be.
  9. Humidity
    Most people hate it; I think it's amazing. I feel comforted by the thick, warm air that carries with it so many of my childhood memories.