“When are the Kails coming?” is a seemingly inevitable question in my household as the summer months roll around.
My family friends from Pittsburgh, the Kails, have come to visit on Long Island, a trip dubbed “Kailchella,” for my entire childhood and to this day. Fortunately, my mom has maintained the same precious friend group since elementary school, although some members have moved away. Kim Kail is one of those friends, but her family’s summer visit to reunite the group is always sure to spark a week of nostalgia, long beach days, and wholesome excitement. Though our herd of New York friends does make the trek out to the Kails in Pennsylvania every few years, their trips to Long Island are always the most special.
Their early stints consisted of revealing local spots to the PA-natives and rehashing long-time favorites with Kim; we always toured our favorite bagel stores, delis, ice cream joints, and pizza places. Our moms still relish in boundless recap conversations and morning coffees on the sprawling Nettie’s Bakery patio, while we were sure to inhale our Pete’s egg-everything bagels or Hurricane Deli BECs on a hasty drive to catch the prime tide at Jetty 4 beach. We hoped every night would end with heaping scoops of “Black Magic Woman” ice cream– a rich, chocolatey masterpiece– from Snowflake. I lived for the excitement of sharing my home with friends as close as family. I wanted them to love my home as much as I do and, in order to feel this love, sharing our food traditions was a key component. I yearned for the Kails’ annual trip to evolve into a deposit on their own Long Island home, but, in the meantime, I was satisfied with ushering them into my life for this crucial summer week. I crammed as much as I could into one week, compensating for the rest of the year without them. Rather than glamorizing their trip into an extravagant vacation, we ensure that it is teeming with the staples and small-town community love. To share your home is an intimate act, giving clues into our reason for being and the place we hold closest. Thus, as they have been visiting for nearly two decades straight, the Kails have come to find a second home in our tiny corner of New York.
More recent trips have evolved into hitting the list of requests the Kails have for their visit: the new favorite spots they have amassed on their volition alongside the old ones that became tradition. They’ve bypassed our favorite Francesca’s pizza for their beloved Michaelangelo’s slice, but always love the famed dinner-and-sunset at John Scott’s post-beach. Watching “Kailchella” shift from a hometown tour to a week of their own favorites has been beyond heartening. By the end of their week, it seems as if the Kails are more closely identifiable with Long Island than Pittsburgh.
Through food, we can share our home with others. They glimpse into the place that has shaped us and the traditions we long for when separated from our hometowns. We can open the entrance into our menial days and share the smallest of moments with the most important people. I hope to one day experience my future homes in this way, as I have begun to with Boston through BC’s gateway. Kailchella is undoubtedly my favorite time of the year, the setting of my most formative memories, and a set of bonds I will never outgrow.