At the end of last month, I went back to where I grew up for a little less than 24 hours. It was a trip filled with nostalgia, but also with lots of closure. On the drive down, I slowly began to recognize the landmarks I'd used when I was a little kid. There is a hill that stands right before the ocean, and when I was little and we'd be driving home from a vacation, I used the hill to know we were almost home. It was dark as we drove past, but I could still make out the outline of the hill and when I squinted I could see the ocean.
I woke up the next morning and went to the beach with my mom and grandmother. I hadn't been on this particular beach since June of 2014, but for some reason it still felt completely familiar. There are few times when I can say I felt completely at peace, but while walking I couldn't help but feel an overwhelming sense of calm.
Since my mom had to work, we went back and my grandmother and I went to get bagels for the three of us at the place my mom and I used to go all the time. The last time I'd eaten a bagel from that place was as we drove away in 2014 to our new house. I must say, the wait was worth it as they tasted exactly the same three years later. While my mom worked, my grandmother and I decided to drive into San Luis Obispo to go to the Barnes and Noble we used to go to all the time. But first, we made a small stop in my old neighborhood. We parked, and then I was able to walk past my old house. It's a different color now, and the yard doesn't look the same. We walked around the neighborhood, and as we went by my old favorite houses a quote from chapter one of A Separate Peace came to mind: "... It seemed to me standing there to resemble the giants of my childhood, whom you encounter years later and find that they are not merely smaller in relation to your growth, but that they are absolutely smaller, shrunken by age."
Going to the Barnes and Noble was really fun because it was like returning to where I found my love of books. While there I (of course) got a couple new things of poetry and Letters to a Young Poet, which I read last month. We then drove by the other beach I went to for most school vespers, which made me remember an old sweatshirt I lost there in third grade that is unfortunately lost forever. When we left, my grandmother and I drove past the health club where I had swim lessons/practice for five years. This was actually really cool, because I think about those days all the time and driving past the place was almost helpful in a way.
After we left, I had the strange idea of driving past my old school. This was by far the strangest part of going back. I went to that school for nine years, and so much of my life was spent in those hallways, classrooms, and with those teachers and students. All we did was drive by (I didn't have any need to walk around), but I still got to look in a little bit. I had just read through some of my journals from eighth grade, and seeing a glimpse of the places where the things I'd written about had happened was very strange.
They say you can't go home again, and they're right. Even so, for a few hours I was able to feel fourteen again. Last week while at my grandparents house, my family was talking about what ages we'd be fine repeating and which we never would. I said I would never want to repeat ages 11-14, and that's still true. Those five years were the hardest for so many reasons, but even so it was almost cathartic to return ever so slightly. You can't go home again, but you can return to the places, memories, and feelings. I had to say goodbye again, but this time with a new perspective. By going back I was able to notice how much I've grown in the last three years. I learned so much in the twelve years I lived there, but, if it's possible, I think I've learned even more in the few years I've been away. I'm thankful for the years I had there, but going back was able to give me a little bit of closure so I can look forward to the future.