As I type this I listen to my Spotify playlist of songs from childhood movies, specifically a song from Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (which I have been dying to rewatch, along with Lilo & Stitch, and Atlantis: The Lost Empire).
I am a sucker for the joys of my youth. I obsessively memorize movie dialogue. I would happily reread the ancient books of questionable quality that I dug out of basement boxes as an eight-year-old. I’m filled with joy every time I rediscover a childhood location that I remember too vaguely to even ask my parents about (ex. that one specific playground with that one specific thing that made it the best playground).
Going to college in a town where I lived for two years when I was younger means that friends have let me show them my old house and reminisce about things with escalating excitement (and confusion as I realize that the house aaaall the way down the street was actually right next door). Friends have taken to me to a neighborhood park and listened to me gush about it as couples smooched nearby (going after ten at night was not a good idea in retrospect, but it was my first week at college).
I love revisiting childhood memories, and the physical places where they occurred. I love figuring out what’s changed, what’s the same, what I remembered completely wrong in the first place.
But I’m about to experience kind of the opposite of that.
Tomorrow, we sally forth to perhaps my favorite childhood place of the five places I lived growing up. Michigan. A land I associate with shade and sand and warm, free summer evenings.
This is not our first time back, since Mom’s parents live in Michigan, but my reasons for this trip are twofold:
1. I get to see my fabulous Critique Partner, KT Simpson, in real life for the second time ever. We shall meet in the town of my youth, Holland, and she is going to let me run all over the place looking at THINGS that I LOVE.
Including, but not limited to:
- The freaking fantastic library
- the beach
- a notable nautical-themed ice cream place
- the former location of my house
- the location that they moved my physical house to after we left
- the downtown streets where we used to window shop
- the park that we’d go for evening walks in.
It is going to be quite an event.
2. My grandparents are moving to Tennessee. Which means I probably won’t have an excuse to return to Michigan for quite some time.
They’ve relocated within the state before, they’ve wintered in Florida, but they’ve lived in their current house for a good chunk of my childhood. And it feels like not that long ago that we heard about their decision to move.
They’ve already started packing. Which means their house is already in the process of turning into something other than what I remember.
Meanwhile, my Dad’s mom may also have a move imminent, as some recent health issues have led to her recovering in a nursing home…and potentially staying there. Things have leaned that way for some time, but now it’s like everything lurched toward the ground. Expected changes came suddenly.
Her house has been around for my entire lifespan. And due to some recent basement flooding, this childhood staple has also begun its transformation into something different and irretrievable, before I ever expected it to.
Obviously, my melancholy nostalgia is nothing compared to what Grandma must be feeling, but it’s still strange. And it just gets stranger and stranger, how fast things can shift.
There’s no significant, drawn-out goodbye (or if there is, it won’t happen until the houses are empty). These places don’t linger. Very soon now, we can’t go back.
No more walking around my grandparents’ yard in Michigan, remembering when it was all sand instead of grass, and when we built cities and called them Oz.
No more flopping onto the decorative boulder in Grandma’s front yard and lamenting when it was our grand and majestic Pride Rock.
The rooms we spent so much time in are going to belong to somebody else. They’ll be used for other things. These pieces of my childhood are going to be chipped away, emptied out, turned into something other than what they were.
From now on, there won’t be a baseline to compare my memories to. Those markers—a larger equivalent of marking your height on a doorframe—aren’t going to exist anywhere but in my head.
I hope that doesn’t sound resentful, because I’m not.
This feeling has increasingly been on my mind in the last few years, and I’m trying to pin it down. Put it into the right words. I want to capture it. Because along with it is the feeling that I’ll eventually run out of these childhood places.
I’ll find new ones, but they’ll have a different magic to them
The places I grew up, the things I grew up with…
In some ways, they’ll always be irreplaceable.