I am writing this from the airport in a city where I used to live. It’s been decades since this town was considered “home” for me, and I have been back a few times since then. My first time returning here it was shocking to see how much it had grown and how the skyline looked different because of new buildings.
There were some places I returned to where my friends and I used to hang out. These places were quiet and empty. In my mind, they were loud, busy, and vibrant. It made me nostalgic for that time and those friends. On recent trips I had thought it best not to return to those spots. I didn’t want those new memories to be more vivid for me than my old, cherished ones and I didn’t want the new ones to hold equal standing in my mind when I thought of those places. I prefer to remember the fun, unscheduled, spontaneous days we spent exploring.
I am sitting here in the airport with a sense of melancholy about that memory of home. Adele’s “When We Were Young” playing in the background isn’t helping.
My dad was alive then and he and I spent a lot of time together doing different things. He was a stay-at-home dad, and while we lived here he gave me my first flying lesson. He would grill out frequently, then make his homemade French fries and chocolate milkshakes. So much of my memories of here involves him and I’ve missed my dad a lot these past few days.
I can’t return to those places in the way that I want-with the same people and situations there. But, I can return to this city and appreciate it for what it is now. It is home to good friends of mine so I have those reunions to look forward to. I don’t need to hit all of the usual tourist spots or try to cram the experiences a city offers into one visit, so I can enjoy more focused time in a location.
I’ve grown up hearing the phrase “you can never go home again” and I think there is a lot of truth to that statement. I can’t turn back time, bring my dad back, and relive those memories. But I can see this city with different eyes and appreciate it for what it is now.