I was a kid once, kind of. I never watched Disney movies (I opted instead for borderline terrifying low budget kids’ shows very few people remember)(and David the Gnome), so I’m not totally sure I’m allowed to give myself that title.
I’m a super nostalgic person – one of those people so tightly tethered to what they remember of their past that their present suffers for it. I’ve gotten better at telling myself to let go (note here that I didn’t say I’ve gotten better at actually letting go), but moving back home triggered what was at one point a passive shift back to grounding myself in my own distant history but is now a bad case of active remembering.
“Home” is a difficult concept. For reasons I know and for reasons I hope I never fully understand, I never felt particularly rooted to any one place. I lived for most of my childhood in the shade of a coal-fired plant’s cooling towers, just a short walk down the railroad tracks from my grandparents’ house. Just across the bridge was my mom’s enormous family, and their enormous spooky houses, and I spent more time there than I did anywhere else until a tiny family argument turned into a major schism and I was confined to the West Virginia side of the river.
I’m here now, in the town where I finished my undergrad, a few blocks from the hospital where I was born and a 20 minute drive from my parents’ house in the middle of the woods.
I get in the car sometimes, and sometimes I pass the vacant lot that used to be the high school I would have graduated from if I’d stayed in school – the school with the abandoned tennis courts where I smoked weed for the first time, in the fog before homeroom, with my best friend and the boy I’d had a crush on since middle school –
the school I left and returned to, different, a person with friends whose ideas about kindness caused damage that would stick with me for years – long enough that I’m still processing it at nearly-30, long past the point it should’ve stopped being important.
It turns out there’s not any kind of statute of limitations when it comes to childhood trauma. It returns and returns and returns, sometimes vividly, but sometimes as a dull ache settling in the pit of your stomach when your car rounds a bend in the road.
That’s when it’s okay. Almost.