I started feeling nostalgic for the old places that held significance throughout my childhood on a drive back to the Twin Cities last week. They beckoned me, which was strange, because ever since my mom passed away I’ve avoided them like the plague.
Days before, I had attended a work training in which the facilitator read Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree out loud. I remember hearing this story many times before, but I don’t remember it making me feel so sad.
The story was fresh on my mind and so I visited the tree just beyond the fence at Diamond Path Elementary School before heading back to Iowa. I felt so much joy upon our reunion.
We used to sneak back to this tree during recess. My friends and I would lean against its trunk and dream about what we wanted to become when we grew up.
I made one last detour so I could drive past my old house and follow our most traveled walking path. We had built our house before the path existed, back when this pond was dead and murky and the trees were young. Over nearly two decades, my family walked this path a thousand times. We followed it to school and around the parks, and we rollerbladed its hills forwards and backwards.
My mother loved to walk and so we followed the path together, usually with our beloved family dogs.
Losing loved ones is strange.
I paused here, half expecting them to march around the corner at any moment.
People my age are so obsessed with the 90’s because, for the first time, we feel our childhoods slipping away. The toys that we liked, the clothes that we wore, the foods that we ate are all becoming relics and the mere sight of them makes us wax poetically like they were the greatest things ever.
We feel unsettled when we see Friends and Full House have replaced Mork & Mindy and I Dream of Jeannie on Nick at Night. And how could we have known that we’d speak of Shark Bites with so much enthusiasm or that an empty bottle of OK Soda might sell for $75 on eBay?
Many of us are starting our own families and feeling anxious as we notice our parents aging. Some of them are downsizing and selling our childhood homes now that we’ve moved out. When we drive by our old homes for nostalgia’s sake, we find ourselves holding our breath in anticipation to see if the new owners have sustained our giving trees.
Some of us have lost loved ones and we no longer believe we’re invincible. We can see that there’s an end in sight and that it’s inevitable and totally real. We’ve moved past our quarter life crises and are on to the next.
It’s not that we’re the first generation to feel these things; it’s just we’re starting to feel these things for the first time. Or at least, I am.
I never did see my mom and two dogs turn that corner and the denim jacket waiting in the back of my closet still hasn’t cycled back into style, but the magnolia tree beneath my old bedroom window still grows, and so, for now, everything still feels all right.