One of the bad things (among many) about visiting my hometown after having moved away three years ago is the enormous rush of nostalgia that hits me like a tsunami every time I leave the house.
Around every corner, there is an element of my past lurking, waiting to jump out in front of me like one of those terrible jack-in-the-box toys that leave my nerves totally fried from the stress and anxiety of wondering when that dadgum jack will pop out at me.
Curse you, jack.
And curse you, nostalgia, because you are a petty friend to keep. On the one hand, you fill my little soul with light-hearted memories of the past; but on the other hand, you crush that same soul with the knowledge that 1) the past can never come back, and 2) I’m pathetic for even wanting it to.
Take the Mesa Public Library, for example. I could never begin to tally the number of hours I spent at the Mesa Public Library during the first 21 years of my life.
As a kid, my sister and I would go there with our mom and we’d each get to pick out a certain number of books for the week. I remember the thrill I would get when it was time to return the books—how exciting to drive up to that drop box, open the door, and throw away the books like they were garbage. Not that I didn’t like to take care of books, but it was always so exciting to feel like I was breaking the rules. Kind of like running at the pool right under the lifeguard’s tower. What fun.
Later, when I was in elementary school, my mom would drop me off there with my friend Jamie and we would work on our school projects together for ten minutes or so before we’d get distracted by the library’s CD collection. It was in the Mesa Public Library that I first heard Brooks and Dunn’s song, “Boot Scoot and Boogie.” (I have since tried to erase that particular part of my memory, but to no avail.) In fact, it may have been in the Mesa Public Library that I saw my first CD at all.
Then, in junior high, I remember another visit with a different friend when I had set out to discover what I wanted to be when I grew up. We found some career books on the shelves, commandeered a table, and giggled for hours over thoughts of ourselves growing up to have crazy jobs like didgeridoo player or theme park ride operator.
I thought it would be cool to be a chimney sweep. They still have those, you know. Chim chim chiroo.
And then there were the countless hours I spent there alone, wandering through the aisles of books, discovering new favourite authors and remembering old ones.
Anyone who grew up in Mesa like I did will recognise this atrocious mural instantly.
It always frightened me. I mean, can you blame me? Just look at it. It still scares me a little bit even today.
Now that I’m back in town for a while, I find myself assaulted by these memories—and many more—on a daily basis. And even though I’m happy to remember my idyllic childhood and my good times with friends, I can’t deny that it’s a little sad thinking about how much has changed since then. I’ve grown up, my sister is a mother herself, I have not kept in touch with friends like I should’ve, I never became a chimney sweep or a lawyer (my two top picks during sophomore year), et cetera, et cetera, et cetera,
Even though coming back to Mesa is undeniably good for my soul, my visits are always accompanied by a little sting.
And I will not lie: it hurts.