I was first overcome by nostalgia when I was 8 years old, oddly. It was a deep nostalgia, the nostalgia of a much older person. Not the kind that idealizes the past, but one that still mourns its loss.
We were moving, from the house we’d lived in my whole (8 years of ) life to the one I’m writing from now while visiting home. The image that sticks in my head is walking down the hallway of the empty house the night we finally left. It’s probably a trick of memory and time but I feel I’ve always been able to inhabit myself exactly as I was at that moment, seeing things from the same height, in the same body, with the same emotions.
I see the thin hall, just wider than my arms could reach, under a light made harsh by white painted walls, reflecting dully off dark wood floor. My bedroom door just ahead to the left. A darkened den behind, a darkened left turn in the hallway ahead, leading to other darkened rooms. We were all doing some sort of last walk through and I was alone briefly. It was weird to wear shoes in the house, we never did normally.
Heaviness filled me up. These walls and rooms that seemed to be just walls and rooms now, stripped bare, contained pieces of me, of all of us, of whatever I had done in them, that I wouldn’t get back. The house would keep part of them forever, but never show any trace.
From what I can gather, I have abnormally good recall for certain things. I haven’t really figured out the pattern of why certain things stick, why I can remember what side of the page I read some fact on, when my memory for far more useful things is probably average. This is not a complaint. Weirdly specific recall has served me quite well, except for maybe the times it seems creepy when I might remember some offhand detail about someone I met in passing.
But it also means I’ve spent a lot of time thrown unexpectedly into myself as I was once, prompted by places, by music, by any number of sensory combinations that might tether me to another time. Coming home naturally compounds that sense. Having lived other lives away from here since I moved away after high school, it feels impossible that the same walls and floors can contain my parents and me as we are now. I have this feeling that the amount of experience the walls have seen us through should have altered their fundamental composition, so that we can say, these are the walls of 2014, for the people we are in 2014.
The reality, that these are the same walls we moved into in 1988, as the people we were in 1988, somehow feels far stranger than my ridiculous disbelief.