My parents moved in March. They’re in the same awesome neighborhood in Philly so my trips home haven’t lost the geography of their nostalgia. But the boxes they’re storing for me have moved, so this afternoon I found myself sitting in a warehouse styled hallway, complete with flickering lights, surrounded by boxes and artifacts of my adolescence.
I was looking for letters from my friend M. who died in December 2005. Each trip back home since then I have ventured to find more memorabilia of her and our relationship. Pictures, then clothes, and now on to letters.
In the past few days I have seen some friends that I haven’t seen in a very long time…since before I last moved, or even since before I started college. There we were, drinking good beer after good beer moving back and forth through shared memories, politics, lovers, aspirations and work. Time seemed to pass on its on accord, and I was (am) filled with nostalgia for some part of myself that perhaps is only a memory and perhaps has yet to manifest.
I have made piles of letters. Some from M. yes, and my grandparents, but others are from old friends with whom I used to write regularly. I notice phases of stationary and stickers, recognize familiar addresses and handwriting, absent minded doodles and exciting stamps from summer travels and semesters abroad. Some letters have no dates and I read them again and again searching for clues. When did this happen? Did I know then how much it might all later matter? Was I awake? Was I alive? Did I appreciate?
As I write this I am greeted with the familiar composition of my parent’s late night arguing. Earlier in the week they graced me with a soundscape of spoons hitting dessert bowls, a sacred time of ice cream and quiet conversation.
In their old house I used to have a palpable, visceral experience of memory whenever I came home after a long absence. I think it started in college but maybe it started earlier, after summers away forming friendships fueled by the intensity of late night adolescent conversation. Walking through the front door, guarded by a lace curtain, I would feel a stifling sort of remembrance of family holidays spent battling alcoholism and mental illness. A walking tour through the corners of my room, where I cultivated a talent for addictive and secretive behaviors, would lead to a sick twist of energy racing up my spine. And glancing out the window I’d be covered with nostalgia for hours spent out on the roof late at night chain smoking and talking to friends, trying to articulate my sense of self, sense of place, sense of time, sense of relationship.
There is a feeling of love in all these places.
We’re older now and nicer to our bodies. We kayak and bike, wear sunscreen and motorcycle helmets, discuss socially responsible investing and plans for our futures (we plan to have futures). The hugs are familiar in spite of the time, the goodbyes take forever, and I get home very late.
I don’t know where this narrative is going; perhaps to a place of gratitude. These relationships continue. These artifacts of paper and prose, manifestos of hope and memoirs of disappointment continue. I have so much. Thank you.