Contemplating the nostalgia of growing up

Bittersweet memories stay with us as a reminder of change


Adam Coil

The sun sets over the hill near Adam’s grandfather’s house.

Adam Coil, Life Editor

It’s a weird feeling being home and realizing that your ‘home’ is now better described as mom and dad’s house. It’s weird being able to finally smell the house that you grew up in — like when you go over to your friend’s house which has its unique house smell. It’s weird growing up, and it’s especially weird to possess an inexorable awareness of its happening.

Going back to Marietta, OH in the fall for break was the first time in my life that I returned home after being away for a time period longer than a week or so. I remember being struck by everything that I saw — the red-brick buildings that populate the small, historic downtown, the Ohio River merging into the Muskingum and the scenic backroads that connect everyone.

It felt like something between a mild daydream and an intense flashback. The colors of the town I had left behind had changed. The bright sun that had made everything vibrant and colorful in the summer had gone away, and the world looked gray and cold, but somehow resilient and hopeful. 

Going home, I was able to see how much I had changed in a few short months. Yet I also found myself identifying with this small town that I had grown up resenting and realizing how much of me would be linked to it forever.

Over Winter Break, I found out that my grandparents’ house — which is on the hill right next to my parents’ — had finally been sold. The place that I had gone to every Christmas day since I could remember, the place that I sprinted to when I got my college admission results back and the place that had been a source of stability and comfort over the years was now, essentially, no more. It really did feel as if a part of my childhood had been locked away, like a portion of a museum had been sectioned off to collect dust all alone. 

And so, in the middle of the night before I returned to Winston Salem, I, for whatever reason, took one last stroll up to that house on the hill. I was all alone, except for a family of deer that watched me from a distance. The highway down below was still the same, and there were plenty of cars to watch and speculate on where they might be going or what they might be doing. The lamp post still gave off the same amber hue and the Lion’s Den billboard in the background was still sparkling as always. All that had really changed was the fact that no one was there with me now and the house that I was sitting by was empty. 

I think that’s a lot of what growing up is — being surrounded by a world that is familiar to you but simultaneously stripped of its most important parts so that all you can do is feel the weight of what you miss.

So I was sitting there, feeling a bit frustrated with myself for being so nostalgic. I was frustrated with myself for missing the soft grass of the soccer pitch I played on and the basketball game student sections that I played in front of. When I was in high school, all I wanted to do was graduate and get to college. I am also aware of the fact that a few years down the road, I would look back on my years at Wake Forest with the same nostalgia and wish I had appreciated it more as well. Sometimes hindsight is just prettier because we get to see things how we want to, without reality and all of the ugly stuff getting in the way.

I suppose I don’t know if we are to live every day entirely in the moment or if we are supposed to be meticulously checking the clock to make sure that not a single second slips away. But I do get the sense that there are little pockets of beauty and awe hidden in life, and it’s much more rewarding to catch and hold onto them before they slip away into memory.