Saturday, October 10, 2009

Finding My Time Machine


Doesn't the idea of a time machine entice you?

I know it sparks my interest.

Just think of it:

A machine.

That can take you back and forth.

Through time.

Articles, books, stories and dreams have all stemmed from the idea of revisiting a place now lost in our minds.

I must admit, I have dreamt about the idea, of being able to go back.

Back to places that still physically exist but have lost their familiarity, to walk some hallways that no longer belong to me, to smell things like my baby sheets, the carpet in my grandma's house, the laundry detergent that used to saturate my clothes and the air of my childhood.

I would love to go back and sit in the dark, underneath my grandma's old swamp cooler, just close my eyes and smell the cold, moist air as it rushed around me. Sometimes I wish I could climb onto the roof of the garage with my brothers, knowing full well that it wasn't allowed, and sit there, staring into the setting sun. It's been so long since I felt the stinging red on my ears and nose, while playing through dark neighborhoods on a late autumn night.

Yes, I dream of going back sometimes, going back to a place that my mind and heart calls home.

Lately, it has felt like home has disappeared, the memories of it shoved out of my head to make room for bills, insurance, shaving, cleaning up after myself even though I'm tired, and other necessary grown up things. I'd been searching, like so many before, for a time machine and I could not seem to find one.

It scares me, not being able to go back, losing something so special. I hate not being able to recall the smell my toybox or not remembering the best places to hide during hide-and-seek games with my cousins. I want to hold onto these memories because they make my past not seem so far away. They serve as a safety line that forever keeps me tethered to my childhood, and as long as it stays intact, I don't have to grow up. I try, but memories like these become trivial and expendable when stacked up against "important" memories like my bank account number or when the power bill is due.

But if I could go back, I wouldn't have to keep all those precious gems so tightly in my mind's fist, because all of those things would be real, sitting on time's bookshelf waiting for me to revisit. But I know, as so many men have discovered in the past, that such a thing just isn't possible. Not right now at least.

Because of that fact, I always dread revisiting old places from my past. I feel like it sets me up for disappointment because the memories never match the material. The trees are always taller, the houses are filled with different lives, the smells have evolved and moved onto other noses. The past in physical form vanishes while we lead our lives, slowly eaten by the present. I don't live in my hometown, I haven't for quite sometime, and honestly, I do not like to go there. It tarnishes the warm, nostalgic glow that surrounds the place in my head.

Recently, though, I could not avoid it and I had to make the journey back to the skeleton of my juvenescence.

Honestly, I was scared.

I was scared to see what has changed, scared to find different people, smells and buildings, forcing my mental map to reconfigure. I boarded the plane, suitcase in tow and lump in my stomach, and headed off to face the potential homicide of my nostalgia.

I am writing right now, however, to tell you that this was not the case. Not everything was the same, the trees were bushier, random banks and stores had grown in old fields, little people had turned into big people, but it was the same. I was shocked to discover how little affect the physical appearance of "home" had on my emotions.

I spent time with the people from my past, some of which had grown a couple inches, inside and out, but I slid nicely back into the mold of our relationships. The rhythm was still there, steadily offering a familiar underscore to all of our time spent together. Never did I feel the cold grip of change on my insides. The more familiar laughs and well acquainted smiles I experienced, the more I came to realize that it had happened, I was in my past.

I had somehow found my time machine, and I was sitting there, inside an old musty car, driving through the winding canyons of my upbringing, smelling autumn on my clothing and looking into the same smiling, mischievous eyes that I, years ago, so frequently peered into. I was holding the same soft hands, hugging the same small and excited frames, laughing about the same stories. They laughed the same, the sway of their walk as the strode to the front door was so deliciously commonplace for me. It was the most bizarre experience, it was not as if I was revisiting this place, I was there, as if I had never left. I felt the familiar love, excitement and happiness that I thought had been bundled up and tossed out of my mind and into the roaring wind.

It was right there at the tips of my thirsty senses, real and thriving. I was feeling it, taking it all in and processing it. So many things had physically changed since my childhood walks through the streets of my hometown, but none of that mattered because the feelings I had for these people were still alive and right in front of me.

But then I began to panic,

"How could I make this stick? How can I resume my present life I had worked for but still keep this amazing bundle of my past safely in my pocket?"

I couldn't find a solution. I sat and pondered this for a long time in the nights that I spent there, searching the folds of my brain for some sort of an answer to this conundrum. It wasn't until my last night there that I sat in bed and thought,

"I don't have to do anything, because my past is not part of the physical realm, but still living inside me."

It struck me, this realization, and all at once, for the first time I felt complete harmony between my past and my present, leading me into my future. I love where my life is right now and now I see that I don't have to chose between my "old life" and my current one. I have both with me, wherever I journey in this life.

I don't need a time machine to go to my past because my past is not a place in which I need to travel. It's not an old house, or a familiar smell. It may sound trite, but my past is the the love I feel for the people in my life. I now see that love is the strongest tether between my past and present. I have grown up and moved on, but I will always love those people, and that is something that the push and pull of the passing time can never steal.

*Now you tell me:

Have you had any experiences like this? What's it like when you go home? I wanna know! Post your response as a comment!

4 comments:

Gavin said...

This was really good. Great writing.

Brycrasch said...

Thanks gav :)

Julie said...

Mmmmm I lurve you!

Marcindra LaPriel said...

I love this entry heaps and heaps.

For me, going home isn't so far away. Twelve miles hardly constitutes a journey. But it does feel weird if I ever stay at my parents home for more than six hours at a time. It's weird because I've gone off to New Zealand and came back, and gone to camp and came back, and have gone to school and...am still there. And all the while I feel like the family has stayed there.

It's kind of like when a friend leaves for his or her mission. You know your friend is out there experiencing something new but you're still in the same place doing the same things just with that person missing from your life.