By Itxaso Garay
Forget and move on. Feeling upset about leaving only results in unwanted sorrow that cannot be fixed, and impractical distress is just exhausting. Forget and move on. Overlook the friends made, homes lived in, schools attended, and focus on the future.
This is the way is has always been for me. Letting go and forgetting about my past has saved me from having to relive painful memories of leaving behind everything and everyone that I know and love. Depressing? Only if I think about it too much. Damaging? Yes, repressing multiple distressing memories and painful emotions is probably not healthy. But re-experiencing memories of leaving my friends and home numerous times is far too gloomy, the despondent emotions become too draining, and frankly, too tedious to manage.
Visiting somewhere where I once lived is out of the question, and I never had to revisit anywhere. Until several weeks ago when my family and I flew to Rhode Island, back to the home my mother grew up in, back to the house we had lived in four years ago, back to memories I had pushed behind me.
The drive leaving the Providence airport to the small town of Wickford—so close to the ocean, low tide could be predicted by the smell and not the calendar—began the surge of memories from my previous life in Rhode Island. Barren trees crowded close to the edge of the highway, their limbs supporting mounds of snow; briars and thorns strangled the bases of the trees, seeking to climb higher. Memories of immeasurable hours spent in my old garden fighting briars, alongside my grandmother, with a set of clippers and garden gloves, back from the red maple trees and geranium bushes, flooded my mind.
Later, after walking into my old house, I was welcomed by the familiar scent of baking gingerbread, a burning fireplace, and my grandmother’s hand lotion; it was the same scent the house always had.
In the river that twisted its way through the enormous backyard, I could almost see my younger self on a summer day, wading to my knees in the cool waters trying to catch crawfish with my cousin lounging on the banks, soaking in the sun, the lines of sailboats moored in the small harbor downtown evoked memories of the rush of flying across the ocean in my twelve foot Sunfish, the sea water spraying into mist and the sun beating down on my face, leaving behind countless freckles. Hearing my cousin screech and cackle out her distinctive laughter, reminded me of the countless hours we spent together and how close we had all been.
Memories forced themselves upon me. Reconciling with the parts of my past that I had chosen to forget, upset and pained me because I would never have any of the experiences and relationships again, but it was also bittersweet. I reminisced about pleasant, happy memories; I relived them. Because I had matured, I realize I don’t need to ignore or deny what I left behind in fear of the distress it might induce; accepting what I loved from the placed I moved away from could bring me happiness.