By Juhi Buch
The bitter wind howls around us, chilling our bones as we make our way up the steep concrete
driveway. Barren trees and snow covered bushes that resemble life-sized cupcakes topped with
sweet frosting line the porch just like I remember. Those days of sledding down the very same
driveway, sailing down the slope on tiny tricycles come rushing back in nostalgic waves. Joyful
memories of the past life that once existed here bring both delight and pain, and tears well up in
my eyes. I make sure to hold back those drops of longing, at least for now.
The four of us: my mom, dad, younger brother (who was too young to have as strong of a
connection to this home as I do), and myself, were paying a visit to the town we called home for
thirteen years. I knew I would reduce to a blubbering emotional wreck, but I didn’t care. I wanted
to go back. I wanted to rekindle my childhood self, and imagine the potential course of my life
had I not moved to sunny SoCal two years before. Don’t get me wrong, California changed me,
for the better I’d like to think, and in ways that living in rural Indiana would never have.
But you can’t blame me for missing the place. The corn fields, the cattle on the side of country
roads, the snowy winters and beautiful autumns, I loved every part of it. And now that I was
staring it in the face again, I couldn’t help but feel an aching desire to reverse everything.
We walk around the yard, seeing remains of what was many years ago my swing set, and
rudimentary badminton net where my mom and I used to pretend I was a champion. I see the
tornado ditch my brother pushed me into every chance he got, and the endless summers of
gathering with the neighboring kids and their dogs with no plan in mind but all the time in the
I turn and peer through the row of large brick houses and gaze down the lane at my former
school bus stop. The old lady who drove the bus, Ms. Elaine was her name, appears in my head.
For her any occasion was celebrated with copious amounts of candy that she supplied to the
young riders. I will never forget the first time I listened to Radio Disney on that same bus,
singing along with the friends who have probably forgotten my existence by now.
We circumnavigate the house and return to the driveway, and then it happens. Tears spill out of
my eyes in thick streams, my parents behold the sight with concerned eyes. They struggle to find
words of comfort and reassurance, but it’s all a heap of forced sympathy. When we had moved to
the Golden State, to them it was paradise in every way. There was no looking back. They only
felt ecstatic relief of being rid of the bleak, forsaken place that had been their home as much as
I don’t want to leave you with the impression that I regret the move to California, because that
would be utterly impossible. It allowed me to at least make a crack in my shell, if not completely
break out of it. I became friends with people who showed me the importance of living life to the
fullest, and loving the person I am. After saying goodbye to my childhood home that day, I had a
realization. What made me sorrowful was not moving away, nor was it that I deeply desired to
live in the rural Midwest (even though I do actually wish that). It was want of returning to the
good ole’ days. I wanted to be a child again, have no cares or worries to burden me, and be
blissfully ignorant to the distasteful realities of life that creep up in your teenage years.
Once I wrestled with that notion for a while, I reconciled myself to it, and decided it’s not worth
living in the past. It is not worth wishing it back, because time machines do not exist (yet). The
past, if it was pleasant, should bring joy and contentment when remembered. I will think about
those days not with heartache, but with nostalgic happiness. And, because thinking about the
future is scary for a college student, I’m going to live in the present. The past will always be
there for me as an example of how I should enjoy each day like I did back then. Now I can look
back with gladness at what once was, and accept what will never again be.