I live by the beach, on the little peninsula of eastern Massachusetts known as Cape Cod. I have mixed feelings about living here; it’s expensive, summers are hectic and infested with tourists, winters are slow and dull. I’m not a huge fan of the beach, either, but the other night I was driving home from work, windows down since it’s finally warm enough for that, and I smelled the salt water marsh. It brought back a flood of memories and an overwhelming feeling of nostalgia.
I’ve been dreaming about moving off cape for years now; it’s not exactly plausible, but it’s a dream of mine. But when I smelled the salt water, a part of me hesitated. I vividly remembered sitting on a towel on the crowded beach as a child. I remembered playing in the hot sand, picking up handfuls of it and letting it soothingly, slowly trickle off my hands and back onto the beach. I remembered the smell of the ocean, the salty air, taking that first step on the beach in my flip flops. The sand tough to walk on, so I quickly slip my shoes off and feel the hot sand on my bare feet, my brother and I running to an open spot, perfect for us to put our blankets down on.
I reminisced on the hot beating summer sun, soothed only by the winds that come and go. Laying out in the sun until we were sweating, bored, and needed to cool down in the ocean. Taking that first dip in the water, finally cool. Crouching down in the knee-deep water so as to submerge ourselves in the water as soon as possible, holding our heads just above the water as we crawl deeper into the ocean. Finally, we can stand comfortably in shoulder-deep water, laughing and splashing each other.
We’d plug our noses and dip our heads under the water for as long as we can, holding a contest for who can stay under longer. My brother shows me how he can do a flip under the water, and I show him I can do a handstand. Our mom tells us to be careful. We laugh and play for a while, until our hands get wrinkly and our stomachs are rumbling for lunch.
Lost in daydreams of my childhood, I came back to real life and realized I had already driven all the way home. I shook my head at the fact that one smell can bring back memories I haven’t thought about in years. Sure, I still want to move off cape, and I think more seriously about it every day, but I’d be lying if I said I won’t miss it. I’ve lived here my whole life, my entire childhood was spent on the beach, baseball fields, the bike path, and my own backyard. When I leave, I’ll be leaving all these memories. Though I don’t have set in stone plans to move any time soon, I’ve been extra nostalgic lately as I drive down the streets I know by heart, worrying someday I might forget them.
Someday, I’ll be coming back to visit my parents, after living somewhere else for years, and I might need directions to go to the grocery store that I currently go to on a weekly basis. I might not remember the name of the street the baseball fields I used to spend summers at. I might be reminiscing with a friend on our childhoods and I won’t be able to remember the name of that park we had so many picnics at, the one that was a dog park for a week a few years ago. We brought our dog Lily there and she made so many friends that week. What if I forget that even happened?
I get that it’s a part of moving on, growing up, I know I’ll make more memories wherever I move, and I’ll know those streets like I know these ones, I just can’t help but feel nostalgic. All these memories made me into the person I am today, part of me worries I’ll lose the childlike wonder I still have if I move away and forget my past.