One of the first things that you realize is that it smells exactly the same. Smells can bring you right back to any moment, any point in time. They are memories, capsules of people and places. The buildings have the same smell. It’s surreal that after years, for me a decade that everything hits me as if I were twelve again.
Days seemed absolutely endless when you were young. A week spent with friends much like camp, but instead of counselors there were trees. There were endless paths to walk down, endless amounts of water to swim or boat across, and if you wanted you never has to interact with your parents for longer than a kiss in the morning, a wave at dinner, and a mumbled goodnight before bed. You were already a second away from being asleep, and by the time your head did reach the pillow – it was morning.
That’s how days went. They rolled into each other but without a solid end. And then suddenly it was over. A week of memories that would last all year. Friendships that would, have, lasted a lifetime. And scents that even as an adult bring you right back to your first kiss on the dock. Right under the boat slip, before you knew that the lips you were kissing belonged to the opposite gender of who you would ever love later on. That a few years later not more than 100 feet away you would come out to someone for the first time.
Everything can change all around you, and yet you can return to certain places and realize that for them all the change that could possibly happen has already. The mountains, the lake, they were shaped before you were even a beam on a star sending it’s light down to the Earth that would raise something we call humanity. Here you question if you even need anyone. You’d be just as peaceful alone with a boat and a book and maybe a home to love. Love, you found that here. This is where you learned what it felt like to see the person you had dreamed would be forever go off with someone else. You learned what it was to have friends that you could talk to forever, and promised would stay forever, and surprisingly some of them did. Attachment was formed here. The feeling of not exactly knowing why, but wanting to spend a suffocating amount of time with someone else. Because you could be your true self. And summer after summer you found yourself becoming that self. You allowed yourself to be more vulnerable here than you ever would have back home, because you knew here it wouldn’t matter, that people would treat you as if they had always known the person you would end up being.
Think back and realize how awkward it all was. How awkward we all were. But no one cared. How amazing to be embraced for the gangly kid you were. Realizing that New York is such a big state, and someone calling themselves a New Yorker did not automatically mean they rode the subway, or in so many cases ever seen a subway. Concrete kids and farm kids, suburb kids and somewhere in between kids. Every day you would meet at group and you were just – kids.
A week without any form of plugged in visual entertainment. The week before you questioned whether you would be able to make it. A week without your favorite shows, without internet, and gossip from friends. You were being disconnected, a terrifying concept for your adolescent mind to comprehend. You would get back home, and your friends surely wouldn’t be able to connect with you. As soon as you woke up from the drive and saw that sign, that sign that said Silver Bay – none of it mattered.
And yet you have stayed away. It has been a bit more than a decade – every summer you tell yourself that you will make it. But somehow the opportunity passes you by. The last time was a different time, it was a hard time, it was goodbyes and tears in everyone’s eyes. It was apologies from family friends, long hugs and forced smiles. Every other week that you spent here is highlighted in your mind, but that one has been lost by the protective mind. Pushed away and deep, almost like a secret you had even forgotten you had made. A promise that you made by mistake, that you would forget this place and that day. But your heart it seems is shifts you easier than you dreamed. As time goes on, those memories come back at random, they catch you when a scent floats by on a breeze. And there you are, 12 again jumping off cliffs your parents would kill you for going near. Learning that stepping off of rocks is the hardest part, that second before the jump, and then suddenly it all makes sense. Suddenly you find yourself seeing that sign for the first time in years. The smells are back and so is that feeling of absolute content. Your youth has come back home.