A little over 20 years ago I left Seattle behind. I had lived there for 15 years between the late 70’s and early 90’s, and had returned for the birth of my first grandson. Not knowing that it would be 2 decades till I returned. My daughter and her little family moved away to the midwest, and I visited them there. I still had friends and connections in Seattle, but visiting her was a greater priority. Somewhere in a storage unit are hard copy photos of my years in the Northwest, but I have none to share here.
Now the daughter is back in Seattle, hence, so am I. On this cool drizzly grey September Sunday morning, I am sitting on a deck with my coffee reflecting on nostalgia.
The maple leaves still cling half-heartedly to their stems, and party lights on the neighbor’s deck hang heavy with the rain. A lawnmower sits out from the last pass at the grass, and a pricey bbq grill sits uncovered against the climate. Yesterday it was 80+ and sunny. It seems I am here for the first day of fall.
On my first day here I bussed over the the university where I spent a good 10 plus years. I sort of dreaded doing that, as I was afraid of nostalgia. But the bus was shiny and new, and the route took me past spots that were only familiar for their place names. As with most college districts, The U district seemed remarkably seedy for this new Seattle. The same sandwich places and coffee hangouts were a bit more squeezed between newer buildings, but not changed much.
I tempted my inner longing by wandering up on campus and instinctively towards the building where I spent the years of my education. Little here had changed, either. But the few changes there were made it someone else’s place. I had no feel for it. No ghosts of the past greeted me as I peeked in my old TA office. The names on most of the doors had changed, but other than that, it was Gowen Hall on the Quad across from the library. Nothing. Time has erased the traces of my attachment.
I occasionally dream of my days here. I think most often the dream is of missing a class, for the whole semester. Oh not teaching my section, again, for the whole semester. There are other dreams, sleeping and wakeful. I wonder now if I have exorcised the ghosts and demons of that past. And if I have, by visiting here and making it another place, is that a loss? Is nostalgia a bad thing? Or is the lack of it a sign that I am finally at home in my present life?