I visited the Netherlands in the Christmas vacation several weeks ago. During my stay there, I saw my dad back in the town where I attended school for three years and while we were there we ended up driving through the town that I grew up in. We were only there to see my grandmother and I didn’t think to be in that town would have any sort of impact on me, but it did.
We drove past places where I used to bicycle. I know for one, without having to see it up close, that the asphalt of one of the bicycle roads has this long crack in it. A little bit further down the road, there’s a small little pit that I always went around when roller skating.
It is very strange to recognise the streets and the houses that we drive past. I know this place so well but I am not a participant. I am merely a guest who’s looking in from the outside. But unlike the usual outsider, I know the insider’s secrets.
Driving there seems like the most ordinary thing but it feels peculiar. I have to remind myself that it is no longer ‘normal’ to do so or to be there. I barely ever visit but to me, this town is the most familiar place on earth.
It strikes me how, once, I was one of those children out on the street. Life then was perfectly fine but right now I don’t understand how it could have been. My feeling is no longer in sync with the feeling I had then and I Suddenly feel the immense relief of knowing that this is not my town anymore.
When we drive past the roundabout I smile one last time. It reminds me of the countless amount of times that we came back from a football match. In those moments, I felt a grateful, satisfied and happy exhaustion. It’s the same feeling that I’ll later have when I enter the bus that will take me back to Aberystwyth.