There is a song by Taylor Swift called, “Never Grow Up.” The bridge of the song says, “Take pictures in your mind of your childhood room, memorize what it sounded like when your dad gets home, remember the footsteps, remember the words said, and all your little brother’s favorite songs, I just realized everything I have is someday gonna be gone.”
The song goes on to describe moving into her first apartment and how lonely and cold it can be to be alone. To this day, I cannot listen to this song without crying. Even when she released it when I was in high school it brought tears to my eyes. These days, it hits much closer to home.
Speaking of home, I went home last weekend to spend time with family and escape some parts of my current reality that I would rather not publicize. Unsurprisingly, “Never Grow Up” came into my head.
Things are different at home now. My parents, as empty nesters, have changed a lot of things, as is their right. The improvements they have made to my childhood home are great. I am lucky enough to have grown up in the same house from the time I was 18 months old. All of my childhood memories are based there.
Because of the emotional stress I was under, I was very reflective last weekend. The bathroom my mother and I shared as a child and teenager is completely unrecognizable. One of the perks of going home now is taking a relaxing bubble bath in the giant tub that sits where I played with rubber ducks as a child in a smaller version.
My bedroom is also unrecognizable except for the polka dot blinds that still hang in the window. I was trying to sleep in on Saturday morning and muscle memory kicked in as I unraveled the string of the blinds from its hanger on the wall to block out that morning sun as I had many times as a teenager.
There is one change that my whole family dreamed of the whole time I was growing up: my parents now have a screened-in porch. As a teenager, I spent most of my summers on the old porch reading multiple books in a day on the swing, getting sun-tanned and letting my dog, Zooey, run around the backyard and play in the sprinkler to her heart’s content. We have always loved our porch, but now the porch feels like an extension of the house and it is kind of magical.
When I arrive home, the first thing we do is hug at the door and head to the backyard to let Zooey run around the backyard, much like our younger years. Oftentimes we end up sitting on that porch to catch up and chat. It was even the first thing we did when my father and I arrived back from Colorado last year.
My sleep schedule is different than my parents. Mostly because I do not have a sleep schedule. It is something that I am working on. So, last Saturday night, my parents headed to bed far before I was ready to sleep. We said goodnight and I stayed out on the back porch breathing in the summer air with Zooey.
Before my father went to bed he said, “Check this out,” and turned all the lights out and the fireflies were glittering through the trees and coating the backyard in sparkles. We could not see them at all before we turned out the lights shining in our own eyes. I sat in the swing mesmerized.
I am not sure why, I have seen fireflies plenty of times and spent summer nights as a child collecting them in jars to sit by my bed at night. I think it was just that I had no idea they were putting on a show, no idea the beauty I was missing because the porch light was shining in my face. My father headed to bed, kissed my forehead and asked if I wanted him to leave the light off. I, of course, said yes.
I sat there, in pensive thought and watched the show until, as most people who have ever watched fireflies know, they paired up and headed back to the trees or the ground. “Never Grow Up” came into my head and I ended up humming it to myself as I swung.
For someone like me, who was so excited for her own independence and to run “free,” it takes a few years of adulthood to make you miss your childhood. As I sat on the porch in the darkness of the yard I had spent so much of my young life in, I could almost hear the giggles of my friends, father and I as we played our own version of kickball, I could hear echoes of my childhood dogs barking as we ran around the yard with them, I could nearly smell the hot dogs and hamburgers we ate after long days spent in the sunshine.
I am so grateful for the childhood I had. Of course, when things get hard I am sad that I did, indeed, grow up. Adulthood is inevitable and I would encourage any teenager that might be reading this to realize: you will never run as free as you did when you were a child. Take a moment, turn off the distractions and appreciate the present. Oh, and love her or hate her, take five minutes to listen to “Never Grow Up” by Taylor Swift.
— Contact Emily Rice at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter @BDTrice