I work with several people who have lived in the greater Tampa bay area for a good while, over thirty years in at least one case. This means that I am subject to a lot of stories about how different Ruskin or South Tampa was ten, twenty, thirty years ago. If the stories were more than “There wasn’t more than a gas station and a two lane highway”, I’d be fine with listening to them, but they tend to encompass general chances and a growing population. It makes for a boring story, no lie. But I might have to be a bit more charitable.
I haven’t been sharing stories about how different things were 15 years ago randomly, but the subject of fandom came up at work and I had to explain what that was to someone which prompted the question of what my first fandom was. I absolutely waxed nostalgic about Gundam Wing and old fandom and how shocking it was because I’ve been in fandom for over half my life at this point. A coworker of mine expressed surprise at my interest in anime because she couldn’t remember it ever being mentioned until about 15 year ago. And really, that’s right isn’t it? I was 14 when I first started to get into fandom and I’m 30 now. I can remember parts of those early years with an eerie amount of clarity because of how much they meant to me.
Comparing that with growing up in a highly rural place and watching it become more and more urban over the years must be a crazy experience. And they don’t usually express disapproval or regret, more general surprise that Tampa has gotten so big and busy. I’ve never lived in one place long enough to see it change significantly, but looking back on some of my old memories I think I can relate a little to the experience.
Human memory is bound up in the passage of time like everything else we experience and memories that might not have been special in and of themselves become so because they represent the greater wonder and experience of childhood or adolescence. Time softens the sharp edges and shines the memories until they’re something precious to hold onto because so much of what we remember fades like water color into a blended background. TIme might be an illusion or a human construct, but we definitely do age and the world rushes on around us.