The first significant memory I have of reading comes from the story of the children’s book Harold and the Purple Crayon. I don’t directly remember reading the book when I was little, but rather, I recall finding it again on my bedroom bookshelf, looking through the small pages of the book, and remembering how much I loved the story in my earliest years of life. At this point, however, I did not actually remember the storyline of Harold’s journey, but was instead comforted by the creative feeling the book still inspired in my ten-year-old self. The nostalgia of the beautifully simplistic artistic narrative is –to this day– the most poignant aspect of the book for me. I connected my love for drawing and imagination to the story of Harold –as he created his own world and adventures with just a purple crayon and his mind– even though I forgot what he actually created in the story. It seemed that the experience of reading Harold and the Purple Crayon was so integrally molded into my psyche that I could not conjure any direct memories of the book, and instead could only feel the nostalgia for the original experience from my earliest years of reading.
This wistfulness for the experience of my youth has woven itself into my consciousness throughout my life. In my Junior year of high school –one of the most stressful years for me– I found myself drawn back to the bookshelf of my childhood. Just as I did when I was ten years old, I searched my shelves for older books that struck some deep emotional chord with me. My eyes flirted from title to title, yet I was left with this fuzzy feeling of disappointment, as I realized the affection I had assigned to these novels did not have any specific memory of the actual content within them. I have always idolized my childhood as a paradigm of happiness and freedom, and to discover that the foundational children’s books that allowed me to explore my early imagination seemed to be nothing more than empty feelings of nostalgia was disheartening. At the time I knew that a part of me wanted a distraction from my responsibilities of Junior year –grades, college, my future– so I allowed myself to delve back into the novels of my youth. I discovered a comforting sense of childhood joy in reliving the pages of works such as Calvin and Hobbes, Dr. Seus, Bone, and, in particular, Harold and the Purple Crayon.
Looking back now, however, I believe there is a deeper rational in my attraction to revisiting the experiences of my youth. Now that I am living independently in college, and I have officially moved away from the idea of myself as a child, I find myself slowly coming to terms with the experience of my youth. Over the summer I stumbled upon some old home videos of myself when I was little. This unexpected discovery was particularly exciting for myself as it gave me a direct observation of what I was like as a child. To be completely honest, despite how much I have idolized the early years of living without responsibilities, I still struggle with remembering most of my adolescence. In my Junior year of high school, I believe I was facing this same struggle on a subconscious level. I was aware of the general feeling I had from my youth when I read those books, but I became disconcerted to realize that I had forgotten the actual content of the books, and by extension, the content of my adolescent imagination. When I reread my children’s books I got to remember what it was like to be a child again, but additionally, I could prove to myself that the experiences of my childhood were real, and not some distant fuzzy feeling of nostalgia.