Don’t look back: Some memories are too precious

You can never go back.

It’s a phrase I didn’t truly understand until recently. Just a year or two removed from college, married and on my own two feet, standing in the home I grew up in felt different somehow than it had when I was a kid.

We all have those places that seem forever shrouded in the perfect worlds our memories often make of our pasts. For some, its college campuses or childhood hometowns. For others, it’s a favorite restaurant, park or even a roadside stop.

They can be anywhere, but visiting them nowadays usually only serves as a reminder that they’ll never be as great as we remember them to be.

I felt a hint of that that day at my parents’ house, but there is one place I know would make the nostalgia of my childhood home pale in comparison.

I have a notoriously bad memory – long term, short term, it doesn’t really matter. I once spent five rather frantic minutes trying to find my glasses, only to realize I was actually wearing them. The phrase, “You’d lose your head if it wasn’t screwed onto your shoulders” was meant for people like me.

But I remember the Brown County Library.

I lived in the Green Bay, Wis., area for five years, from the age of 7 until I was 11. My mother would regularly take us to the library for hours at a time.

As an adult looking back, I remember how big the library seemed, and how easy it would be to get lost among the stacks. I remember the staircases and crinkle of laminated books being opened. I remember using the now completely and utterly defunct card catalogue system to find a certain book, because in the early ’90s I was still young enough to live in a world not totally overrun by computers. I remember the feeling of freedom I had when my mom would take us to the children’s section before going to peruse genres she liked elsewhere in the library.

I remember sinking into chairs that I’m sure were normal sized but certainly didn’t seem that way as my tiny, 8-year-old self hopped onto the seat, my feet dangling over the edge. I chose the chair carefully – not too close to someone but not totally isolated – before settling in for hours of Roald Dahl, R.L. Stine or Beverly Cleary.

I remember learning to love books.

And then we moved away and I pretty much stopped going to the library. I’d use the one in my high school from time to time, but it never had that same, magical effect the Brown County Library did.

So when I hear the phrase, “You can never go back,” that’s what I think of: Myself curled up in a chair, unable to hear my mother saying “it’s time to go” because I’m lost in the pages of my book.

As a grown adult, I still drown out the world when I’m reading, I still get that same feeling I had as a kid when I open a new book. But I know I’ll never return to the Brown County Library. It holds too special a place in my heart to be taken from its highest of pedestals and brought back down to the level of reality.

I’m sure the the library doesn’t glimmer when the sun shines through its windows. I’m sure the smell of old paper and leather binding does not pervade the air. I’m sure the stacks are not as tall and the building not as large as in my memory.

But I have no desire to ruin those memories of that place, or the fondness I have for it.

So I know, without a doubt, that I can never go back.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Jackie Stark is a Chocolay Township resident and a staff reporter at The Mining Journal. Her column appears bi-weekly. She can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is