A number of years ago when I was in my 20s (OK, so 2 decades ago!) I went to the cinema to see Walt Disney's classic movie The Jungle Book during one of the rare occasions it is re-released. I'd seen it many years before as a small child with my friends, and it was the memory of that time which led to me returning once more to see it on the silver screen. It is a great film. A timeless classic. But at a certain level I was disappointed this time. It just wasn't the same as the first time around.
In the past few days I found myself returning to places I had once visited in the not too distant past. Whilst traveling there I was filled with a certain feeling of anxiety. Would it be the same? Was I doing a foolish thing? True enough things had changed. It was a different time of year for a start and the colours were different than my memory served up.
There was something else though. At first I couldn't quite put my finger on it. The views were familiar and I found my way around without any problem, so it wasn't that. The people were as friendly as I recall so it wasn't that. I found I wasn't really enjoying this revisit, which seemed to be against my reasoning that it would be exciting. It wasn't.
Then I passed by a few places that I remembered well for a particular reason, be that a photo-taking opportunity or a lunch stop, and it dawned on me what was wrong. It was very simple why.
I was on my own.
Previously I had shared the experience of these places and now I was alone. It wasn't the individual places that had made fond memories, or the time of year, or the people, but everything together, and the glue that held it altogether and made it whole was the friend I had shared it with.
So just as when I returned to see The Jungle Book I was older than the first time, on my own and not with friends. It wasn't a shared experience, and so in my opinion only half as enjoyable. The simple pleasure of turning to another to comment on a view, can burn that moment into your memory forever.
I had to accept that this was a new adventure, separate from before with it's own memories. I also had to accept that to revisit a moment or place from the past and expect the experience to be just as magical is unreasonable. It never can be. It's like attending a funeral and sensing the loss soul of what was once a glorious individual.
As Bob Dylan once sang, you can go back but you can't go back all the way.