Another chilly day in Florida …another weather-triggered memory brought on by low temperatures, beautiful morning skies, and a penchant for remembering anniversaries of events from the Land of Ago.
It’s been 34 years since I last walked out of the apartment in the Sevilla neighborhood of Los Remedios, which is across the Guadalquivir River from the various places (the CCIS Center and the main campus of the Universidad de Sevilla) that I had gone to during the 12-week-long Semester-in-Spain Study Abroad program that had ended just a few days before

Just like in 2022, December 18, 1988, fell on a Sunday. It was a gorgeous if chilly day as I lugged my trusty carry-on traveler’s bag while Manuel, my landlady Josefa’s husband, lugged my two heavy suitcases down the long flight of stairs to the “piso de abajo” of the apartment building I had called home for 88 days.
It was early in the morning, and I had already been awake for a long time. Josefa had prepared a farewell breakfast that included eggs, churros, and Spanish-style hot chocolate, so I was “good to go” for the Sevilla-Madrid leg of my return trip to “the World.”
It was also a cold day; I don’t think the temperature had reached the 50-degree (Fahrenheit) mark yet, so I was dressed in “layers,” complete with a heavy overcoat, a knit blue-gray scarf that Josefa had given me in October and insisted I keep as a memento of my stay in her residencia, and a gray fedora (that I no longer have, sadly). I also wore the gloves that my journalism prof, Peter C. Townsend, gave me before I left Miami; along with the scarf, I still have those, though I rarely wear them here in Florida.

The sky was still a dark shade of cerulean blue – the farther to the west you looked, it was still dark. In Miami, my ultimate destination, it was still 2 AM, and I hoped that Mom was getting a good night’s rest. But the sun was coming up in the east, so the sky was like Joseph’s coat of many colors, ranging from red-orange close to the horizon to pink, then blue. If there were clouds up there, I don’t remember them. I dimly remember sitting in the back of Manuel and Pepa’s car as we made our way through the city to the airport, where I would board a plane that would take me to Madrid, where in turn I would get on another Iberia jet, this time bound for Miami.

The Torre del Oro, La Giralda, and other landmarks that had been my guideposts during the 12 weeks that I had lived and studied in Sevilla – come and go outside my field of vision inside the compact car.
I was looking forward to returning to Miami. As great as my Semester in Spain experience was, I’d experienced homesickness, the frustrations of the slowness of what we now call “snail mail” (the Internet was still in its infancy then, so the Fall 1988 CCIS group did not have smartphones with digital cameras, or even internet access), plus I’d caught the Cold from Hell after getting caught in a deluge in the middle of Maria Luisa Park; it never deterred me from my studies or extracurricular activities and came and went, but that damn cold did not clear up till I was back in Miami. Add to that the loneliness that comes from seeing a lot of attractive young women…and not feeling confident enough to ask one of them out for a date, and you’ll get some idea of the downsides – at least for me – that I experienced in Sevilla.
Plus, I couldn’t wait to be in my house and in my own bedroom. It’s a cliché, I know, but as anyone who has traveled anywhere, even if it’s for a vacation or study-abroad experience, there’s no place like home.

And…yet, as we drove out of the city and onto the Autopista
del Sur, I still felt regret that I couldn’t stay longer. In my head

I kept hearing the words of a sea chanty I’d heard in

Steven Spielberg’s Jaws:

Farewell and adieu to you, Spanish Ladies

Farewell and adieu to you, ladies of Spain;

For we’re under orders for to sail for old England

And we may never see you fair ladies again.

Obviously, if I could travel back to 1988, I don’t know the exact mechanics of how that would work. Would I return to my 25-year-old self in “spirit form” and basically “take over” my own body while retaining my memories of 2022? Or would two versions of me – 59-year-old me and 25-year-old me – exist in the same city simultaneously? In the case of the latter, would I be able to avoid creating paradoxes or, even more important, the temptation to alter my past by warning my younger self about the future I left behind?

n any event, while I will accept the fact that we can’t live in the past – or travel to it – and not wallow in a pool of sorrow or self-pity, I do get some joy from knowing that I once had happier times – and thus take comfort in the fact that I can still remember them.

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