The Westholm, Nevermore

Visiting my mom in Upstate New York always brings a sense of nostalgia, a reminder of the simplicity and innocence of childhood. Today was no different. As I drove through the familiar streets of where I used to live, the memories came flooding back, each one a vivid snapshot of a life that once was.

My visit to mom was brief yet heartwarming. We chatted about everything and nothing, sipping soda in her living room, surrounded by the comforting smells of home. But amidst our conversations, I couldn’t shake off the feeling of transience. Nothing ever stays the same, I thought. I was born, and one day I’ll die. The time between those two events is mine, and mine alone.

After leaving mom’s place, I had a task at hand. I wanted to photograph The Westholm Hotel in Stamford, New York. It’s a landmark where my parents and I had dinner in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. It was also a place where I would go during recess when I was in school; my friend’s parents owned it and would give us free soda at the bar.

In 2018, I managed to get permission to photograph the Westholm Hotel in Stamford, New York. A local newspaper covered the story. They published one of my photographs, but referred to me with the wrong pronouns. I guess it’s because I’m a woman named Thomas. It stung a bit, but I’ve learned to shrug off such mistakes. It’s a small price I had to pay for doing what I love.

But today, it represents nothing more than a relic of a bygone era. As I picked up my camera, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of urgency. This was likely my last chance to capture the essence of the hotel, as it was scheduled for demolition. The shots I took that day were more than just pictures; they were the final homage to a piece of history.

Driving home, my mind wandered. I thought about how, whenever I return to the place where I grew up, it seems that little ever changes. The streets, the stores, the people–they all seem frozen in time. Yet, the only thing that seems to change is me. With every visit, I see my hometown through different eyes, the eyes of someone who’s experienced more of the world, who’s loved, who’s lost, and who has grown.

My thoughts drifted to the people I’ve said goodbye to over the years. It made me melancholic, thinking about Allegra, the first girl I ever fell in love with. It’s strange how life works. We move on, find new loves, and new passions, yet there’s always a part of us that clings to those first experiences. She’s someone I’ll likely never see or hear from again, and while it shouldn’t matter, as I now have the love of my life, everyone remembers their first love. It’s a bittersweet realization, a reminder of the fleeting nature of life and relationships.

As I pondered, I couldn’t help but think about coincidence. I don’t believe in it. I feel like everything happens for a reason. Just like how a series of events led to a blog about urban exploration photography. The blog, Deserted Finland, has recently posted about this. It’s fascinating how life’s puzzle pieces fit together, each event leading to another, crafting our unique stories.

In my line of work as a writer and a photographer, I’ve learned to appreciate the beauty in decay, and the stories behind the abandoned and the forgotten. It’s a metaphor for life, really. Everything has its moment in the sun, only to fade away, leaving behind memories, stories, and, if lucky, photographs.

This journey–from visiting my mom to photographing the Westholm Hotel, to driving home lost in thought–it all felt interconnected, part of a larger narrative. It’s these moments, these reflections, that define who we are and who we become.

As I pulled into my driveway, I realized that the beauty of life lies in its impermanence. The fact that nothing stays the same is what makes life so precious. We’re all just passing through, collecting memories, experiencing love, loss, joy, and sorrow. It’s a journey of constant change, and I’m grateful for every moment of it, the good and the bad.

I stepped out of my car, took a deep breath, and smiled. Life is a beautiful, fleeting, ever-changing adventure, and I’m here for every part of it.

November 30, 2023


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