How returning to the Pyle basketball courts helped me relive old memories


Rafe Epstein

Playing basketball with friends helps bring back old memories.

By Rafe Epstein

I spun my fidget spinner impatiently, watching the clock in the back of my eighth grade science class. I couldn’t focus on the day’s particular lecture, as my mind was consumed by an activity I found far more interesting — basketball.

I was daydreaming about spinning to my right, doing a crossover and hitting a fadeaway jumper to win the game, when suddenly, the bell rang. I locked eyes with one of my closest friends, and the same thought crossed both our minds: time to hit the courts and play. We sprinted outside, my friend took out a beaten leather ball from his backpack and the game began. 

This was our middle school ritual. Every day after the final bell rang, anywhere from five to 20 of my friends and I headed to the courts behind the main building to compete in our favorite sport. We’d play anything from pick up games, to king of the court, to HORSE. No matter the weather, we would fearlessly play. Basketball was my world; it helped me get through those tough, angst-filled middle school years. 

The sport served as a bridge, too. With 20 people playing on a given day, I didn’t always know everyone on the court, but through our shared love of the game, basketball helped me branch out and make new friends.

After middle school, the pickup games became more infrequent. The increased workload in high school and my friends’ shifting priorities made playing together difficult. My bliss at the Pyle courts became a part of my distant past as schoolwork, social pressures and league sports began to consume my time and mental resources.
The year after I left Pyle, the building started undergoing major renovations; they knocked down the farthest part of the structure and replaced it with a more expansive wing to accommodate growing class sizes. In this process, construction crews destroyed the basketball courts that I cherished.

I rarely visited Pyle while in highschool, and I began to miss the carefree and blissful feelings I associated with those courts. So, when I first saw that the area had been restored, a rush of memories came back to me of the times and feelings I had shared with close friends. I immediately took out my phone and texted my old basketball buddies.

By that evening, we were all back together on Pyle’s brand new courts. Although we could no longer play the competitive five vs five games we used to because of social distancing protocol, just being together and shooting around gave me the carefree feeling I hadn’t felt in years.

Five months have now passed, and we’ve headed back to Pyle’s court countless times — and the feelings of being a middle schooler never fade. Sometimes I’ll even go alone; just shooting around by myself evokes those positive emotions I had felt throughout middle school. Playing basketball at Pyle provides an outlet for me to let go of the uncertain present and immerse myself in my past.

During the pandemic, although we try to replicate our old lives and make “new normals,” I find myself craving the past more and more. Though I know we are told to live in the present, sometimes we can only find comfort in our most cherished memories. When a sense of comfort has never been more essential, we all begin to crave feelings of nostalgia.

We don’t need to settle for “new normals,” instead we can try to replicate what once brought us joy in new and creative ways. So whether it be visiting old friends, searching for artifacts from your childhood, or simply looking deep into your camera roll, try to find joyful old memories and replicate them as best you can.