Storytelling, remembering what was, feeling the warmth of the past– this is nostalgia.
I can sit around with my cousins and siblings for hours, hearing stories from our Grandma and Grandpa’s backyard. Some of them I actually remember and others I only think I remember, but wasn’t actually there for. I remember them from hearing the stories told and retold– like the time Josh hit Bridget in the face during “Josh Ball”, a game he invented to be able to “legally” throw a ball at his younger cousins. Or the time Gabe and Chelsie covered themselves from head to toe in mud. Or the times (yes, there was more than one) Claire directed all of us in plays, some original, some adapted.
Nostalgia brings a bit of sadness because what once was is no more. But there is a happiness in it too– happiness that what was was at all. It’s a feeling that I crave. It’s why I love the VH1 series “I Love the 90’s”. It brings me back to what was, what made me laugh, what was important to me and it connects me to my peers because we all remember when… [Baby Jessica (not the 90’s, but still), Mickey Mouse Club, Jordan Catellano, white Bronco]. Not that these things were important to me, but when I think of Jordan Catellano and how dreamy he was, it reminds me that I thought he was dreamy because my sister did, and I wanted to be like her. (Also, he really is dreamy– look at the face!) Thinking of the O.J. Simpson car chase transports me to the time my family moved into my Grandma’s house and there were 16 people in one house, four bedrooms and ONE bathroom! The best four months of my life!
Recently I have noticed that my desperate craving for nostalgia, however, forces me out of the here and now in order to, as quickly as possible, store it away as a memory. Facebook statuses about what just went down, digital pictures to document experiences, and the constant quoting and recap of the funny things that happen. I try to create a memory before the experience is actually over.
On New Year’s Day, I sat with my family and we watched old home movies from when my dad, his siblings and their cousins were small, trying to identify which child was which. Earlier in the day, my Great Uncle, the resident videographer, went around with his camera and captured children playing, adults chatting, people waving and making funny faces at the camera and others running away from it. After we had watched all of the old home movies, we popped in the one from that same day. As we watched ourselves from earlier in the day, I laughed quietly at us, so anxious to have the memory stored so that we could retell it later.
Something I find myself nostalgic for is true nostalgia. Sitting down with my Grandma and her brother a few years ago as they argued about the small details of stories from their childhood, I realized there was no Facebook or digital photography to document those details. It’s his memory against hers. And they remember those things because they want to remember the experience; they didn’t have the experience so that they could remember it. This is important, I think. It’s simplicity and it’s love. This is nostalgia.