Nostalgia: a wistful desire to return in thought or in fact to a former time in one’s life; a sentimental yearning for the happiness of a former place or time. (Dictionary.com)
Last week I heard a discussion on NPR about nostalgia and since then I’ve been thinking about the memories that cause me to experience nostalgia. These are a few:
- My dad is an avid cyclist. Actually he’s avid for all things fitness and I can only hope to be as in shape as he is when I’m 63. He got my sister and me involved in biking pretty early and that soon led to bike trips. This is essentially where people pay money to ride hundreds of miles with hundreds of other people and then sleep in tents every night. As an adult, I’ve been confused by my friends who pay money to run long distances in races, but I recently joined that trend and even though I still think it’s a little crazy, I’m planning to keep at it.
I believe we took our first bike trip when my sister was twelve and I was fourteen. An important aspect of the bike trip was training, because on average we would need to bike fifty miles each day, for six days. So my dad set out to get us in shape. Just so readers have a point of reference, my mom refuses to let my dad even attempt to “get her in shape”. He’s intense about training and exercise; he’s been logging his workouts and exercise goals since he was a child, so it literally makes me laugh as I’m writing this to think about my dad setting out to prepare us for a bike trip and the thoughts that were probably running through his mind. His regimen meant long rides on the weekends and some training on the stationary bike. He would load up the Honda Civic hatchback with our bikes and we’d head out somewhere in the country to bike a planned route. My dad had these little maps that he attached to the top of his bike bag and I wouldn’t have known if we ever got lost or not. We just knew we were going to bike until we got back to the car.
Getting back to the car was the fun part. Once the bikes were back on the bike rack, we’d drive to a gas station and my dad would buy Gatorade and a medium bag of spicy Doritos. And my sister and I would sit in the back seat chugging Gatorade and eating all of the Doritos. It was the best. I’m not sure why, since as an adult I never ever drink Gatorade and I rarely eat Doritos, but this is the memory I always come back to when I think about those bike trips and those training rides.
(There are many other memories regarding those bike trips that I’ll share in another post)
2. My dad has always worked late. He has a demanding job as a psychologist and after seeing patients well into the evening he would go to the gym, so this meant my sister and I spent lots of evenings alone with my mom. We’d often just stay home and do homework, play outside, or watch Rescue 911 or Home Improvement--which is really funny to me now because my husband grew up without a television and he’s recently been watching reruns of Home Improvement since we don’t have cable. Sometimes though, my mom took us to Beachwood Place Mall. Not for shopping, just to walk around--something to do in the winter I guess.
I tried to find a little history about the mall and its renovations, but couldn’t find much. The mall is very different today than it was in the 90s. For us, the mall was very exciting because where they now have an open area with escalators, they used to have a fountain with a glass elevator that would lower near the water. Near the fountain was the food court, whereas today, the food court is on the second floor. We almost never ate at the food court because it was too expensive, or my mom didn’t want us to eat unhealthy food and just told us it was too expensive, so instead, she would pack sandwiches in brown lunch bags for each of us and we’d sit on the steps to the fountain. My sister and I thought this was great fun--especially watching the glass elevator going up and down. Whenever I go to Beachwood Mall and pass through that area I remember sitting there, in a spot that no longer exists the way I remember it, with my mom and my sister eating our packed sandwiches just outside of the food court.
3. When I see mothers nursing babies I feel a pang of longing for the many hours I spent nursing Isabella. Isabella’s infancy to toddlerhood was simply the best time in my life. I felt a sense of belonging for the first time in my life and I was proud of my body for the first time in my life. Breastfeeding and La Leche League led me to establishing my most valued friendships with women I wouldn’t have met otherwise. Eleven years later each of those women, even though a few I haven’t seen in over a year, hold a very special place in my heart.
I used to sit in a very uncomfortable glider I bought at a second hand store, nursing Isabella to sleep and singing Amazing Grace and Grace Flows Down over and over again. Isabella would fall into that drunken baby stupor, milk dribbling down her cheek while I soaked in the weight of her, and felt as if I couldn’t bear to part with her, ever.
I think nostalgia shows up when you least expect it. It’s so interesting how very small, seemingly inconsequential details, will immediately jog a memory. Last week, we were having dinner and Walter asked how my grandma was doing, and before I responded he said, “‘bout half?’” because this is what my grandpa always said when we called and asked, “how are you, grandpa?” In the moment, I had to blink away tears and still do as I’m writing this.
Maybe after reading this, you can take a moment to remember the “happiness of a former place or time”.