Nostalgia is my dominant gene. I can’t recall a time in my life when I wasn’t nostalgic—the moment I was born, I’m certain I immediately longed for the warmth of my old womb complete with room service. I’ve so romanticized days gone by for most of my days that I have a great deal of catching up to do if I ever hope to get to the present:
In the 1980s, I yearned for my View-Master and life before Kindergarten. By the 1990s, I missed roller skating birthday parties and Saturday morning cartoons. The 2000s have found me wishing boot cut jeans and Lilith Fair would make comebacks. God, I miss landlines.
I’ve done this with people, too. I have a whole mental photo album (remember photo albums?) of faces I used to know—some departed forever, some who simply faded from my life. In my lonesome moments, I open this book in my mind and retrace the paths that lead me to—or away from—them. I miss a lot of people a lot of the time.
I’m not alone, either. Who among us hasn’t Googled an ex or considered Iran-Contra to be “simpler times?” The recent Star Wars trailer sent us all down memory lane at warp-speed. Between John Williams’s iconic score and the recognizable silhouette of an Imperial Star Destroyer nose-down in the desert sand, my neural pathways lit up like Christmas and I, like Chewbacca, felt as if I was “home.”
I often wonder if my forebears lamented the advent of the remote control or miniskirts or power-steering. My Grandma Dewing regularly started her conversations with “When I was a little girl…,” causing my cousin and me to roll our eyes. My eight-year-old self couldn’t understand why she would prefer a Clark Gable flick over “E.T. The Extraterrestrial.” I mean, she grew up during the Depression—wouldn’t anything be better? And yet, she got just as lost in her reverie of Victory Gardens as I do about Schoolhouse Rock. I’m sure today’s kids will fondly reflect on One Direction and Snapchat, though I, like Grandma Dewing, will find that baffling.
Is all this wistfulness healthy for the soul? Billy Joel reminds us, “The good ol’ days weren’t always good.” Hindsight is 20/20—I believe the Latin term is “if-I-knew-then-what-I-know-now-amus.” I conveniently forget the foolishness of my “good ol’ days” in which I sometimes broke hearts and dishes. I have to remember, too, that “way back when” wasn’t always so great because groups of people were marginalized and women only made 70-cents on the dol—oh, wait, nevermind.
Recently, I learned the word Weltschmerz, which Merriam-Webster defines as “a mood of sentimental sadness” and “mental depression or apathy caused by comparison of the actual state of the world with an ideal state.” Leave it to the Germans to come up with the perfect word to describe my strain of nostalgia. The helplessness I feel over society’s injustices and inanity is enough to make me reach for my blankie and binge-watch Star Trek, in which the future–without war or poverty–looks hopeful, and we get over ourselves and get about the business of exploration, cooperation, and the Prime Directive. Also, Tribbles.
Hubs does not suffer as I do (does he ever?). Rather, he follows the Gospel of Dr. Seuss, which says “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” If anything, this bittersweet longing reminds me that I’ve had a great many things in my life to smile about. I must have faith that there will be many more smiles to come.
What sends you on a trip down memory lane?