Friday, August 14, 2015

Tired Of Nostalgia

Back from vacation. Walked in the woods of Swanzey, and will start on a new section next year.

Tracy and I discussed many things on the way home: how our vacation activities are different with grandchildren than with children, why our church plant failed but another type is doing well, what things we can leave behind when we downsize from this house, whether we want to put any more energy at all into genealogy when we retire - great topics for a 39th anniversary.  In the midst of it, I realised that I am no longer so very nostalgic about much of anything.

This is a sea-change.  I have been nostalgic as long as I can remember remembering.  I wrote a song of nostalgic about my childhood when I was fifteen, for pity's sake. Later in life people like to revisit the places they once lived or went to school, dabbing at their eyes and humming half-remembered songs. I was doing that at twenty. Garrison Keillor struck a chord in me when he came upon the scene in the 80's, and I clearly wasn't the only one.

Starting years ago, I've been to all the places I once lived, and the second time one goes it seems rather a waste. I've gone out of my way to visit the schools, camps, places of employment, ice cream stands. I've reread my childhood and young adult favorites, relistened to a lot of the music, browsed the magazines still available in leftovers bins, bought local history calendars, and looked up a lot of folks I knew.

It gets old after awhile.


james said...

My memory doesn't work quite that way. More recent events tend to swamp the older things. When I went to Louisville last week we found a video of an outing in a park with my sister and brother-in-law and us and our three oldest. It was startling to watch. Looking at the video I remembered what the kids had looked like then, and how they'd acted, and the clothes--but none of it would have come to mind without major prompting.

I have memories of Ricks Institute from the 60's, but when I went back a few years ago little that was important to me then was anything like what my memories told me. Some was the perspective of size, and some was 35 years of other uses, of tropical decay, and of civil war. I could have tried to tell the two daughters "I used to play there" but there was no longer any obvious reason why anyone would play there--the features of tree and land that had shaped the look of the place were all different. Mismatch.

Some things ring the bell--a piece of music, sometimes a smell--and I feel a connection to and a sense of a time long gone. I don't want to return to that time (I don't want to be 5 again, thank you very much), I want somehow to bring that feeling into now. Replaying the music doesn't work--maybe The Pilgrim's Regress is relevant here.

Grim said...

Much like James, I find that the newer is what I can more easily remember. My long term memory is really quite bad: every time I get together with family, they ask me about things they clearly remember from when I was younger of which I have no memory at all. There are only a few scenes I can bring to mind from my childhood, and increasingly most of my adolescence is lost to mind as well.

Now old favorite books, those I do like to return to and read. But I don't find the experience nostalgic. Rather, I am always surprised by how much the book is different from before. The clearest example of this for me is The Three Musketeers. When I first read it I was perhaps 15. I most recently re-read it a few years ago. What struck me on re-reading it was that the characters are far more self-absorbed than I had realized as a teenager, that they treat each other badly because of this selfishness, and that I had never noticed it as a teenager because at that time I was just the same way. It was just one of my ordinary background assumptions about life at 16, and a standout contrast later.