"Nostalgia, it's delicate, but potent...in Greek, nostalgia literally means the pain from an old wound. It's a twinge in your heart, far more powerful than memory alone. This device isn't a spaceship, it's a time machine. Goes backwards, forwards, and takes us to a place where we ache to go again. It's not called "The Wheel," it's called "The Carousel." It lets us travel the way a child travels, round and around and back home again, to a place where we know we are loved." - Don Draper, Mad Men Season 1, talking about a Kodak Carousel that displays images invoking nostalgia.
Maybe because the news seems so dour lately, or perhaps it's part of aging, but I've been feeling nostalgic for more simpler times. In this CBS News story on nostalgia, Lemoyne College psychology professor Krystine Batcho observed that when something brings back memories, people are more likely to focus on people than items. "The things that people are most nostalgic for in their growing up years were simple things like having dinner with Grandma...or going camping -- as a family... Even if it's just getting together to have a simple meal, getting together to pray or whatever those experiences are that bring a family closer to one another." Something to remember during these trying economic times. People, not possessions, the soul remembers.
Looking back on my childhood, I recall simple "things": scratch and sniff stickers, my pink Smurfette lunch box, or earning prized Looney Toons eraser heads for getting enough gold stars in the third grade. But so much of what I remember are experiences, like...
Eating cherries and raspberries in an old farmhouse in Switzerland. We spent a lot of summers there as a child.
Making mashed potatoes with my grandfather, and eating them off of my grandparents' pretty blue plates in their home in Switzerland.
Sitting in a garden with my grandmother in Switzerland.
Dancing around the living room with my big sister to records.
Going swimming in the summertime.
Playing with our two cats.
Going sledding with my mom and dad in Van Saun park in winter, and making a snow man outside.
A new crop of enthusiastic sledders in Van Saun, on the same hill I went down as a child.
I think about smells too. One of my favorites, still is, is honeysuckle in the summer. Freshly mown grass transports me to a warm, sunny day in late June sitting in class longing for the lazy summer ahead. I think as adults, we should all get one summer off. Wouldn't that be nice?
The CBS article mentioned, "Nostalgia can be a lot about geography. So, if you grew up on the east coast, the smell of flowers made people nostalgic for their childhood. In the south, it was the smell of fresh air. In the Midwest, it was the smell of farm animals. And on the west coast, it was the smell of meat cooking or meat barbequing." Since I'm a vegetarian, good thing I grew up on the east coast.
What are you most nostalgic for? Don't life's seemingly simple pleasures and experiences sometimes seem the ones the memory most longs for? Isn't the memory trying to remind us what is most important in life?