Monday, August 22, 2011

Feeling Pangs of Nostalgia for...

The United States Postal Service? Yes. A mailbox in New Jersey which didn't have enough senders. Its pick up time labels have been removed.

Some 3,600 may be shuttered under a plan by the Postal Service. To humanize these closings, The New York Times profiled one:

"Residents are already worried that their community...will lose more than just a place to buy stamps.

Manufacturing and mill jobs have left North Hoosick, as they have much of upstate New York. Just past the post office, tall grass climbs the sides of the old Methodist church, which is empty and up for sale. Along the hamlet's two main roads, a fire station, a used-car lot and an auto repair shop remain, but the number of gathering places has dwindled.

Yet neighbors still find one another: over pie and hamburger noodle soup at Jean's Place; under the night sky at Hathaway's, one of a few drive-in theaters left in the area — and at the post office."
Postal clerk Ken Stevens remarked:

"I probably feel like most people: it's a part of Americana going by the wayside."

The alternative would be the Hoosick Falls post office three miles away. "But for many of the elderly residents who rent boxes, the distance is daunting, especially during the winter. For others, the neighboring communities, though similarly rural to an outsider's eye, are simply not interchangeable."

While I think online bill paying is good for paper reduction and that we should have a "Do Not Mail" law for junk mail similar to the opt-out option for telemarketing calls (forests shouldn't be chopped down for what's going straight into the landfill), I'm saddened so many jobs will be lost, and I agree with Ken. It feels like this is just one more slap in the face to a sense of community. Everything seems to be about the almighty dollar.

I love how letters documents our lives, and encourage writing them. I also drop thrifted Christmas cards in the mail, and love receiving them.

Photograph albums and actual photos.

I've been looking through old family photo albums of my youth and miss actual photographs, which I don't seem to print. Don't get me wrong: I love my digital camera. But I consider often that since I have the ability to take so many photographs, am I missing being in the moment trying to get the perfect shots on the boat ride on the Seine in Paris or my vegetarian paella in Spain? On vacation, many a time I've witnessed people going up to a painting in a museum, taking a photo, and walking away without even looking at it. A coworker said trying to approach the Mona Lisa in the Louvre in Paris was like horrible because it was like the paparazzi trying to photograph it. I've come to appreciate "no photo" policies in museums, and I'm trying to take a few less photos to gain a few more moments in the present.

Cup of coffee outings with friends, and interactions that focus on "quality." I never understand the idea of "social networking" as it applies to friendship. "Networking" to me implies trying to gain something for oneself. True friends don't come in the "hundreds" count. I have a few good ones I can count on for good conversation, understanding, laughter, and companionship, and I cherish them. I'm so grateful they are in my life and that they include me in their own. There was a radio ad in which a young girl tries to get her father to go to a store to buy all these electronics and at the end he asks her among other things if she even knows her hundreds of friends on Facebook and she says, "Oh Dad, you're so 20th century." We'll I'm proudly so 20th century.

That said, I miss the days when people had time to get breakfast at a diner on a Saturday or go out to Friendly's for ice cream and coffee. Everyone seems too busy running errands.

I talked recently about marketers getting to our girls younger and younger, and about the anti-social behavior of people with handheld devices, and please don't feel that this was about judging people. This was about a true sadness about innocence lost. When I was at Friendly's with my mom, who always has time for me, three girls, about 13 I guess, were glossy eyed pulling out their gadgets constantly and putting down their spoons in between ice cream bites to text. There's no living in the moment, savoring that ice cream and the company with you (not on the receiving end of that text). No text so important worth sending while savoring this strawberry Happy Ending at Friendly's. In fact, I don't send text messages at all.

And speaking of youth, feeling nostalgic for the great American family sitcom, which seemed abundant before networks decided it was cheaper to put reality television on air and audiences willing to watch it.

I adore the sitcom The Wonder Years, a show that ran in 1988-1993 chronicling young Kevin Arnold's life growing up in suburbia in 1968-1973. Don Henley sings in the The End of the Innocence, "Somewhere back there in the dust, that same small town in each of us." I think the heart often longs for those simpler times and sense of community.

Remembering Kevin's words in the final episode,

"We were family, for better or worse....Things never turn out exactly the way you plan. Growing up happens in a heartbeat. One day you're in diapers, the next day you're gone. But the memories of childhood stay with you for the long haul.

I remember a place, a town, a house, like a lot of houses, a yard like a lot of other yards, on a street like a lot of other streets. And the thing is after all these years, I still look back with wonder."
Change is part of life, but for me, sometime it feels overwhelming and too fast-sweeping. Do you ever feel that way? Are you nostalgic for any of these things? Anything else?


  1. I love mail. I love putting letters in the mailbox (whether my own or the classic blue one on so many corners), checking the mailbox, pulling out a sheaf of papers and flipping through to see what came for me that day. Checking email can be exciting, but it's not the same as seeing familiar handwriting right in your mailbox.

    I don't think I miss out on moments trying to photograph them perfectly, but I do wish I were better about printing out my digital photos. Curling up with a photo album is just different from looking at them on your computer, and I'm constantly worried about my hard drive failing or something (we do back up our photos, though).

    I wish I lived nearby...we could go out for coffee or tea and not look at our phones at all! ;-) (Several years ago I thought nothing of glancing at my phone while with others, but I've now realized how much it bothers me when other people do it, so I try very hard never to look at my phone while sharing other people's company unless it's an actual emergency).

  2. Hi Cate! I wish I was better at printing them out too, and have the same thoughts about the hard drive.

    I wish we lived nearby too for coffee/tea outings!

    I'm actually debating getting rid of my phone (a flip phone with no internet), mainly to cut out a monthly bill. I have to see the cost of getting out of my contract. I often consider all the things my parents' generation lived without just fine. Is the convenience of it worth the thousands of dollars I've paid for having it? Sometimes, I'm nostalgic for just plain phone booths!

  3. I'm nostalgic for rural communities and front porches. :(

  4. Front porches, yes! Are you familiar with country singer Tracy Lawrence's love letter to front porches, "If the World Had a Front Porch."

    He recalls memories of his grandmother crocheting on the swing, stealing his first kiss, playing guitar.

    "If the world had a front porch,
    Like we did that day
    We'd still have our problems,
    But we'd all be friends.
    Treating your neighbor like he's your next of kin,
    wouldn't be gone with the wind.
    If the world had a front porch, like we did back then."

  5. I don't know that song, but it sounds perfect! I will check out the link.

    I remember taking my nephew (he's 26 now!!) out on the porch swing when he was a baby. Neighbors would walk by and comment on the baby. It was fabulous. Now, he's a mouthy punk and I live in a concrete box. Oh, nostalgia!