Yes, you read the title right. No, nostalgia isn’t really my middle name (it’s Kathryn), but it could be if middle names were based on your soul. I was trying to determine if a nostalgic soul comes with age, but I know it hasn’t for me because I have been nostalgic for as long as I can remember. My brother would use the word ‘traditional’ because I used to have a very hard time doing anything other than what we had always done. For example, when we started traveling to different destinations for Thanksgiving, I still demanded a traditional Thanksgiving meal. I’ll never forget the year I finally agreed to a low country boil for Thanksgiving at the beach and the whole time I was eating, I kept thinking “this is delicious, but let’s not pretend this is Thanksgiving dinner mmmmkkk?” I don’t think in that instance that it was about the food, but it has always been more the memories that come with those things that keep me wishing for the details to stay the same.
I often find myself thinking that I’d love to go back in time and relive my childhood, especially on the days when being an adult just gets too overwhelming.
Sometimes it’s a song; sometimes it’s a smell; sometimes it’s as simple as a thunderstorm that takes me back to a comforting time in my life and I’m here for it. It’s like a mini therapy session for me and I like that no one else in that moment knows what I’m being transported back to.
One late night after turning the lights out for bed, I feverishly rambled to my husband to type five words into his phone. He laughed and said, “I love the way your mind works” and I muttered something like “great…now hurry before this thought leaves.” I quickly rattled off five things that always trigger nostalgic memories for me. For time’s sake, I chose the three most often occurring. BONUS: if you’re an 80’s/90’s kid, you will probably identify with at least one of these.
1. Community Swimming Pools
I mean, how else did we spend our summers in the late 80’s/early 90’s? The first time I took my son to a community pool here in Knoxville, I was so giddy for him to experience it! I wanted him to relive my glory days! As eight- or nine-year-old Amanda, I distinctly remember signing the “members’ book” at the pool and walking in to find our usual spot down by the shallow end. My mom would take out her little change purse while I put on my goggles, grab a handful of coins, and throw them in for me to find. I would hunt these coins over and over for hours, people. HOURS!!! Once my hands rivaled raisins, I would get out and head to the concession stand. OK…who doesn’t like a community pool concession stand??? Hot dogs, chips, Coke and for me always a sucker (usually green apple), to leisurely lick while I waited the 30 minutes for my food to settle (looking back now I don’t really think that’s a thing). Then it was back in the pool to practice backflips, front flips, handstands, lemon drops, cherry drops, play a competitive game of sharks and minnows, and build the courage to go off the diving board.
**Sidebar: I’d like to point out that as a little girl I would entertain myself for an entire day at the pool. My mom couldn’t swim and I had no desire to make friends, so I’d play by myself for hours. My kids legitimately can’t play by themselves for minutes. Sidebar over.**
By the time 4pm rolled around, it was time to head home for 1 of 2 reasons: mom needed to start dinner or a blessed thunderstorm was brewing (my favorite). We’d hop in the car with toasty skin, wet hair, and anticipation to do it all over again tomorrow. The only thing that got me to leave that pool without pouting was the episode of Kate and Allie waiting for me at home.
Not one of us can get on a bicycle today without having some form of nostalgia. If you are in a bad mood and you hop on a bike, your mood instantly changes. Every time I see a bike, I can’t help but think of my very first bike. She was a Strawberry Shortcake tricycle with tassels and strawberries on the seat and she was beautiful. I think my parents finally got her for me after I had tried (unsuccessfully) to ride my brother’s bike with the banana seat and they were afraid I’d cause some permanent damage…ahem…well, you know where.
My brother was eight years older than me, but if he could do it, then I thought I could too. Eventually I graduated to a bigger bike that I remember having purple flowers on the seat. My dad and I would spend Sunday afternoons riding our bikes at the local elementary school (Windsor Park Elementary — why can I remember that, but forget my own kids’ birth date when the doctor asks me over the phone?). It was a huge concrete school chock full of ramps and I came to memorize that path around the school like the back of my hand. I’d ride that same path for hours and eventually dad and I would ride home together. I’ll never forget the day I decided to ride down my steep driveway without a care in the world or without looking both ways, and I almost got taken out by the neighborhood ice cream truck…true story. Bicycles were so much more back then than they are now. We rode around the neighborhood, rode to friends’ houses, raced each other down the street, rode to the community pool with our towels around our necks and rode just to be outside. I still see some kids riding bikes in our neighborhood but not many, and I feel like a fish out of water these days when I try to ride a bike. I’ll admit that once I get on and get going though, it’s just like…well…riding a bike and I can’t help but feeling like a little kid again.
3. The Weather
Ok, I saved the best for last. Nostalgic feelings from weather HIT ME HARD. Is it just me? It may very well be just me, but nothing, and I mean nothing, brings me back to a childhood memory like the weather. Sweltering summer days transport me back to my mom’s car with the white vinyl seats in the dead of summer driving to the farmers’ market on a Monday morning WAY earlier than any kid should be awake in the summer. I can almost smell the fresh green beans, corn, and the cucumber/onion/vinegar salad we’d have for dinner that night.
Every dark and rainy day when the wind blows just hard enough, I find myself at the public library sitting in an aisle reading The Babysitters Club, Ramona Quimby, or Nancy Drew while my mom was a few aisles over, probably checking out romance novels (hahaha!). Then we’d walk to the hot dog counter next door and get lunch or an ice cream as we watched the storm clouds roll on by. There was something so cozy about those days and they impel me 32 years later to read on stormy days. A cool, crisp evening in late summer/early fall finds me sitting in a lawn chair in my backyard doing my homework. I remember sitting outside until it was just too chilly, and my bare feet were frozen from being buried in the cold grass for hours. I was ‘grounding’ back then and didn’t even know it! My parents bought me a brand-new furniture set that year complete with a desk that was ideal for homework, but I always felt I could concentrate better and was just happier being outside. The really odd thing is that I don’t have many nostalgic memories about winter. It’s my least favorite season, so I wonder if there’s a correlation there. We didn’t get a lot of snow in North Carolina, so most of my snow day memories come from college and not from my childhood. As an adult, I do love a frosty winter night in front of a fireplace, but I didn’t have a fireplace as a child so it’s not nostalgia that has me loving that. I think it’s just that I don’t like being cold.
I’ve always found nostalgia fascinating.
It’s amazing that at any moment’s notice the right sound, smell, sight or feeling can make you time travel to a past experience. I’m thankful for that and I think it’s why I work so hard to make (force) memories with my children. I hope that on one hot summer day in their future, they remember swimming with me; that on a windy fall evening we decorated pumpkins and ate brownies on the back porch; that on a stormy day we opened the windows and snuggled with stories or coloring books at the kitchen table; and that in winter, even though I loathe being cold, that we all bundled up and took a walk around the neighborhood just to breathe in the fresh air. It’s all we can ask for as parents because once we are gone, our children only have the memories. Sure, we can take pictures that help trigger memories, but the feeling of nostalgia is what triggers the memories in a more organic way. It shows us what has truly become a part of us, and no one can take them away from us until we leave the Earth we created them on. I hope at least 1/3 of my children get my sense of nostalgia. Those memories have truly been a source of happiness for me, and they give me a much-needed break from adulting.