Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Nostalgia

Maybe you've seen this scene from Madmen as the Kodak Carousel is introduced.  If not, go here and watch it and then come back to the blog.

In Greek, nostalgia literally means, a pain from an old wound.  In someways, this blog has been about nostalgia.  Even those topics of current inspiration draw life from the past.  You never escape where you came from or who you were.  We change, we grow but somehow the past is always with us beckoning us to remember.

I think the pain we feel as we recall the past is cause not by the wound by knowing we can't go back.  We see visions of the past and we want to go back. We want to go back not because we made some horrible mistake and need a do-over.  Rather we want to go back to experience the joy, the wonderment, the excitement, or any of the myriad of human emotions that can explode at anytime.  While a small substitute for time travel back to that moment, a memory can cause us to relive such joy and sometimes such pain.

I've shared a lot of my painful past with you; the first marriage, the death of a granddaughter, molestation, the marginalized woman on welfare , the young woman staring out a window - so many snapshots of pain.  You journeyed with me as my mother was laid to rest on a dreary cold winter morning.  I've shared the pain of the present as well.

I have been cut off from my past for many year..  My past was cut off by many moves - to various places in Missouri, to North Carolina, to Connecticut, to Tennessee, to South Dakota - each place, I've left a piece of myself.  Each place resulted in some loss and some gain. It's hard to be cut off from your past.  it's hard because no one can echo as I share my memories.  For me, the distance from the little girl in Brooklyn skipping, jumping, and bouncing her spauldeen, is very long.  When I speak of her, it is like an old picture found at a thrift store - you wonder who they are, but you have no connection.

This morning I felt the joyful pain of walking to Sunset Park pool with my panties wrapped in a towel clutching my nickles. My husband listened patiently as I counted the number of blocks I walked and how I dug for the long blue ice in a freezer paying for it with my last nickle.  I'd snip the top and hope that the long tube of sweet goodness would last as the sweltering pavement undid the coolness of the pool.  When I got home, my tongue and mouth would be blue.  He could only smile.  He could not provide the echo of adding to the story.  He could not talk of sitting on a stoop later in the evening as the sunset playing tag, hide and go seek, mother may I, statutes, or listening for the jingle of the Good Humor truck or the the melody of Mr. Softee.

As I looked at the picture of the pool realizing these were the very steps from which  my little feet descend into the water.  I thought it was like a baptism of love as my father held me, holding me up, teaching me to float and swim.  But without an echo, the story falls on smiles that don't truly understand.

I often feel that my memories seem unreal.  I know they are true but no one shares them with me.  No one else was there - no one can answer back and say yes, and do you remember this?  My memories had no echo.   Of late, I've seen pictures of me at Sunday School picnics, ice skating at Prospect Park, getting ready to sing a special at church - oh how precious to see me at these places again.

I'm in the second row, the fifth from the left sitting next to the leader in the middle.
Somehow, I managed to be the only girl whose face is partially covered.
Yesterday my heart leaped.  Another memory was validated and strengthened. Yesterday, I saw the little girl who walked the two blocks in a pale blue skirt and white blouse to 59th Street church.  It was scary at first. I missed Sunbeams - now I would be a Pioneer Girl.  New leaders who didn't know my name or my family - they were kind.  They welcomed the shy little girl anyway.

As I looked at the picture my mind flashed to a cracked marble necklace.  We fried marbles in their church kitchen transforming them into beautiful gems.  I loved that necklace and wore it often.  I posted my thoughts in our Brooklyn Norwegian Facebook group.  Immediately it sparked a loving vision in someone else.  She said - yes, and we dipped it in ice water and that's what made it crack. YES!!!  I had forgotten.  I thought it just cracked in the pan.  Someone to echo a memory - at last.... what a wondrous thing.  An echo, someone to say "yes, the leaders did say "catch-up" to make us form a line with our pilot and co-pilot."

I have echoes on Facebook.  A mixture of people with the same memories of egg creams, black & whites, good pizza, and who understand me when I speak of my childhood.  They can echo and I can echo, and together we form a symphony of nostalgia.

Yes, nostalgia brings pain, but it also brings joy.

3 comments:

  1. Enjoyed your blog -- filled with so many memories and thoughts right now... hard to put into words how I feel. I guess it's like you said, nostalgia brings pain but also brings joy.

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  2. Joyce this was beautiful and sad at the same time. I too remember those memories of Brooklyn but my pain came in the form of a mother who was an emotional abuser. Each of my sisters have lived lives to fill the whole that a mothers love should have filled. Dad died at an early age and we were left with a woman who didn't love, care or show emotion. we raised ourselves. since I was the oldest I took care of my sisters both in the neighborhood and at school. It was very bad. Ah but let's not dwell on those days for when we do we loose sight of the good in front of us. Thanks J. xxoo

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  3. Joyce, I read your words and "saw" you, our shared memories don't just echo between us, but resonate. You're my sister in Christ and neighbor in Sunset Park...and thank you for contributing to the future of our shared community...tony

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