A Sunday Chat with Myself—Nostalgia

“Nostalgia is a file that removes the rough edges from the Good Old Days.” —Doug Larson

I’m the proud product of German parents and I can still speak conversational German. When my children were still young and had young families of their own, it was the a Christmas custom in the home of one of my kids for me to  sing “Silent Night” in German to the gathered family.

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,
Alles schläft; einsam wacht
Nur das traute hochheilige Paar.
Holder Knabe im lockigen Haar,
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!

Nostalgia is more than just a ‘yearning’ emotion. It can also involve homesickness. It’s a thought process, so, it’s both a thought and a feeling. Used properly, nostalgia can even act like a healing—a cure for something that may have happened in one’s past. Freud believed people who dwelt too much in their past nostalgic moments were unable to move forward in life. I believe Freud, that this is a danger of nostalgia. On the other hand, a little bit is good for you; too much can be restrictive.

I like to think of myself as having a fairly good balance in regards to the time I spend in nostalgic moods, where nostalgia acts as a body healing and an inspiration instead of a restriction. For example, today I’m sitting in my office chair, feeling blue, lagging motivation. How do I get out of that negative mood and do something? Nostalgia can help.

I think of the times in my past when I was full of ambition and enthusiasm. I was going to change the world! Memory—Nostalgia, lets me remember many of those past dreams when I was full of energy.

“how sad and bad and mad it was – but then, how it was sweet”  —Robert Browning

Flashback.

Having grown up on a small Saskatchewan farm in the days before many of the modern farming practices were common—combines weren’t invented yet, or at least they hadn’t appeared yet in our area. In my youth,  the “stooks” had to be loaded onto “hay racks” and then brought in to a central point where a threshing machine would separate the grain from the stocks. The stocks—chaff, were then be blown onto one big pile by the threshing machine. These huge straw piles would serve a double purpose during the winter months on a farm. First (and I suppose, most importantly) they would serve as sort of a free range eating area to the cattle when they were let out of the barn, plus act as an insulation from the snow, should a cow want to lay down.

Second, this straw pile would act as a playground for us kids. During the week we were generally too busy with school and helping with farm chores to do much playing, but on weekends, it was common for the neighbor’s kids to come over and one of our activities was to dig deep tunnels into this straw pile. Because of the straw’s insulating ability, it was quite warm inside these tunnels, so we could even take off our heavy winter coats inside the tunnels. And there was always enough light reflected so that the tunnel was never in complete darkness. It was really a lot of fun, and we unshackled our imaginations even to the point of daring in inventing games to play. It was fun, and often it seemed like we had barely begun when the call came from mother that it was nearing supper time, time to get cleaned up and come into the house.

Ah, yes, how well I remember! There was my friend, Robert—he was afraid of the dark, so he never ventured too deep into the tunnels we dug. Harry was the venturous one. He’d often scare even me in some of the crazy antics he’d perform. Then there was Arnold. I think he’s dead now. He was sort of a sickly kid, even when he was young.  Haven’t heard from him for a long time, and Raymond, he was the youngest in our group, so he’d still be alive …

Fast forward to today.

I wonder how Raymond is doing? Did he ever marry that little redhead he had a crush on when he was still in his late ‘teens? I look up the last address that I have for him, and begin to write:

Dear Raymond:

Do you remember the times when you’d come over on Saturday and we would build these tunnels in our haystack … ?

Thank you, nostalgia! You got me out of my doldrums!

I walk into memory lane because I know I’ll run into you there.