This weekend, we had some family time with our children and the grands. In picking up some stray items last night, I discovered one of the littles must have been playing with a globe from a basket in our hallway. As I put it back in its place, I realized that to have reached the globe, (s)he would have had to reach over the picture of my older brother…who left us at the age of 61, 12 years ago.
At that moment, I was overcome by this wave of nostalgia…of gladness and ache, reminded of a dear person and a sweet time – in the past. To our little grandchildren, the picture was of someone they didn’t know. My older brother has been a huge part of my whole life – either in real time or through memories and processing life since he died. It wasn’t always pretty either, but I learned so much through loving him and trying to understand him during hard stretches.
One day, when they are older, I will tell them about their great-uncle Robert. They would have given him so much joy…and he, them. He was always great with children…even when we had our share of struggles as adults. Knowing him was worth that struggle.
That moment set in motion a whirlwind of thought – stirred by three other junctures in the last 24 hours that prompted three lessons learned in nostalgia.
1) Nostalgia is deeply personal. It wraps itself around a particular experience, idea, or person(s). Two people experiencing the exact same thing can have very different emotions about it in the moment and as time passes. What is important for us as we reckon with our own memories and that of others is to be gentle with and respectful of the experience and its meaning to us and to others.
Classical guitarist Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar recently posted his arrangement of a medley of themes – by composer Jason Hayes – from the classic video-game World of Warcraft. I personally know very little about this game, except the music (thanks to his arrangement).
My stirred emotions, in listening to this music, have everything to do with Nathan’s performance. However, there are thousands out there who listen to this piece (and those below) with strong nostalgia. The comments on his videos and Patreon Discord channel reveal the sweet memories of all those young people now grown who loved playing that game – waxing nostalgic through the music attached to that experience.
2) Nostalgia reminds us of the past and who we were in the past. Some writers on nostalgia talk about how our memories are glowing, more positive than what was real at the time. I don’t overthink that. When we are reminded of something or someone from our past, and a sweet nostalgia follows, we should just enjoy the moment and its association. Whatever it was in the past, if our memory of it does us good, then that’s enough.
Today, two old friends of mine have birthdays. Now, we rarely talk these days (unfortunately for me) but our seasons together were glorious. At least how I remember it. Working on projects together, praying with each other, laughing at the craziness of life, and talking deeply on things that mattered. These are my memories. Just seeing a birthday reminder refreshes an incredible connection with them. I loved those seasons when we were closer.
You know those times when we meet up with someone and it’s like the time melts away? We are ourselves together…as whenever we were last? That’s the gift of nostalgia…untested. Just a delightful reopening of a vault of treasured memories…of those kinds of friends.
It just so happens that one of these friends is in town this week, and we made plans to visit. The other lives farther away, and it’s been years since our last visit. Still, I’m hoping to move that nostalgia into real time and get her on the phone.
3) Nostalgia brings to the present what we learned in the past – to consider again.
Something brings my mom to mind every single day. Along with that comes all the lessons she taught her children. Her wisdom far surpasses mine, but the nostalgia of memories of her gives me hope to be more wise. She taught us so well. Working outside the home all our lives, she somehow redeemed the time. When she enters my thoughts, the emotions that follow are empowering and full of love.
One day, we olders will be part of what sparks nostalgia for our children and grandchildren. I hope we will have made memories together that will remind them of who they are and who they can be…to God, to us…to all around us.
Last night, on a twilight walk in the neighborhood, I enjoyed a flock of geese flying over. Their honking and precision of flight have always stopped me in my tracks…just to watch. Memories wash over me of times with Dave’s family on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Geese seem often in flight there over the Chesapeake Bay. Maybe these geese last night were migrating south as we move into Fall. Whatever the occasion, I’m always reminded of Lessons from Geese – what we can learn from geese to get where we need to go…together.Photo Credit: iTS Leadership
[If you don’t know that short piece Lessons From Geese – take a look, either in the link above on teaming or this pdf. Or the video below.]
All this is part of the nostalgia that makes me this person today, having lived in that past…with the memories that surprise me in the present…and could help to forge a better future.
Thoughts? Please comment below. Thanks.