Nostalgia: [no-stal-juh, -jee-uh, nuh-] noun
- A wistful desire to return in thought or in fact to a former time in one’s life, to one’s home or homeland, or to one’s family and friends; a sentimental yearning for the happiness of a former place or time
Nostalgia is truly a mixed emotion. It was on my mind a good bit a few weeks ago as I lingered for several days in my childhood “stomping grounds.” One day, I took my 90-year-old Mom out for lunch. Her mobility is impaired, so we decided to just go for a ride after lunch. Driving through the countryside to “see what there is to see” was one of my Dad’s favorite pastimes, especially on Sunday afternoons.
The hour ride took us beyond the bounds of current time and place to years gone by. First, we drove past the site where my Dad’s remains were buried. It is a beautifully kept cemetery, but my only memories of that place are shrouded with great sadness. The visit did not help. The gravestone was quite easy to read: “RODGERS George Farris Rodgers 6/21/20 – 7/31/2005.” A gentle nudge from Mom prompted me to read the rest: “Louise Mitchell Rodgers 4/27/26.” She very matter-of-factly stated, “They are supposed to add the last line….”
We left that place in silence, pondering a reality looming closer than either of us could discuss. (Wonder if they arrest drivers for speeding in a cemetery …)
Our mood lightened as we drove under the interstate and turned onto the parallel road between it and my high school. I remember watching the construction of Interstate 81 from the entrance of the school. Little did I realize that it would become a well-worn path between my past and adulthood!
Meandering down the country lane where my school bus had once labored, we found our way past a dam and a dry lakebed, musing at the length of years since either of us had been there. Not far away was the little house my Grandparents bought when they left the bitter winters of Minnesota to live near my mother, their oldest daughter. Memories, vivid with sensory experiences, poured into my present conscience, rich and warm as Rodgers Clan coffee.
We rambled past the house that was home during my grade school years. And then, last but definitely not least, we ascended the ridge to the “big house” where all of us lived into adulthood. Nostalgia transported us back 50 years to the “early days” when my parents’ dream home was under construction. I could still see my youngest brother standing on newly broken ground, “supervising” the construction, chewing on a stick, much as our Granddad chewed on his cigars. I could feel the strain of the bags as Dad and I harvested apples for home-made apple pie … taste the warm sweetness of cherry tomatoes from Dad’s garden … smell the vinegar from his efforts at making bread and butter pickles … The memories piled in on top of each other as we drove down the hill towards Mom’s apartment at the assisted living facility. The rest drive was quiet, both of us contemplating a generation of life.
Life moves on. Change is inevitable. There is a finality about selling homes, downsizing, losing loved ones. I acknowledge the odd reality that I am next. My generation is aging with empty nests, graying hair, bodies less and less willing to do our bidding. This week, I joined my peers on Medicare … I am face to face with the reality that life doesn’t last forever.
So, I stand on the brink of whatever is next, and nostalgia vibrates like a bass drum in my head. I’m one of the fortunate ones; life has been largely good for me. But, there is much yet to see, to do, to create. Inside, I’m still young, but my body betrays me. Setting priorities takes on more importance. All those “someday” dreams are fair game now. Perhaps I should begin with the reality of a growing new generation. With the process of giving a new generation wings and roots.
Today, I got my “Silver Sneakers.” Look out world, here I come!