Is life really about living in the present, carpe diem and all that jazz, or is it sometimes necessary and even rewarding to re-visit the past?
This summer has been one of nostalgia and remembering the past for me. In most cases, doing so has helped me figure out the present, and maybe even the future, and in all cases it has made me realize that indeed, time goes by too quickly, and moments and memories are fleeting and precious. Cliche, yes...but also true.
Examples of being "knee-deep in Nostalgia-ville"
Example A: As mentioned in previous posts, I spent a month writing alongside 19 other K-12 teachers in the Denver Writing Project. I have a notebook filled with quick-writes and exercises, many of them snippets of childhood memories that manifested themselves in poetry, prose, or at least words on the page. I worked through the life and death of my grandmother, and some hilarious and horrifying childhood moments among other things, and for the first time I felt like I had "real" and "raw" creative material to work with - stories to tell...most of these stories are from faulty but lasting memories.
Example B: Favorite movie of the summer (and no, I haven't seen Part 2 of the 7th Harry Potter saga yet) - "Midnight in Paris." Why? Many reasons, but one is that Owen Wilson's character time travels to Paris in the 1920's (coincidentally moi's favorite time period) and meets legendary figures like Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Cole Porter, Salvador Dali, Gertrude Stein, etc. I loved the movie because I, as the viewer, also vicariously traveled to a time when bobs, sequins, fine writing, and even finer music filled smoky salons - any writer's paradise. Saw it on the big screen - twice. Now, I'm waiting for the DVD -- because you never know when escaping into Paris in the 1920's will come in handy.
Example C: I found out this week that Cyndi Lauper is playing in concert in Denver at the Ogden Theater. My very first cassette tape was her "She's So Unusual" release - the girl who paved the way for Madonna in many ways, and a real-life Betty Boopish kind of vocalist. Naturally, I talked one of my best friends into going so I can look forward to re-living the 80's - all that hair and leg warmers - in the fall.
Example D: And speaking of 80's, this year for our anniversary we escaped into the 80's via the Denver tour of "Rock of Ages," - lots and lots of big hair, make-up, Poison, and...wine coolers.
Example E: Last weekend, members of the Regis class of 2001 gathered together for our 10 year reunion. While there was some conversation about the present - who we are and what we're doing now, along with the inevitable celebration (weddings, babies, careers, bla, bla, bla) as well as devastation (separation, divorce, illness, unemployment) - most of the talk focused on reminiscing about who we were and what we did...10 or more years ago. The experience itself was in many ways like stepping back in time - most people looked the same (or even better in a few cases - fitter, tanner, filled in, and well-dressed), and time had a way of erasing any of the negativity, drama, break-ups and fall-outs, and replacing it with, well, fondness and nostalgia.
At the Friday night gala there was a shocking lack of dancing as an ambitious band attempted to tackle seven decades worth of music (to hit every represented group's era). We requested Dean Martin's "That's Amore," and you could hear the giggles and snickers from the class of '71 before the opening accordion notes sounded. "Oh, how cute...look Fred, the young people requested Dean Martin." P.S. We may have been among the youngest ballroom dancers on the floor, but I'm fairly confident we had the best waltz, and I certainly had the best partner - my husband - who was not a part of my life at Regis and who I wouldn't even meet until January of 2006 in a post 9/11 world, but who willingly stepped back in time with me to glimpse who I once was to better understand who I would become. Yep, that's amore all right...
So, is it better to remember the past but live in the present? Can we do one without acknowledging the other?
Off an isolated stretch of I-70 between Kansas City and St. Louis, there's a place called "Nostalgiaville." It is, as the name implies, a nostalgia shop, where antiques and collectibles, relics from bygone eras, line the cramped shelves. Crossing the hardwood threshold a silver bell on the door jingles, signaling to the clerk that a patron has entered the shop, another weary traveler who needs to stretch his legs or pick up a last-minute souvenir. For a brief moment, if your cell phone is silenced and it's the off-season, you can breathe in the history of the retro objects, and a little dust, and literally experience stepping back in time.
I visited "Nostalgiaville" once, more than a decade ago, so I'm not sure if it still exists, and if it does, if the floors indeed are really hardwood, and the bell, silver and tarnished. Memory has a way of romanticizing the past, but then again isn't that the point? If we didn't, how would we ever move through the grieving process, survive a broken heart, forgive others, form new relationships, and ultimately, become the people we are supposed to be?