On hometowns and non-nostalgia
All my life, I’ve considered myself a highly nostalgic person, and certainly many others along the way have considered me so. Usually, they are being derisive about it. But I realized just recently that it isn’t actually true. I don’t actually do proper nostalgia at all.
Nostalgia is the painful longing felt in gazing back toward a prior “better time” that may or may not (but probably not) have existed. What I realized the other night is that I’m not doing that. I’m not really longing and I’m not feeling the pain, not even the bittersweet kind. See, what I look back on is not only pretty real but it’s not even really gone.
I still get my hair cut down in Townsend, my hometown. This despite the presence, undoubtedly, of many talented hair stylists closer to Peterborough or to Bedford, where I work. There’s no good reason for this other than what you may already know about my irrational tendencies regarding childhood – the very tendencies often easily mistaken for nostalgia. That and it gives me the chance to stop by after or before to visit one or both of my parents without aggressive (but beloved) children making deep adult conversation between parents and grown child somewhat impeded.
So I was doing just that the other night, driving across town from the hair place – across from my old demolished-and-replaced high school (which is something else I should really talk irrationally about on another day) to my childhood home on the other side of town. And it seemed like everybody on Main Street just did a hell of a job with their lights, and it was damn pretty. I started thinking about how deep in the Christmas season we are already, that I should really make sure to slow down and feel this – something that can get away from me even as I ever intentionally seek to do exactly that. I even stopped at the town common because it looked so damn good.
Anyway, though, I know this is not a universal truth, but my specific observation of this specific place was, “This is a damn good place. It really was a good place in childhood, that is not imaginary or mythologized. And it’s still a damn good place now.” I’m lucky in this way, I know, but this is no trick or bias of my mind – lord knows I would denounce the place if it deserved it – but I can’t long for what it was in my childhood because that place hasn’t gone anywhere. And I haven’t really, either.
I don’t care, guys – I think it’s okay, just in this season, for me to get all cheesy and It’s a Wonderful Life on you all.
Enjoy the lights. Raise your glass.