Childhood Nostalgia

nos·tal·gia | a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.

late 18th century (in the sense ‘acute homesickness’): modern Latin (translating German Heimweh ‘homesickness’), from Greek nostos ‘return home’ + algos ‘pain’

That feeling when I remember something that I cherished as a kid. My stomach sinks down in a sad yet sweet longing kind of way, my eyes turn warm and fill. The origin of this word above captures this feeling so well!

To me it’s a gratitude for those things I found to help me through hard times when I was young. When I couldn’t make sense of what was going wrong in my little life and I found that book or show or painting or song or food that dulled the ache and helped me to feel like everything was okay again. Here are a few of the things that feel like home to me:

Maurice Sendak. CS Lewis. Singing a lullaby. Peter and the Wolf. Riding my bike around town. Shel Silverstein. Happy Meals. High school football games. Franz Schubert. The smell of a church sanctuary. Princess Bride. Listening to someone read a book. The Nutcracker. Baking cookies. Little Bear. Bing Crosby. Watching a ballet. Riverdance.

To be reminded of what I loved, what brought me joy and comfort, and the things I held close seems to reassure me of who I am and who I want to be. Thinking about “who I am” is very bizarre for me. Exploring consciousness and self-awareness freaks me out. I have a hard time understanding it and thinking about how I can “know” myself. What makes me, me? My experiences? My genetics? My likes and dislikes? All of the above? I tend to get sucked down these black holes of existential thinking and it’s exhausting, but I digress.

I’ve come to realize that I’ve had this notion that I’ll become more of who I am every year as I get older, like I’m working toward an apex of “me-ness.” But, when I stop and think, it seems like the older I get I actually (personally) feel I have been moving further away from who I am. My gut tells me I was the most “me” when I was a child. Maybe because of the circumstances surrounding that time in my life and maybe because I was still mostly naive to the world. On further contemplating, when I started to make decisions based on what other people would think of me, that is when I started to chip away at “who I am,” and it has led me to places I never wanted to go. I began to shave off all the weird looking edges and “blemishes” (figuratively and literally–but that’s a story for another time) to make myself more acceptable to other people or to make myself the “me” others thought I was or should be. A lot of settling, compromising, and submitting my will to others. I guess that’s where the bitter part of nostalgia comes in for me.

For whatever reason, this journey of pursuing art again has turned me in my tracks back to the little girl that I was. It’s been strange but lovely.

I keep picturing myself walking toward her on the street of my childhood home. Her image is fuzzy and the light around her is warm, familiar, and inviting like a summer afternoon with it’s dry heat radiating up off the asphalt. The hot breeze makes her sun-kissed hair tickle her cheeks and she smiles a shy sweet grin. She’s glad to see me. She has a lot to show me. I missed her and she can tell. She’s felt left out but, when we look at each other, it feels like home.

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