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Posts Tagged ‘nostalgia’

Growing up, I spent every Friday night at my grandparents’ home, only a few blocks away from my own.  And we were often in and out of their house during the week as well.  Like as not, when I walked in, I’d find my grandfather sitting in the living room in his favorite chair.

My grandfather wasn’t what you’d call a smiley man.  His resting face was grim.  But he’d beam when I entered the room.  “Hi, Granddaughter!” he’d say.

Always I remember him in that chair, his ash tray stand to one side, the table with the reading lamp and the clock with the numbers that flipped on the other, his feet propped on the ottoman while he watched the nightly national news, or Lawrence Welk, or his soap operas, or as he read Time, Newsweek, or U.S. News and World Report.

Sometimes I’d watch t.v. too, with him cautioning me not to sit too close to the big cabinet television with the record player in one end of it. “You won’t be able to have children when you grow up,” he’d warn me.  Sometimes we’d play checkers on the ottoman.

Granddaddy died on September 24, 1980.  It was my first encounter with death.  I remember entering the house for the first time and dreading the sight of that empty chair.

Granddaddy's Chair 2

When my grandmother decided to relocate to a retirement community, my mother moved into the house, and the furniture Mima couldn’t take was given away.  My little sister got the chair.  I took the Naugahyde recliner from the basement (which I believe was the predecessor of the chair I’m writing about).  It didn’t last long–my kids have always been hard on furniture.

I love old things and I love family things, and over time I had filled my house with items from my grandparents’ house.  I was the one who took that cabinet t.v., even though it didn’t work anymore.  I had the oil pastel portraits of my grandmother and great-grandmother, the Seth Thomas clock that used to hang in the living room, and so many other treasures that I took because I appreciated them and had room for them.  When our house burned down almost five years ago, I lost it all.  And felt guilty for being such a poor steward of family heirlooms and memories.

We’ve lived for five years in a house furnished by the love of friends and family.  We’ve even added a few heirlooms from John’s grandmother’s house.  Over time, the furniture has become ours, safe and familiar.

My sister moved at Christmastime.  She decided she didn’t have room for Granddaddy’s chair and she asked me if I wanted it.  She knew how much it would mean to me to have it.  It found a new home in our family room.

I had visions of spending time sitting in it, but honestly it isn’t a very comfortable chair, at least not for me.  Emily sits in it sometimes, but more often than not it’s inhabited by cats.  Still, it makes me happy whenever I see it.

 

Graddaddy's Chair 1

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Facebook newsfeeds teem with Prom photos this time of year, and–if you are Catholic–with First Communion pictures.  Both are rites of passage that many of us can relate to and which engender nostalgia (or PTSD, depending on what your Prom experience was).

I love attending First Communion Mass, even (especially?) when I don’t have a kid of my own participating.  We made sure to get to church early this morning, knowing that our own second-row pew would be occupied by proud parents but hoping not to have to sit in the very back, or (horrors!) on the wrong side of the church.

The little kids wanted to know what the hurry was and when I told them William moaned, “No! Not First Communion!” I assumed he was concerned about the extra time that would be taken out of his Sunday (a concern apparently shared by many regular parishioners who are noticeably absent on such days).

But no, he said, it was that, “It can’t be time for First Communion again! Time is going by too fast!”

Yes, William is prematurely (he’s in the 7th grade) concerned with the swiftness of the passage of time, something I don’t remember thinking about until I was a Senior in high school worried about leaving my friends to go away to college.

I can’t offer any comfort to William in this area.  If I were to be honest I’d have to tell him, as any parent reading this knows, that time only flies by all the faster as we age, particularly if you have children.  (Christmas, for example, which took an eternity to arrive when I was a child, seems to come around frighteningly fast!)

When all those middle-aged women told me, a young mother with a newborn baby, that it goes so fast, they were annoying, but they were telling the truth.

I remember my own First Communion quite clearly, and it was just over 40 years ago.  Sixteen years ago, I had a very particular idea about the dress I thought Emily should wear to make her First Communion, and it was my very first online purchase (greeted by everyone I told with, “Really? You can DO that?”).  Spring followed Spring, celebration followed celebration, and our last baby made her First Communion just two Aprils ago.

Emily's First Communion

Emily on her First Communion day (1999), in my rose garden in our first house

Jake's First Communion

Jake on his First Communion day (2002), with the peony bush in the front yard of our second house

Teddy's First Communion

Teddy on his First Communion day (2003), in Immaculate Conception Church with our pastor at the time, Father Haley

William's First Communion

William with Lorelei on his First Communion day (2009), in the garden of Immaculate Conception Church

Lorelei's First Communion

Lorelei on her First Communion day (2013), in the Immaculate Conception Church garden

And now I will never have another First Communicant of my own (although I hope to be the grandmother of many!).  Those are days I can’t ever live again, and maybe that explains why there were tears in my eyes as I watched the adorable little ones process down the aisle this morning.

The days are long but the years are short.  I wish I had understood that sooner.

The days are long

Creative K Kids

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Let me start by saying that I love love love the smell of honeysuckle.  That’s probably not an earth-shattering revelation because who doesn’t?  But when I had to answer all those email questionnaires that want to know what’s on your mouse pad and whether you like chocolate or vanilla better, honeysuckle was what I always named as my favorite smell.

This love has roots in my childhood, when we had a fence in our side yard that was covered with honeysuckle and wild roses this time of year.  I remember my mother teaching me how to suck out the nectar, and when I was little I probably was more excited about that than smelling it!  My mother also had honeysuckle perfume–just a very simple roll-on variety from Avon, I think–that I would just love to have if I could ever find something similar.  We all loved honeysuckle so much that we even named our collie Honeysuckle!

After Emily was born, for many years our summer visit to Baltimore was timed for Memorial Day weekend.  When we’d get back home, it was usually late at night, and the first thing we would notice upon getting out of the car was the strong scent of honeysuckle in the air.  So not only is it just an awesome smell, it also holds nostalgic associations of childhood and homecoming for me.

In these parts, May is prime time for honeysuckle, at least for the wild (some would say invasive) and strongly scented variety I’m talking about here.  And all of this has been a lead into a very brief Walking in Knoxville post because I don’t want anyone who loves honeysuckle to miss the chance to take this particular walk before it’s too late to experience the intoxicating scent.

I mentioned Grigsby Chapel Greenway briefly in my most recent greenway post.  It comprises 2.25 miles or so of asphalt trails interspersed with walks through several neighborhoods on their sidewalks.  If you do the whole thing, you’ll get to see many beautiful houses and gardens along the whole route.  But if you don’t have time to do that, or don’t want to walk that far, at least do this:  Park your car at St. John Neumann Church and walk the portion of the greenway that connects it to the next neighborhood.  The smell will probably hit you before you even reach the trail.  The air is positively redolent with it.  (And yes, I know that’s an overused phrase, but it’s really the only way to say it.) You will be walking through what amounts to almost a tunnel of honeysuckle.

honeysuckle tunnel

After that, there is just honeysuckle EVERYWHERE.  Back in the woods, next to the trail, bushes of it, vines of it well up into the trees.

honeysuckle tree

honeysuckle 1

Seriously, go there as soon as you can.  Early morning and twilight will afford the strongest smell experience, plus it won’t be as hot.  And if you do go, let me know!

honeysuckle closeup

 

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When I was a teenager, the poster below (or one very like it) hung on the back of my bedroom door.

footloose kevin bacon

It wasn’t because I had a huge crush on Kevin Bacon, although I did think he was cute.   What I loved was the movie–Footloose.

As I checked my phone before bed last night, I learned that Kevin Bacon, who remains incredibly cool 30 years later and has aged better than most of us, appeared on the Tonight Show and was not too stuck up to engage in a little self-parodying here.

This was serendipitous because at the very moment he was doing this, I was watching Footloose with my big kids (well, two of them) who HAD NEVER SEEN IT.   John picked it up for me the last time he was at the video store, knowing how much I love it, and I’d been waiting for a good opportunity to share it with them.  This weekend, with John and the little people off on a quick visit to Baltimore, was the perfect time.

I was a little worried that they wouldn’t like it, that it wouldn’t stand the test of time or “translate” well across the 30 years that have passed since I saw first saw it.  I even wondered it I would still like it. (Yes, I did, for the record.  Just as much, with maybe even a little more depth as I now have a lot more understanding of Pastor Shaw’s point of view!)  Why should I care so much?  you ask.

I can’t even think of a way to describe the way I feel about this movie and the night I first saw it without resorting to the worst kind of cliches.  I was 17 in February 1984, just like Ren in the movie.  Like many teenagers then and now, my life was completely wrapped up in my group of friends.  I could not imagine a future in which I did not see or talk to them every day and I dreaded the thought of going away to college and leaving them.  We saw the movie at what was then the Cinema 6.  These days it’s an artsy place showing lots of foreign films, but back then it was our favorite theatre, perhaps because of its close proximity to the Downtown West location of Mr. Gatti’s (gone now), which for some reason was our high school’s acknowledged hangout even though the school itself was on the other side of town.

We were having a slumber party at one friend’s house and it was the birthday of another friend, and I don’t remember how we came to the decision to go to the movie, if it was spontaneous or part of the plan from the beginning.  But perhaps it’s worth noting that I remember anything about it at all.  I mean, I know some of the other movies I saw in high school, but no other evening at the movies maintains this much space in my memory, or evokes so much feeling.  I clearly remember watching the opening sequence–all those feet–and feeling excited about what was to come.  But what I remember even more is coming out of the theatre after the movie.

There were, if I remember right, six of us there that night, five girls and one boy.  I can remember coming out of the movie almost dancing–maybe actually dancing, there on the sidewalk to the south of the theatre.  I don’t remember what we talked about, other than how much we liked the movie.  Probably we were discussing what we were going next, which might have been back to the slumber party, or maybe to Gatti’s for pizza–that part I don’t remember.

What I do remember so clearly though is how I felt.  Maybe it wasn’t the movie itself.  Maybe it was just the joy of being young and with close friends, out alone at night under our own steam, having friends who were driving and a couple who even had their own cars.  But for me the way I felt that night is inextricably linked to the movie and always will be.   I felt . . . empowered.  Like I could do anything.  Like life was good and all of it was ahead of me (that part at least was true).

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school pictures0001In the fall of 1973, 21 children started first grade at St. Joseph School.  In May of 1985, 11 of them graduated from Knoxville Catholic High School.  Those 11 kids spent more time together than they probably will spend with anyone else, ever, other than the members of their nuclear family.  Eight years in the same room for seven hours a day, nine months out of the year.  Eight years of crab soccer, swinging statues, wooden kneelers, chocolate milk, Elmer’s Glue, singing on stage, three-legged races, film strips, overhead projectors, and lectures from Sister Janice.  Every word I write unleashes a torrent of memories.

8th gradeHere we are in the 8th grade.  Can you find the original 11?

I’m thinking about this today because this afternoon I was a guest at a baby shower for the niece of one of the 11, my friend Amy Wilson.  After many, many years of not seeing each other at all, we’ve reconnected through Facebook.  We were marveling over the fact that we’ve known each other for 40 years.  How many people do you know for that long that you aren’t related to?

None of us chose to spend all that time together.  Not all of us were best friends.  We hated each other from time to time.  But we shared so much.  Without necessarily knowing each other well today, we know so much about each otherwho was a fast runner, who got picked last in gym, who had a crush on whom, who had trouble reading, who got what kind of grades on tests, who liked what music, who got paddled or smacked with a ruler, what everyone’s parents looked like when they were young–and so much more.

Six of us see each other on Facebook, some more than others.  Another one I see most Sundays at church.  One is my sister’s husband’s sister (is there a less awkward way to put that?).  Another I got to spend time with at a funeral last year.  I’ve written letters and shared pictures the old fashioned way with one friend for years.  We lost one of the 11 suddenly 15 years ago due to an undiagnosed heart condition.  Several of us were at his funeral.

We are connected to some people by birth and to others by choice.  But this feeling of connection to my schoolmates, which only seems to grow stronger as I grow older, is an unasked for, unexpected blessing.

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More on the topic of when your kids are like you . . .

I really should have taken a picture, even though all you would have seen was the backs of their heads. The other night ALL FIVE of our kids (Emily being home from college for the summer already!) were lounging around the family room watching Star Trek (yes, of course it was the original series. And they were watching “Amok Time,” one of my favorite episodes ever.)

I cannot remember a time I didn’t know about Star Trek. I watched reruns with my father on Sunday afternoons. My cousin chased me around from time to time pretending to be Sulu (don’t know why!). I cried when Spock died (one of the first times I can remember crying over a movie).

So I liked the show, but then I met John and he was a FAN. He had Star Trek novels and technical manuals. He got a calendar every year. He had DOLLS, for heaven’s sake! He’d been to conventions! Yes, he was a Trekker (NOT Trekkie. That’s insulting.).

After we got married, we used to go to Blockbuster every few days and check out two episodes. We watched them all in chronological order. We started collecting them. I gave John some awesome Star Trek gifts from the Franklin Mint–a 3-dimensional chess set, a model of the Enterprise, a phaser. He acquired a tricorder that actually made noises! We collected tons of memoirs and novels and novelizations. We bought more dolls on eBay. We had a vision of the room where one day we would display this magnificent collection.

Well.

We still have the books.

Anyway, let’s cheer up, shall we? On a recent trip to McKay’s (our used book and movie and CD and album store that we LOVE) John acquired the entire original series on DVD. Jake has started watching them almost every night. A few evenings ago William and Lorelei got into the act. John had very definite ideas of what he wanted to watch on t.v. before bed but the little people had waited ALL DAY to watch Star Trek with Daddy and they weren’t taking no for an answer. “If you won’t watch it,” proclaimed William darkly, “There will be CONSEQUENCES.” Guess who won that argument?

All of which led to that golden moment the other night in which without argument all five kids sat entranced in front of the t.v. watching Spock throw plomeek soup at Nurse Chapel while John and I worked in the office and listened, able to visualize the whole thing without even looking at the screen.

(I did go out to watch Spock smile at the end, though. That’s my very favorite Star Trek moment.)

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A Breath of Smoke and Ashes

It’s there every time I go into the garage.  The smell of fire.  It’s there, and then I’m here:

That’s not a place I really like to be, figuratively or otherwise.  In fact, it’s become a bit of a thing:  I don’t drive down that part of Northshore any more, no matter how inconvenient the detour.

But I can’t avoid the garage.  And the boxes of pictures and books that survived the devastation.

I’ve decided that the books will stay in the garage.  We will put them on shelves, and whenever I decide to read one I will attempt to clean it then.  Occasionally I will pick one up and flip through it, and leave the garage with sooty hands that smell of fire.

Then there is the box of photo albums and baby books, miraculously rescued from a cabinet in the office.  The pictures need to be removed from the albums.  They are probably deteriorating.  I can’t make myself do it.  Emily will finish the job she began over Christmas this summer, I’m sure.

Right after the fire I worried that I would always be haunted by the smell of burning, that I would never be able to enjoy the scent of a campfire again.  But that’s not the case.  Campfires, smoke from a barbecue, the aroma of someone’s fireplace in winter, even the mulch fire running amok near downtown right now–that doesn’t bother me.  It’s the singular scent of our own personal fire that I find uniquely disturbing.

Seven months later it both seems long ago and very close, especially when another loss makes itself felt, when I suddenly think of something that I have only no, I don’t have it anymore.  It’s a little joke around here, saying, “I had that, but IT BURNED UP!”  But there’s a morbid part of me that keeps me lying awake some nights going room by room (not of the burned house, which to be honest never really felt like home, but of my Victorian house), looking in each drawer at things that are gone, remembering even what the drawer pulls felt like, torturing myself with my incredibly clear visual memory and discovering new things that I haven’t had a chance to feel sad about yet.

 

 

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