Tuesday, April 29, 2014

3/40 in 40: Purposefully Create Nostalgia

I moved my entire childhood. I can discuss at length the pros and cons of this sort of existence, and most of them are definitely cons. But there are a few things that I am glad I have that are due only to being modern nomads. One of them is memory. I can tell you when things happened, to the precision of a few months, based on season and where we lived. Houses, apartments, schools, all these geographical markers that I can hang memory on.

Then I moved to my house and lived here for 16 years and it is a blur. Having kids did not help because one babyhood is pretty similar to the next. I hook things now on trips I took, where I worked, events that happened on the block (the assault in 2006, the power outage of 2006, umm), and who lived in our house with us (Alyssa, my sisters, Troy, specific pets).

A few years back I started purposefully creating nostalgia. Four steps I have found myself using:

1. Sound/Soundtrack. All nostalgia needs a good soundtrack. Listen to it intently throughout the period of time, with no variation. Last summer it was the Grateful Dead and Van Morrison. Right now it is Amos Lee, Jack Johnson, and Dave Matthews. Several years ago it was Hem, Hem, more Hem.

2. Smell. I started wearing a specific perfume when Billy was born. Wore it for about a year. Now anytime I need to remember that time? There it is. In a less beautiful way, the smell of hospital soap brings back the panic and dread of Fiona's birth. Bleach and American cheese (The smell of any school cafeteria) reminds me of kindergarten. So now I pick a smell and keep it going for the period I want to remember.

3. Sight. I change the background on my phone. On my computer. I put up different posters in my classroom--anything to create a trigger. It's looser than smell and sound, of course, but I know certain fabrics by when they were in my hands before they were quilted, and I remember what was happening.

4. Activity. On that note, nothing creates nostalgia better than knitting or quilting for someone going through a hard time. All those thoughts get caught up in the stitches and every time I look at it or sleep under it, I think of them. Or spend a summer making lemon meringue pie, something out of the ordinary, and then every time you separate those eggs for meringue it will bring that summer back.

This summer's soundtrack was abruptly cancelled about a month ago. I changed the cologne I'd been stealing from Jake to another one I started stealing from Jake. I started using a different soap.

But it will come right back the moment I slice the first August tomato.

And I won't cry. I will just live in that moment, just a few seconds out of our timeline.


Mali said...

I find this interesting - that you so purposefully create nostalgia in such specific ways. Thinking ...

Emma said...

I love these posts. :)

Jan said...

“And there, row upon row, with the soft gleam of flowers opened at morning, with the light of this June sun glowing through a faint skin of dust, would stand the dandelion wine. Peer through it at the wintry day - the snow melted to grass, the trees were reinhabitated with bird, leaf, and blossoms like a continent of butterflies breathing on the wind. And peering through, color sky from iron to blue.

Hold summer in your hand, pour summer in a glass, a tiny glass of course, the smallest tingling sip for children; change the season in your veins by raising glass to lip and tilting summer in”
― Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine

Bridgett said...

EXACTLY. One of my very favorite novels, hands down. Crazy favorite. Right behind One Hundred Years of Solitude. Everyone should read Dandelion Wine. In the summer. Sigh.

indigobunting said...

Love this and you.