Nostalgia (n). 1. A sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.
When looking through old photographs, we often say things like, “Look at this picture of me from when I was younger.” But as my wife would tell you, all pictures are from when we were younger.
Time marches on and nothing ever stays the same.
Nostalgia is more emotion than truth. We look back through rose-colored lenses at a time when we believe things were better. That’s just not always accurate. We choose to remember the good parts, and leave out the bad parts. Than can be a very healthy thing in the right hands. But it can also lead to damaging results.
When my youngest stepson Ricky was very young, he liked to reminisce. He’d say, “Remember when….” and then go on to recount a memory he was having from the previous week or even a few days prior. I called it short term nostalgia. He was thinking of a good time in his mind, and wanted us to relive it with him.
We’re all guilty of being nostalgic about our past. It was always somehow better, cleaner, simpler, grander, quieter, faster, prettier, and most of all, easier. It was always easier.
Remember the first time you went back to your grade school as an adult? It’s so tiny. So infinitesimal. So unimpressive. There’s none of the grandeur you remember from your youth. Nothing to induce fear. Nothing to inspire awe. Just a few small classrooms, with tiny desks and bad art hanging on the walls.
I took my wife Jane to Longwood Gardens this past Saturday. It’s still very nice, but I was a little disappointed overall. It just didn’t hold up to my memories of the place. It wasn’t nearly as big, and nothing was where I remembered it.
Now maybe we just went at the wrong time of year. Granted, it’s fall and most things are done. We were even a week too early for the mums, which kinda sucked, since that was probably the only thing left before they turn it over to Christmas decor.
But also, the Main Fountain Garden was completely under construction, all the way down to the Chimes Tower and waterfall. This won’t open again until 2017.
Even the topiary garden, which I remembered with fascination as a kid, was, well, boring.
The Conservatory, the large series of greenhouses at the center of the garden are always nice, but again, bad timing. All the mums were still in bud. The roses were all dormant. Everything was green, but almost no color to speak of.
They moved the bonsai exhibit, from where it has been as long as I’ve been going there to what felt like a back hallway, with maybe a dozen trees. It was not an impressive display.
We came upon a family of several women and their combined brood of children. Each child was carrying a flower, they’d plucked from a plant or a bush. One had a large rose. Another had some sort of peonie. I couldn’t tell what the other two had. But they were all carrying their stolen flowers proudly. I was apoplectic. I kept waiting to see security tackle them, hogtie each and every one, then remove them from the property. Nothing happened.
When I was a kid, I don’t even think I had to be told that picking flowers from someone else’s yard was wrong, let alone at what amounts to a flower museum. But even if the kids didn’t know better, how were the parents so obtuse? They didn’t see a problem with that? What if everyone did that? After one day, the place would be picked clean, as if locusts had stormed the joint. That’s what they were, human locusts. Last I saw them, they were headed into the cafeteria to graze.
Nothing’s ever the same as it was.