Good Old Days
Have you ever noticed what an amazing editing job we do when we think about the past? Those summers at the lake have become positively halcyon: gone are the sunburn and mosquitoes, the rainy days, the continuous fights with siblings and/or bunk mates. Smelling still Nostalgia good old days of Mom’s cooking has improved considerably with time and distance, and we remember exclusively the birthday when we got that first two-wheeler that we wanted more than anything else on earth. And then, there are all those old snapshots and home videos where everybody’s smiling. All the time. Apparently, we make a point of not recording any tears. Or – is it possible that no one ever cried back in those good old days? Well, now. Probably not.
What, then? Are we deceiving ourselves? Maybe. Just a little. But maybe we’re being very sensible, too. Even . . . well, rather wise. This way, when things get rough in the as-yet-rephotographed and UN-memorized here and now, we can wander back along Memory Lane to a place of comfort, a place where we can feel as safe as we did back when our parents were handling everything that we’re expected to handle now. Or maybe they weren’t – handling things, that is. But even those of you who had a really crummy childhood can probably remember at least some brief moment of being cared for. Of feeling protected. And it’s not that these places of refuge are fictional, either. There was definitely smiling back then, at least some of the time. And we were not always sunburn or arguing. And somebody held us and kissed away our tears. At least once. And those good times are as real as the times when we skinned our knees, or got punished unjustly, or had a head cold, or wept. There’s a great line from an old Jimmy Stewart-Carole Lombard movie. Poor Carole is having mother-in-law problems. Big time. And her maid (in those old black-and-white movies, it seems like everybody had a maid, even if they lived in a tenement), says, “Don’t let the seeds make you lose your taste for the watermelon.” Which is perhaps a helpful maxim to keep in mind on one of those bad days at the office/with the kids/in a lineup. And for those of you who are now screaming, “But, eBobb! You have to face reality!” let me ask you this: what makes the seeds more real than the watermelon?
The so called good old days when you’re reminiscing with your sister or your best friend from next-door or your old army buddy or your cellmate, and you start telling stories about the good old days, and maybe playing a couple of tunes from back when they knew what good music was (which may be the thirties, the forties, the fifties, the sixties, the seventies, or the eighties, depending on just when your own personal good old days took place, and will be the nineties and the nough-tees, too, before a whole lot longer), why get into the time your cat died or the summer you developed that mysterious rash or your two months in solitary? Kind of spoils the effect, don’t you think? Like making your bed with satin sheets and plump velvet pillows, then splashing on some Krazy Glue. That is, it seems eminently more sensible to be a bit prudent in your selection of reality – past, present, and future. There’s a lot of it out there to choose from, after all.
And so good old days, if things are not going especially well right now – say you just burned the toast or totaled your car or are under indictment for embezzlement – and you’re feeling a bit blue, there’s no need to feel guilty about pulling out the old photo album, noshing on some Ben & Jerry’s like mother used to buy, and playing that tune you remember from junior year in high school. Of course, it’s escapism. But what’s so bad about escape? In fact, if you’re feeling trapped, isn’t escape a good thing? So go ahead: snuggle into the warm and fuzzy comfort of Nostalgia Land. It’ll make you feel better. Without giving you a hangover. And then, consider this: if you can create such a lovely past, maybe you can do the same thing with your future. Hey, it’s worth a shot. Maybe, like your memories, reality is pretty much whatever you think it is.