Friday, June 30, 2017

What We Are Nostalgic For

I recently watched a documentary called "If These Knishes Could Talk: The Story of the New York Accent." At one point an interviewer asked Pete Hamill what he was nostalgic for. I thought that was a great question so I posed it in the writing groups and we used that as our spark for a 5-minute warm-up on the last week of circles before summer break. Here is a sample of the responses:

the yellow T-shirt I had with the word "yellow" written across the front (in red); holding a warm dachshund on my lap while reading; running downhill as fast as I could; living with a total lack of self-consciousness; playing kickball in the middle of the road

cigarettes; wearing make-up (for stage characters); my thin body; meeting my parents half-way between Buffalo and Ithaca, to eat and talk and laugh and love; my cats, and how we all lived and slept together

looking at life through a clear, positive lens, and feeling easy about things; the comfortable feeling that each day is filled with possibilities for a peaceful time without anxiety or depression; living with less pressure to be perfect; my first romantic relationship

the Mr. Softee ice cream truck coming down the street, with that jingle playing, and the window so high up in the truck that the ice cream man had to lean way to down to collect our 25-cents and give us all a cone of sweet twirled ice cream in our favorite flavors

life on the road in a motor home; the excitement of the first day of school and also the anticipation of the last day of school; my dad's barbecue chicken; crabbing in the bay off Somers Point; the 4th of July family picnics at my grandparents' home; sailing on Skaneateles Lake; carmel corn

Amazons; real southern fried chicken, the way my mother made it; my father's favorite tractor; intelligent legislation; my sailor hat from 3rd grade

maple "sugaring off" parties; walks through an Austrian village, with the castle before me, the river behind me, and the glorious mountains on each side; making blanket houses with my sister on the porch railing; mom's chocolate pie; mom and dad singing duets; marching around the bandstand at concerts, a part of every summer Thursday evening; finding new paths through the woods on walks with my husband

purple popsicles; my shooter marbles that my mother gave away, along with the marble bag I'd made myself; my one-person pop-up tent; summer days at my grandparents' farm where we could wander in the woods as we pleased; kickball games and croquet tournaments with neighbor kids; the screened-in porch of our childhood home, which served as a summer living room

warm sunny summer days when I could take a nap under the white pine trees, on a soft bed of golden needles

the Beatles; my long hair; my father's laughter; my mother's hoe cake, fried chicken, and turnip greens (cooked with bacon); being a carefree child; my Annie Oakley costume; hot sex

my mother's voice when she read "Winnie the Pooh" to me; the Corner Bookstore's children's book section; being able to find shoes I liked, in a size that fit, in a real store; the farm where I lived as a child, for only three years, but being in that place remains one of my fondest memories

leaving the front door of the house open; riding my bike; holding a cat on my lap; receiving a paycheck; reading the Nancy Drew mysteries; my New York City apartment — a 5th floor walk-up in Little Italy, with the bathtub in the kitchen

Friday night dinners at my grandparents' apartment — roast chicken, peas & carrots out of a can, pineapple cheesecake for dessert — all the cousins coming together ever single week; wearing paisley; the ability to sleep through the night without waking up to go to the bathroom; small shops devoted to selling one single thing, like buttons

the enormous courtyard of our apartment building, filled with as many as a dozen kids, sometimes more: jumping rope, playing jacks, dressing our Barbies, drawing a new hopscotch court every day, bouncing a ball to the rhythm of A-My-Name-is-Alice

summer drives along a winding creek road with my best friends filling every seat in the car; all the fragrances in my grandmother's house; Neil Young playing on repeat through loud speakers; tube rides down the creek, giggling all the way

time spent in Zeno's Pub and also in The Gaff, where happy hour turned into 2 a.m., with no time in between — conversations, laughing, dancing, and beer-soaked optimism allowing this nightly time warp to occur

eating ice cream sandwiches at noon on a hot day, with the vanilla ice cream melting quickly between the chocolate wafers; the sound of the lonely loon, searching for its mate across the lake at night

McCall's sewing patterns; Jimmy Carter as president, airplane trips with no TSA pat-downs; dresses with smocking; rouge; pencil boxes; Crayola crayon colors that have since been retired; television with just 3 networks to choose from; roads without potholes; Chevy Novas

being too young to make decisions; the way Jell-o and Cool Whip tasted, together; an old-fashioned small town fair; having lots and lots of days with nothing to do; writing everything with a fountain pen; having a live Christmas tree, fully decorated, every year

revolution; free love; Be-Ins; dancing in the street; youthful idealism; passion, commitment, and hope

rampant flirtatiousness; instant arousal; constant eroticism — feeling it in the air, in the street, with anyone I met or came across; sexual tension; Marvin Gaye

new things to learn and discover; endless possibilities; that dreamy state of innocence and joy

telephone booths; strawberry ice cream sodas with whipped cream and a cherry, served in a ruffle-topped glass goblet at the soda fountain in the drug store

radio shows that my parents listened to but if I crept quietly out of my room and stood in the hall I could hear them too: The Great Gildersleeve, Dragnet, Inner Sanctum, Meet Corliss Archer

all the kids playing stick ball on my block, gathering in the middle of the street to pick sides — Bruce's driveway was home base, first base was the Lombardi's, and across the street was my driveway — second base

the first kayak trip on the Bog River in the Adirondacks; an old-fashioned doctor's visit and the friendly nurse whose name I knew and whose uniform was always clean and crisp; when people had jobs pumping your gas for you; the clacking sound of typewriter keys

my vast expert knowledge of the New York City subway routes, especially the trains running from the Bronx to Manhattan, and back again; The Shari Lewis Show, with Charlie Horse, Hush Puppy, and Lamb Chop; rowing a boat on a clean lake, my sister and I sitting beside each other, one oar apiece, singing "Michael Row Your Boat Ashore" until we become hoarse

a kind of general innocence among us that is now difficult even to name

Thank you to all these contributors:

Barbara Anger
Barbara Cartwright
Chris McNamara
Gabrielle Vehar
Grace Celeste
Heather Boob
Kim Falstick
Linda Keeler
Liz Burns
Marcy Little
Marty Blue Waters
Mary Louise Church
Nancy Osborn
Patti Witten
Sara Robbins
Stacey Murphy
Sue Crowley
Sue Norvell
Sue Perlgut
Susan Lesser
Yvonne Fisher
Zee Zahava

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