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Nostalgic for nostalgia or not: connecting the dots from the toy box to the boom box

May 12th, 2005 · 1 Comment

nostalgia: a bittersweet longing for things, persons or situations of the past. [American Heritage]


Elizabeth Grigg described her experience at the U2 concert we attended last month [ my post].

Now, rather than feeling pity for those who rally around these nostalgic bands like there was nothing new under the sun since college, I feel empathy. Was your experience as strong as mine? Was your experience as personal? This connects me to others who look back on their lives through these triggers, and is another dimension to nostalgia’s power. In other words, I’m all for it.


The reason why we spend $100 a ticket and more for a dinosaur concert like U2 is few other bands can use music to replay our personal history in one concert. It’s an intensely personal experience, and yes, perhaps the music does not always merit the reaction, but it’s as close to “this is your life” as it gets.

Reading her perspective, I realized why I reacted the way I did [my experience felt a little more like this review from a recent Chicago show, found via U2 Sermons]]. U2 doesn’t own the soundtrack to my life. When I listen to U2, I don’t travel back in time. Pride (In the Name of Love) reminds me of middle school bus rides, not one of my favorite moments. The Joshua Tree songs speak to me of high school, unrequited infatuation and the gratitude I now have that no one pursued me romantically before college and Ted. No nostalgia courses through my body with the beat of the bass.

No one band owns the music that makes my memories. Instead I’ve got a mix of MTV, spliced together pop clips, a variety of top 40 tracks taken across a decade, whatever the radio played while life was happening. Fleetwood Mac and Bee Gees tell me of the time my father moved away. Listening to Journey brings to mind the end of elementary school and memories of my friend A—- wondering how far she should go with T. Prince had his rebellious tones, and it was his movie my friend and I plotted to see, soon as we turned 17. Play Springsteen and I see myself in the new room I had to myself, listening to his album, lying in bed and imagining the next mile time I wanted to run. Bruce’s music is itself filled with lots of nostalgia, the Born in the U.S.A. album crying back to previous generations, of Vietnam and glory days long gone, songs that were too old for me at the time, and I knew it then although I assimilated and attached my own adolescent sorrows onto it.

Part of the problem may be that I couldn’t afford much music. In high school I bought a handful of tapes. My money needed to go elsewhere and albums seemed such luxury compared to clothes, food and school needs. It hasn’t been a priority for me.

Part of it is that I may not be wired for auditory as much as other sensory memories. My ears bother me at times and I know my hearing is not as sharp as it could be. I grew up in a symphony of cacophony, as one of four siblings . Now I often choose quiet over music. I’d rather write in the silence then spoil it with sound.

What brings back memories for me? Perhaps not music, but I can certainly feel some nostalgia for toys. From BlogHer participant Roxanne, I discovered michelle at ASV’s list of best toys from childhood. Fisher Price are my favorites. I already posted pictures of my Fisher-Price record player. At a friend’s home -older friends who saved the toys their kids enjoyed for their grandchildren to use – I spied Fisher Price house and horse, identical to the ones I remember.

Animals mean the most to me. I still keep a stack of stuffed animals in my bedroom. At first I felt they looked childish, stashed in the corner, a pile of Cat in the Hat, a koala, monkey, frog and polar bear. But each of these toys represents a part of my past. The Cat in the Hat was my birthday present from the hospital gift store while my brother was recovering from his brain tumor surgery. When I learned to tell time, my mom bought me the koala, from a woman who had held real koalas. The monkey Hosanna hung out with me in college. Bean bag frog was my first stuffed animal, at age two.

Even when I have happy memories from the past, I am happiest now. I can’t be nostalgic because I don’t want to go back in time. I have my moments of exhaustion, frustration, questions or doubt, as a homeschooling mom of three, but I also know that I am happier now than I’ve ever been. Some things are uncertain but I also feel clarity and peace. Sure, I’d like to be in better shape physically but that doesn’t mean I want to go back to high school. Sixth grade and middle school I’d escape compared to now. Even the early years of our marriage, or the early years of this blog (ha!) aren’t places I want to go, except perhaps for a quick whiff of the excitement of young love and newborn babies. I feel incredibly loved and blessed by people in my life. I’m surrounded by beauty. I’m content and confident, without the clutter I once had inside me. No time machine tempts me. I can’t be nostalgic. I am happy here and now.

Through clicking here and then here I arrived here to read one woman’s confessions of her life as an Amy Grant fan.

Amy Grant symbolized youth, for me.
And sometimes I desperately miss being a dumb kid.

I don’t miss being a dumb kid. Sure, I can tell you the songs that played on the radio after Ted asked me to marry him. I like those tunes (Bryan Adams, Amy Grant) and a certain feeling comes over me even as I think about them. There are probably a few songs from my younger days, such as an old Steve Winwood album, that give me cheery thoughts.

But I’m much happier having kids than being one. And as I have kids I can be a kid again too. Life now is sweet and almost too-good-to-be-true, a Cinderella story but better than a storybook, in fact because it’s fact not fantasy. I hope I can help my own children be nostalgic for the happiness they have but I hope they will always be growing in the contentment and joy Love gives.

Tags: journal

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Julie Anne Fidler // May 12, 2005 at 9:09 pm

    Adulthood is great, but I miss the innocence of youth. That’s something us grown-ups can’t get back. 🙂

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