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Our Love Affair (with the Past)
As I’ve grown older, I’ve gotten more closely in touch with my past, and it often dredges up a rich tapestry of memories that trigger all kinds of nostalgic feelings. Baby boomers know nostalgia well. We know that ache in the heart, that yearning for a part of life, a time or place, person or thing gone and that we want to return to, but can’t. Author Thomas Wolfe of Look Homeward, Angel and Of Time and the River, knew it, too, when he wrote that “You can’t go home again.” There’s something very powerful about this emotion that rises in all of us—if we have a heart—and it can come at the oddest and most unexpected moments.
It rose up in me when I saw the old Coca-Cola chest on the porch at Cal’s Courthouse Grille in Charles City this past weekend. I remember the barbeque place in Texas where I grew up. On scorching hot days, entering that place was like stepping into a pleasure dome of ice where the AC was cranked up, the sawdust on the floor felt soft under my feet, and the most enticing beef brisket barbeque sandwich was waiting, topped with jalapenos and chopped onions. But one of the most memorable pleasures was opening the lid of the Coca-Cola chest, dropping in a quarter and pulling an ice cold Coke down the track. That bottle of Coke was so cold and so refreshing, you could feel the rush down to your toes, and the cold air rushed up to your face and chilled the sweat on your forehead.
When I remembered this image sitting on the porch at Cal’s, it brought up memories of my late father who often took me for a sandwich across the street from his shop. Nothing made him happier than a good barbeque and a Coke on a hot day—and perhaps it also made him happy to have me come along.
We all get called back to the old days, whether it’s the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s or 90s. Perhaps for you it’s the smell of cotton candy at a small town carnival, the hood of a ’67 Chevy, a Bogart movie or the theme song of the Honeymooners. But nostalgia doesn’t have to come from a long ago memory. Perhaps it’s that special summer two years ago that you spent with your children or the love of your life—or maybe just a very ordinary day last week when somehow you felt vibrantly alive, and now that feeling has gone. The world and time are moving so quickly now, that “old” isn’t really old any more, and what happened last week can seem strangely old to us. However long ago, if the memory runs deep enough, you get that twittering ache in your chest that brings a smile and tears to your eyes at the same time.
Whether you’re old or young, here’s to all those nostalgic moments in life that remind us of the wonder of being human.
And here's to the pleasant life!
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