Tuesday, July 22, 2014


Ahhhh, the good old days. That's when things were better. 
Back Then. 
Once Upon a Time. 
Remember When.

Last year I read a great "New York Times" article about how experiencing nostalgia is healthy. When we review our lives, the process of reflection and retrospection can be motivating and satisfying—if the focus is on appreciating the past.

But nostalgia is also an actual period of life. People especially in mid-life and later are known to spend more time recalling the past as they age. We roll our eyes as kids when parents break out that same story for the hundredth time, but telling it (and, I guess, telling it, and telling it, and telling it) is really necessary to a person's mental health and overall wellness.

Telling our stories is a way of making sense of our lives, something our human brains are programmed to do: to find the patterns, and to find meaning in those patterns. 

That’s why I love my work as a personal historian. I get to watch people have those inevitable “a-ha” moments when they step back and look at the larger arc of their lives.

As we hit middle age and become parents ourselves, we suddenly stop rolling our eyes and are eager to understand our parents as real people. Because, it is only then that we realize that they are people, not just roles.

I noticed this when I was making my family farm cross stitch. By what name was my great grandmother known? Was it a shortened version of her first name, that is mirrored in my mother's name? But then why do we have a pin with her middle initial? Perhaps she went by her middle name. Unfortunately, everyone who knew her as anything other than "Grandma" has passed on.

And it is the story of those people that makes them real.

I'm so glad that my parents started me writing in a journal as soon as I could write at all. I find myself reminiscing and re-reading those journals more and more.

My daughter likes to read them, too. The one rule is that she can't read ahead of her own age. So she looks forward to her birthday because it means a new book she gets to read about my life.

When it came to soothing my daughter when she lost her first tooth (that had to be pulled out by the dentist--ouch!), it wasn't Momma that was quite able to help her as much as 7-year-old Tabitha, who wrote in her journal about that first tooth coming out and drew a picture of the blood coming out of her mouth. That Tabitha was able to connect to my daughter in a profound way that only a peer could.

Meanwhile, I'm eagerly learning as much as I can from the eldest members in my family. Asking them to write down their memories, or recording them with my phone when an old story suddenly gets repeated. (Wait! Wait! Let me get my recorder! .... [click] Okay. Go.)

If I were sucked back in time I would lean to the '40s and '50s, or the Edwardian Era. (And I feel such an affinity with trees, I can't say for sure I wasn't also a druid in a past life, too, but I digress.)

Where are you in your nostalgia life-pattern? Are you writing your story or asking your parents or grandparents about their pasts? What are the eras that seem to fascinate you? What’s your nostalgia niche?

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