Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Nostalgia Still Isn't What it is Cracked up to Be

A summer evening in Brooklyn.  I am visiting a childhood friend.  We've known each other for 50 years.  You can't get more nostalgic than that.

A familiar bell rings in the distance.

It's the Mr. Softee truck!

Mr. Softee was one of the staples of growing up in New York City, along with the Good Humor man.   But I hadn't had a Mr. Softee in - oh, 50 years?

I didn't even know they existed any more.

I had to have a Mr. Softee.  My friend's husband bought me my favorite, a soft vanilla cone. No sprinkles, no gunk, just pure vanilla pleasure.

Do you know what happened?  I had already eaten dinner, and I ended up with a stomach ache.

Sometimes, that's what happens when you try to relive your childhood.

No, nostalgia sometimes isn't what it's cracked up to be.

What is nostalgia?  One definition I found (Wikipedia) says:
The term nostalgia describes a sentimental longing for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations
As we age, we find ourselves slipping into nostalgia more and more.  Just today, I was part of a conversation that turned to encyclopedias.  Remember encyclopedias?

As a 20-something participant in the conversation listened in amazement, the others in the conversations (mostly people in their 50's) talked about parents scrimping and saving so we could have a set in our homes.  By the time they were paid off, (even before that!) they were obsolete.  Then, our parents would have to buy yearbook supplements so they would be up to date. Until the next year.

The 20-something mused "And now we have the Internet."

Yes, we do.  We hold the greatest library man ever created in our hands, and on our laps.

I can miss many things about my childhood.  I engage in nostalgic thinking.  But when it comes down to it, the present, in many ways, isn't so bad after all.  The Internet.  Modern medicine (I wouldn't be alive without it.)  Thin and light eyeglasses.  Whole grains, and organic produce, available in the local market.

Would you rather live in the "good old days"?


  1. Mr. Softee! Oh how I miss that truck. We had them in St. Louis and when I visited my grandmother it was always my hope that the magic truck would come by.

    You are right though, sometimes the memory is better than the reality.
    from the UBC

    1. Thank you for your memory. I always thought Mr. Softee was a NYC experience. So, it was in St. Louis, too? I wonder where else that soft ice cream was served. It was nice, though, knowing that they still exist.

  2. I, too prefer the present, for a lot of reasons. Instead I use happy memories not for nostalgia, but to remind myself that I have been blessed. In fact, my blog post today was about a memory I love: http://www.lemonzestmarketing.com/zestyourlifeblog.php?s=sentimental-journey

    Recently a group I belong to held a Holiday party and created a theme of "60's Glam". Well, I grew up in the 60's, and really remember the turbulent times, and hardly considered go-go boots "Glam". Come to find out, the young women arranging the party got the idea from the "Mad Men" show! LOL, those of us from the era enjoyed our laughs and recollections.

    Isn't perspective interesting?

    1. Yes, perspective is interesting. My husband and I were talking today about how people today will wear peace sign jewelry as a "60's throwback" fashion statement and not realize all the pain and suffering caused by the Vietnam War. And the Mad Men life wasn't glam for the people of that time, either.

  3. Although its nice to think about the past... I do prefer the present!

  4. Ah, lovely post this. Very evocative too. I vividly remember waiting anxiously for the ice cream van to come. It would arrive at about 4:30, when we were all home from school.

    I was intrigued by your question;

    "Would you rather live in the "good old days"?"

    Okay, we used to be much happier with less even though many of us only had one pair of shoes for school, which we wore until they either hurt our feet or wore out, and sure, kids today have much more but don't seem to be any happier for it.

    But I also know that I am lucky enough to be alive aged 59 seeing as I, like most of us, knew people, schoolfriends even, who died young.

    In other words, at least I am lucky enough to still be alive and have memories of my childhood and (up to now) adult life.

    So I'm quite happy to content myself with that....

    Again, thanks for this thought-provoking post.

    1. I totally agree with you. We both are lucky enough to still alive, with memories of our childhood. I even still remember the 60's! (a saying here in the States - if you remember the 60's you obviously didn't indulge in all the excesses of the hippie era.) Thanks for stopping by once again.


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