Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sentimental Nostalgia

I've been thinking a lot about Thomas Wolfe. Well, not necessarily about him personally, but about a short phrase that has entered our vernacular, which Mr. Wolfe likely could never have anticipated.

You Can't Go Home Again was actually published after his death. And, actually, I don't think that is what he inteded for the novel to be called. But, yet, the phrase is probably used nearly as often in our daily lives as "a rose by any other name..." Five or six words that, in both cases, summarize volumes.

Wolfe wrote a lot about change, and I think this fortuitious title means something different to many of us. To me, during a particularly reflective time, it has me wondering if it is every possible to recapture things as they were when you were young.

OK, OK, some of you may be reading this and thinking "dude, you're 29, stop being fatalistic." But I don't mean young chronologically. Yes, I am very young in that regard. However, I feel that I have aged a great deal in the last half a decade, and I often wonder if I will ever be able to again see things as I did before.

This has all been brought on by my current business trip, which has brought me to a too-warm hotel room that is a little too close to Downtown Disney. I just walked through, seeing parents with children and couples in love. I remember being here as a child, remember how beautiful and electric it felt. The Magical Kingdown truly was magical, but as an adult, I see an empire spun of stereotypes and discriminatory practices. When did I lose the fun??

The flip side of this takes me back to Max and Menna. In the book, the title characters recall their lives as children and often point out how they are incapable of remembering this without interjecting the adult perspective. They often muse over whether they noticed being dirty, or simply cannot retell the event without mentioning it since logic promises they were, etc.

But, I think our memories work the other way. I remember Disney World when I was nine being amazing. I remember fireworks clearly, and holding my mom's hand in line for the teacups. I remember kissing Mickey on the cheek and laughing giddily on some roller coaster. Those memories are vivid and easy. I have to think really, really hard to remember that it was oppressively hot that day and my shorts kept sticking to me. I can recall lines being long, and riding Small World over and over because it had AC (despite the fact that it smelled a little bit like vomit). And I remember crying because I was too short to ride anything, but that, too, I have to dig for.

Realizing this at first depressed me. It made me think that I can't ever really "go back" to seeing things so idealistically because I never did in the first place. I filtered out the stuff that didn't fit in with that view.

This isn't depressing, though. It's sort of promising-- I think it is far more likely, and far closer at hand to think that I will perhaps regain the ability to experience everything, and filter out the negative than it is to hope for an entirely new outlook on life after everything I've experienced.

And if I didn't experience the hot days, long lines, and sticky clothes, would the memory of my mom's face staring up at the fireworks be as powerful to me as it is?

Anyway, just some musings after too many days on the road. Tomorrow night, after nearly a week, I finally get to sleep in my own bed. Oh, and eat the special skins from Joe Squared-- they have crawfish. It is a little mean to put those on a weekly special when I am gone half the week, but I will forgive.

1 comment:

  1. Shauna, you will regain the ability to experience everything again. Two years after finishing treatment Bill & I took Hannah to Disney World. She was five and so excited to be there. When Tinkerbelle flew down from the top of the castle before the fireworks began, Hannah looked up at me and said in a whisper, "It really is magical here!" For the first time since my diagnosis, I felt the magic too. You will feel it again - it just takes time.