At some level, I’m not a very nostalgic guy. As Billy Joel put it in Keeping the Faith, and I quote, The good old days weren’t always good. It seems as though, in the US, there are dreams of the 1950s being the “good old days”, represented by TV shows such as Ozzie and Harriet or Father Knows Best, with dad out working all day, with mom home raising the kids and wearing pearls when her husband came home for dinner. It was never MY experience.
And it’s not just the 1950s. I went to my 10th high school reunion back in 1981 and I found it quite disturbing, so annoying, still fighting the same fights that should have been over a decade before. Or lots of conversations about “remember when so-and-so did such-and-such”; well, either the answer is yes, and so what, or no, and so what. It’s like the Springsteen song from Born in the USA, Glory Days:
Yeah, just sitting back trying to recapture
a little of the glory of, well time slips away
and leaves you with nothing mister but
boring stories of glory days.
Strange, but I found even then that people have a greater recollection of things that I allegedly said and did than I do.
Therefore I was quite interested in this story I saw on CBS Sunday Morning last year, Nostalgia: Power of the “Good Old Days”
But you might be surprised to learn that nostalgia – which is all about the past – has a notorious past of its own. For centuries it was considered a disease and a form of depression. Soldiers even feared it as homesickness, and thought it could kill them.
I could almost believe that.
But it is not so, apparently. In fact:
Reliving good times can be a critical tool for surviving these bad times.
“If right now everything is terrible and bleak, if you’re out of work and you can’t pay your mortgage and you’ve been evicted and you think, ‘there’s nowhere for me to turn,’ it is actually healthy to look to the past and to say, ‘What else have I survived before?'”
(l-r, Carol, Lois, Karen, Roger, Bill)
Now I DID agree to go to my 35th high school reunion a few years ago, but there was only one reason. There were a group of my oldest friends that were going to be there. When I say “oldest”, I mean that we all went to kindergarten together at Daniel Dickinson school in Binghamton, NY, and all graduated together from 12th grade at Binghamton Central High School. The thing about THESE friends is that we had known each other for SO long that we didn’t NEED to rehash old stuff, just needed to catch up on things.
We didn’t say, “Oh remember in second grade when we danced to the Minuet in G?” (I danced with Carol, Bill with Karen, Bernie with Lois.) Well, they do or they don’t and it doesn’t matter. “Do you remember going to Carol’s parents’ summer place in northern Pennsylvania?” Of course they do; no need to ask. There’s a certain shorthand you develop when you’ve known people a long time, even when you haven’t seen them in many years.
Still, I try to be a proponent of Carly Simon’s Anticipation, specifically the last line: “THESE are the good old days.”