ISRAEL: The Empty Promises of Nostalgia
They sit there.
A mixed pile of emotions, long lost puzzle pieces of my youth that have surfaced with a surreal reminder of joy and heartache. A collection of recollections of the beauty and naivete of my tormented, confused yet vibrant teen years.
Pieces of papers and assorted mementos, all too precious for me to have thrown away, yet not important enough for me to taken them when I started my married life and moved away.
Yet here they are. Twenty-five years later they have made the journey overseas and have arrived in my home. When my parents cleaned out my childhood home before moving away, I once again couldn’t bear for these pieces of my youth to be thrown out without a second glance. Who knows what treasures might be hidden in their midst.
Now I’m overwhelmed. By the amount and variety of written correspondence I saved. There are letters from my first love at the age of 14, so beautiful, sincere and full of promise. There are tender letters from my husband back in the years before email and text messages. There are stacks of heartfelt letters from people whom I don’t remember, people I’m sure I thought I would never forget. There are letters from people whom I remember but am surprised to find out how close I used to be with them. There are blasts from the past like my old college roommate who by chance recently friended me on Facebook. There are cards and yearbooks full of short wishes and goodbyes.
Some comments make my heart go thump, while others like “ Don’t beat up too many boys.”, remind me of parts of my personality that I wish I could forget. There are words of friendship, caring, support and encouragement that warm the cockles of my heart. And I wonder yet again why certain people stayed in my life and others drifted away.
That’s the hard part of nostalgia, trying to make sense of things, trying to understand how you gently got rerouted to a path so wonderful yet so different than the one you had envisioned.
The empty seductive promises of the past are dangerous, for they’re not real in the present moment in time. They were real in a different reality when you were a different person. Yet even so, it’s hard to read your youth without wondering about alternate endings to your life story. The past is an enticing illusion, a strong magnet drawing you in and distorting the present.