I used to think of nostalgia as cheesy, sentimental drivel to be taken in very small doses.
I can’t speak for others, but I’ve found that for me, my past is my history. I pick and choose the things I miss, separating them from the things I’m glad are gone.
As I take a mental pilgrimage to the past in search of what I regret having lost in the present, I guess I actually have become nostalgic.
I didn’t know it at the time, but some of my growing up, coming-of-age years were lived in one of America’s most interesting decades.
The 1960s were a mixture of the good, the bad and the ugly that included Kennedy’s assassination, the Civil Rights Movement, the shooting of Martin Luther King, Vietnam, Women’s Lib and the Hippies.
I’ve never been a 60s buff. But a few years ago, I visited the Beatles’ Museum in Liverpool, England. It was fun strolling along, gazing at life-sized murals of Paul, Ringo, John and George.
While I sang karaoke with my special needs friends, I remembered doing a modified version of the twist to “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” But I didn’t have the slightest twinge of desire to go back to those times, not even for a day.
If my thoughts turn to any given moment in the 60s, I’m inclined to call up the growing pains of those times. It seems my nostalgia is triggered more by today than by yesterday. I’m only hankering for 1963 when I’m faced with 2020.
When I search for a television show to watch these days, I’m confronted with “The Bachelor,” and “Survivor.” As a teenager I enjoyed “The Andy Griffith Show,” “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and “I Love Lucy.”
I laughed at Goldie Hawn and Arte Johnson’s antics on “Laugh-In.” For drama I liked “I Spy,” “The Avengers,” “The Twilight Zone” and “Alfred Hitchcock Presents.” One night a week, I’d flip on Educational TV and sit with my supper on a TV tray watching Julia Child concoct Duck a l’Orange, an omelet or a soufflé. And I sat up late at night with Johnny Carson.
When I heard not long ago that the students in a senior level English class at Auburn University read a Maeve Binchy novel and watched “Terms of Endearment” in class, it made me want to cry. In my English classes at Auburn, I read Faulkner and Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Austen. Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. Eudora Welty and Flannery O’Connor. George Elliot, as well as T.S. Eliot. Agamemnon, Aeschylus and Sophocles. I was influenced by Thoreau and James Baldwin.
So it turns out, it’s not the past, but the present, that make me so happy about the past.
I think about how things have changed since my girlhood days. And, the words from a tune in the musical “Oklahoma” come to mind. “We’ve gone about as fer as we can go!”
Mary Belk lives in Auburn and writes a column for the Opelika-Auburn News.