Did you know that, Boomers and Gen-Xers are looking back to their youth, collecting . . .
. . . even decades old video games
So says, Jeff Nilsson in “Nostalgia is Good For You,” an article from The Saturday Evening Post that claims that “Nostalgia is one of our most potent methods of creating the self, something like the greatest-hits collection of who we think we are and what we want to be.”
Other gems from the article:
Happy memories let you take a break from negativity. Memories are a psychological immune response that is triggered when you experience little bumps in the road. ~ Tim Wildeschut, PhD
Nostalgia helps strengthen our sense of identity and make us feel more optimistic and inspired. ~ Studies from the University of Surrey, the University of Southampton, and LeMoyne College
Billy Collins, US Poet Laureate from 2001-2003 wrote a satirical twist on looking to the past in these excerpts from “Nostalgia”
Excerpts from his poem “Nostalgia”
- Remember the 1340s? We were doing a dance called the Catapult. You always wore brown, the color craze of the decade. . .
- Where has the summer of 1572 gone? Brocade and sonnet marathons were the rage. . .
- The 1790s will never come again. Childhood was big.
People would take walks to the very tops of hills and write down what they saw in their journals without speaking. . .
- I am very fond of the period between 1815 and 1821.
Europe trembled while we sat still for our portraits.
And I would love to return to 1901 if only for a moment,
time enough to wind up a music box and do a few dance steps,
or shoot me back to 1922 or 1941, or at least let me
recapture the serenity of last month when we picked
berries and glided through afternoons in a canoe.
Aunt Ruthie Longenecker remains in my mind as an able, wise woman, never flagging in her roles as school teacher, then principal of Rheems Elementary School, tax collector of West Donegal Township, along with bookkeeping for Bossler Mennonite Church, and Longenecker Farm Supply, my Dad’s business.
Paging through the diaries of my aunt, Miss Ruth Longenecker, always evokes the past for me, almost always in a good way. Just now, I catch a whiff of nostalgia when I “inhale” entries from her diary, this one from 1934, the year she turned 16 and graduated from high school.
Here, Aunt Ruthie shows struggle and vulnerability, taking hard courses, and worrying about tests in school while helping the family: gardening, cleaning, and making her own outfits on the sewing machine.
Much of the writing is full of emotion and garbled. . . hard to decipher. . . some thoughts seem random. After all, she was a teenager!
May 23, 1934
Physics test and was it something. I don’t think I ever took a test I knew as Less, for all the 5 hours I spent on it. I helped Groff’s [close neighbor] plant sweet potatoes this eve. I studied for History but German and Geometry mean 2 o’clock in the Morning. Oh how I hate to get up in the MORNING!! I started to study at 1:30 instead and last test over History was terrible. German not so bad, but was Geometry long. Edwin Boll was buried today. He had Appendicitis. I got a B in Physics! fathom that if all the next stay at B.
May 25, 1934
Cut a print (dress?) and started on it. I attended Class Day tonight and were they talked out . . . .
May 26, 1934
I worked at my dress today and mowed the [tough] yard. This after I cleaned [brother] Ray’s car. This evening cloudy.
May 27, 1934
It was windy today but the robin sat at perfect ease on the nest outside my bedroom window. I was watching a procession of ants. They sure are interesting. Stanley (?) Longenecker preached at Bossler’s tonight.
May 28, 1934
Ray and I were at Commencement tonight. Russell Keebler, J. Liston, and H. Alwine spoke for the class. Dr. Meek spoke on “If I were eighteen again.” That sure doesn’t affect me. Ray and Emory had such a long after meeting that I was ___?___.
Dear Diary I want you to understand I worked today! I hoed most of the garden, finished ironing and loads of __?__. Believe it or not I have decided to not eat between meals. Antique dealer here. Of course I sold (NOTHING!) . . . .
Some of my diary “translation” is incomplete. Sometimes the cursive pencil seems like a foreign language. Feel free to add or modify the entries if you are so inclined. Truly!
Do you collect old stuff? Is someone you know a collector?
Your take on “nostalgia,” both the benefits and the liabilities.
“My Grandmother’s Precious Heirlooms Versus My Precious Heirlooms,” The New Yorker, May 28, 2021
Good morning, Marian! I’ve said it before, but you are so fortunate to have all these written and photographic treasures!
Ruth is so lovely in her yearbook portrait, and in her diary she recorded the events of the day, her hopes, fears, and observations. Not so much non sequitur, as just the way things float into your mind. I love that she stops to write about the robin and ants.
Nostalgia can be positive, but I think it can also be negative when people pine for a false past. I roll my eyes at “good old days” posts I see on social media. 😀
I liked her robins and ants bits too. Probably stream-of-consciousness would be a better way to describe her recitation of thoughts. She had every right. After all, it is her diary. And I am aware that nostalgia has a flip side if one romanticizes the past.
Yes, I am blessed that these diaries were intact when I found them in her cedar chest. Thank you, Merril! 🙂
You’re very welcome, Marian.
I can’t believe I am this early…I have always kept a diary I wonder if mine will be so interesting in the years to come if no one throws them out on my demise…I agree that nostalgia makes us feel good…I am a collecter of old minature rocking horses and they all have a story which remiinds me I need to write those down…Your aunt Ruthie was a very pretty 16 yr old a lovely smile 🙂
There is a huge time difference between Thailand and the USA. I believe you are “ahead” of us as it is early morning now in the States. Miniature rocking horses would not take up much space, I’d think. We had to part with Aunt Ruthie’s “toy” rocking horse, large enough for a child to ride.
Thanks for tuning in today, Carol! 🙂
how poignant and enlightening….no wonder during 2020 and even a bit in 2021 I clung to nostalgia.
Welcome, Sara! You know the power of storytelling and valuing memories. What a legacy you are leaving with your writing. Do visit again. 🙂
I get irritated with the “when we’s” or “in the old days” … people who always think life was better back when … recalling memories though can be quite delightful. Or going through photos. Or remembering the story behind eg a scarf or other such item. Such a lovely photo of your Aunt Ruthie Marian, I can see the goodness and her keen mind in the picture. I still hang on to my journals from when Moses was a boy so I don’t know why that says about me.
Yes, Susan, I’d enjoy knowing the story behind a special scarf, if you’d be willing to divulge it – ha!
Thank you for reading this and showing your appreciation for a strong mentor in my life, including my mother and grandmother.
Hanging on to journal, I think, says you value your history, whether or not you want to pass it on to the next generation. Many thanks! 🙂
My husband loves nostalgia – I love it much less. In my opinion we have way too many physical reminders of the past – all of the above, the LPs, cassette tapes, old cameras and typewriters that you mentioned. I would get rid of most of it and savour the memories. Alas.
Yes, there is a downside to nostalgia, especially if people mourn their lost youth or refuse to accept the newer technology. You and I probably know people like that.
Thanks for registering your opinion here, Arlene! 🙂
I love how you reconcile the need for old things and nostalgia in our lives here, although I’m with Arlene, right above my comment here! I have no need for old cameras and long ago got rid of my last manual typewriter! (The diary sharing here makes me want to go look through my old journals and tear out pages I don’t want anyone reading! Ha. Mostly kidding, my life was pretty not-on-the-wild-side.)
Thanks for the comment—and the smile here. I would guess that your life, like mine, was not-on-the-wild-side either.
When we moved I got rid of 1/3 of my stuff, and I have to guard against another build-up. One thing we are doing is digitizing old photos. That way, there’ll be a record of the past, but not the bulk. My sisters have taken some of them.
I have no idea what Aunt Ruthie would think of my publicizing her life story. She would understand keeping memories alive for posterity. Her life, too, was not lived on the wild side, at all. 🙂
That poetry excerpt is hilarious!
As Merril mentioned, what a treasure to have your aunt’s diary. I wish I still had my grandmother’s autobiography, which she typed herself. It disappeared.
I have a small diary that I made when I was 11. So interesting to look back at it.
Sorry your diary “disappeared,” but I do understand how that happens sometimes. Your diary at age 11 has piqued my interest. If you are willing to share excerpts from it, I’d be an eager reader. Thanks for your input here, L. Marie! 🙂
Aunt Ruthie did more in half a day than I do in a week! I’m not a nostalgic sort of person, so I didn’t know collecting those things is now the rage, as they used to say. For me that stuff is what I’m trying to get rid of.
“That stuff is what I’m trying to get ride of,” you say. “Me too,” I say back, though I won’t part with the diaries.
Yes, Aunt Ruthie was a workhorse. Although I never saw a checklist lying about, she probably mentally ticked off a to-do list. I don’t think such an impulse is necessarily inherited. Her mom, Grandma Fannie, got things done but left the garden willingly if her grandchildren came to visit.
Thanks, Ally! 🙂
I definitely believe nostalgia is good for our mental well-being…at least it is for mine. I know I’m in the here and now, but a trip down memory lane makes me feel good. It also helps to keep me positive. I’m not in to holding on to the stuff, unless it’s a handwritten sentiment. I could never let go of my grandmother’s diary.
I think your trips down memory lane enhance your novel writing, especially with fragrances, which infuse your writing. Yes, I too hold on to handwritten notes, a dying art for sure. You are wise to hang on to your grandmother’s diary. Besides its sentimental value, it has historical significance too.
Thanks for all this, Jill! 🙂
Marian — I’m an “eyes on the horizon” kind of gal. I enjoy looking through the windshield with a nostalgic glance in the rearview mirror now and then.
Sensory details in your novels probably recall the past or recent memories. I understand the impulse to move forward. After all, you have a contract with more thrillers to write. Looking forward to all this, Laurie! 🙂
I’m glad there’s someone like Arlene’s husband that loves old things. I guess for me it proves I’m a relic of the past.
Objects and old photos put me back into earlier time zones of life. I’ll quote the famous Jill Weatherholt: “I definitely believe nostalgia is good for our mental well-being…”
By the way, when trying to scan Ruthie’s writing into legible cursive in her 1934 Diary was especially challenging. She most often wrote in pencil and very lightly. I always admired her style of writing cursive. She did it left-handed and her style flowed more like someone with good penmanship using their right hand!
Huge huge for your Herculean efforts. Ruthie’s diary is older than some of the others + her writing was more sketchy than in later tomes. Very much appreciated! oxo
Last night I watched a neighborhood girl roller skating on the street in front of my house. I was taken back to Saturday afternoons in my early teens when my friends and I went to the roller skating rink and had such fun. i wonder what todays 15 year olds will look back on when they are my age. I can’t imagine.
Joan, I remember those days but didn’t participate, except to ice skate on winter ponds.
You pose an interesting question about how current teens will recall their younger days. For sure, they’d remember video games. My grand-daughter would probably recall playing with Barbies with her cousins. Thanks for adding to the conversation here, as always! 🙂
I love looking at old pictures. We are a family of picture takers, which is so great. I think it is important to look back and to see where we have come. Seeing family resemblances in the younger generations always makes me smile. My daughter, a Gen Xer, loves old things. Her house is like a museum! I love the excerpts from your Aunt Ruthie’s diary. Teenagers are the same through the generations!
You know, Darlene, photos recreate history as nothing else can. Recently, I saw a snapshot you posted of grandchildren and saw echoes of YOU! My children have inherited my arched eyebrows, and one grandson is tall and lanky like his Grandpa was at age 17.
I believe your daughter is an exception. Many Boomers and Gen X-ers are consumers. Think of Rooms-to-Go, cheap and easily replaceable furniture. One of my grandsons, however, has dibs on a water pitcher monogrammed with a B and a blue velvet chair in the living room. He’ll probably want some paintings in the garage we don’t have wall space for now. Thanks for tuning in again! 🙂
Thanks for this interesting post, Marian! I got stuck on the diaries of your aunt Ruthie. I have a shelf full of my own and am wondering what I should do with them. I began only after marriage and they are personal because that’s how I was able to be in touch with my emotions and resolve my issues. I know I should go through them all, especially for my memoir but it feels like a task too onerous to tackle! How and what to do?!
Curating a diary can indeed be a daunting task. How I started with Aunt Ruthie: She left at least 4 diaries and an autograph book. It did feel overwhelming, so I began thinking about special days–holidays, her birthday, and in today’s case, graduation, searching out dates close to my best guess as to the month and day. So maybe concentrating on special dates would be one way to begin. That way you are handling little chunks at a time and not the whole “ball of wax”!
Diary-keeping creates an historical record indeed, but it also provides space for healing, as it has probably done in your case. And in mine. Thanks again! 🙂
Your aunt was a very busy teenager, doing many chores, studying diligently and very observant of nature! I’d venture to say she was more serious re: her activities than teens are today. You have a quite a treasure in her diary & photos!
Having always been more of a forward looking person, now, as my life has slowed down, I find more delight in reflecting on the past. And it does make me feel happy, as your article claims. I’m surprised, because I used to especially dislike nostalgic conversations.
Keeping “things” doesn’t appeal to me much, but looking through old diaries & especially listening to old hit songs brings me small joys.Thanks for reminding me how valuable memorabilia is!
Thanks, Kas, for stopping by to comment. I haven’t kept a tally on votes up/down for the value of memorabilia, even the topic of nostalgia. It may depend on our stage in life, as you mentioned. Now “retired” from a busy career, like you, there is more time to reminisce–and reflect.
I’m glad you enjoyed the walk down memory lane today. 🙂
As I read your words today, I have a box of memorabilia on the floor on my right. We are almost moved in — 99 percent finished with what we can do. Waiting on backordered furniture. We’ve converted our second bedroom into an office with a Murphy bed (still waiting on that, too). Two desks, a vertical file drawer, a chest filled with scrapbooks, and boxes of memorabilia line the walls. We have other places to store the memorabilia, but I want to know what is in each box.
I also started the process of using memorabilia as a jumping off point in conversations with Mother on Sunday afternoons. I got a magnifyng light today which will help her see the old photos. One of the items in the boxes is her journal from 1942-1944, a precious piece of nostalgia if ever there was one.
Love your trip down Nostalgia Lane. 🙂 Thanks.
Thanks so much, Steve! Memory Lane is long and sometimes bittersweet. 🙂
I hope you hear my applause for your getting situated so quickly. Even though you are skilled at curating your stuff, having moved multiple times, still moving creates an upheaval.
When our move happened 5 years ago this August, I thought I’d die. Even though I was well-organized, we hadn’t moved in 37 years, so . . . . . ! We got rid of our formal living room furniture and bought only a stand-alone bookcase, substituting for the 3 built-ins we left behind. Cliff’s studio is barely half the size of his old one, so he’s been sharing half of my writing studio, okay with me.
You are perfectly situated now with the rare privilege of regular dates with your mother. I’m sure the photos you’ve gathered will spark memories, maybe even blog posts. Thank you for all this, Shirley! 🙂
Thank you for posting the Billy Collins poem. I listened to him read it on the Poetry Foundation site. He also explores nostalgia in “On Turning Ten,” one of my favorite poems. I have become the keeper of the Family Archives (letters, diaries, photos, and emphemera) because no one else wanted the stuff. The photos in particular have provided much inspiration for short stories.
Liz, I’m learning from you again. Thank you for mentioning “On Turning Ten,” a Billy Collins poem I was not familiar with: https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/on-turning-ten/
I think he also wrote a poem about turning fifty as well.
I’m not at all surprised that you are the Keeper of the Family Archives, viewing photos and letters and diaries as treasures, not trash! And I do agree with you that photos can help recreate history and generate inspiration for stories as nothing else can do. Thanks for sharing your nuggets here, Liz. 🙂
Nostalgia…Ahhh! just the sound of the word sets me a-flutter . I am a sucker for it . I have diaries, scrap books , old school books , records , books I read as a child , books I read to my son when he was a child , real photos stuffed in a bag not an album , costume jewellery of my mothers in her makeup bag so I can just breathe her in a times when I miss her …I could go on but might just run out of paper . This post has bought a smile thank you .
P,S. I missed last weeks so sorry , not like me .
I believe you have a veritable museum of artifacts with scents that take you back in time. These words were especially affection: “costume jewellery of my mothers in her makeup bag so I can just breathe her in a times when I miss her.” My mother died in 2014, and the scent of her is completely gone though I can summon a little bit of it when I inhale “Evening in Paris,” perfume the only fragrance she ever wore.
There is no need to apologize ever about your lack of appearance here. You are always welcome. It’s a lot to keep up with anyway. I will give my readers a break in July when I take a trip to another state, a momentous occasion after all this restriction. Thanks heaps and hugs too, dear Cherry! oxo
I may have shared this with you before, Marian, so excuse me if I have. My mom always used to keep diaries of her daily life. So much of it was the everyday things that everyone does. When she moved into a care facility, I used to read these old journal entries back to her. Her dementia had progressed by that point, but she still sat seemingly focused. It was not lost on me at that moment that we had come full circle.
What a thoughtful thing to do, reading your mother’s journal entries back to her! I’m sure your voice sparked memories in her mind. My aunt succumbed to dementia too. In the beginning she wrote in her journal. (I have lots of them too!)
Then my sister bought her old-fashioned calendars yearly, and she’d continue to do journal lite, writing a few words in the blocks by the dates. If something bad happened that day, she’d write a penciled “Boo Hoo!” She also commented about the weather and the changing of seasons, especially spring. Thanks, Pete, for a window into your world. Yes, we come full circle when we care for loved ones who have cared for us! 🙂
Hi Marian, I always find these posts of yours so interesting. I love reading about peoples lives, especially if it is historical information. That is the piece that is missing in most historical non-fiction accounts of events, they don’t tell you about the everyday stuff.
How right you are, Robbie. Writing about every day stuff gives “humanity” to the people in our lives and to the characters we describe in poetry or fiction. Thanks for reading and commenting today!
Yes, it seems people are getting tired of digital gadgets and turning back to the good old days of vinyl, tapes and videos. We sold our records and CDs when we sold our house over 3 years ago now, but they are becoming quite valuable now.
We kept a lot of books, which I still prefer to e-readers.
I am always enthralled by your aunt’s diaries: they really are a treasure trove.
Thanks, Fatima, for your story of memorabilia.
Yes, I too prefer books with pages to turn manually. I use e-readers to keep up with indie authors I follow. Otherwise, I’d go broke buying books – ha! And yes, my aunt’s diaries are a treasure trove. But I have a LOT of them + journals she kept in her later years, filling in little blocks on a calendar, recording brief entries as her memory was weakening.
Thanks again for reading and reflecting today, always appreciated. 🙂
I don’t look back. There were plenty of times when I could have but I do my best to concentrate on the present and look toward the future. One of my blogs that I have online is titled Everything Must Change. I believe Change is a part of life and you can’t change what happened in the past but you can change what happens today because that will have an effect upon your future. I refuse to dip back into the good old days no matter how difficult it might be for me at a certain time. I look ahead. Looking back and hoping for a time past doesn’t help me.
Wishing you a lovely day and take care.
Your comment reminds me of this precious thought in Philippians 3:13
Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
I will look up the blog post you are referring to now where you can find Pat: https://patgarciaauthor.com/ She writes fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. Thanks for the tweet of this post today. Blessings!
Quite fascinating to read how important nostalgia is to people. I’ve noticed some of my friends, the older they get, they really talk a lot about “days past” and how good it was. Your post helps me understand them more, and how nostalgia is effective for them, and I guess you could say, life-affirming. I’m one of the odd ones who don’t have much nostalgia around me. The cassette tapes, the record player, the typewriter – all easily gone as newer things replaced them. But I live with a man who goes through his closets once every quarter and fixes a bag for Good Will. On the other hand, saving your Aunt Ruth’s diary is such a blessing, and I DO believe in embracing our ancestors’ past and learning how they lived, and what they thought. Hmm, you really got me thinking, Marian. xo
Hi, Pam. I sense the ambivalence many readers feel in your reply here. Life is always a process of keeping and letting go. For me, it’s a balancing act. Because we accumulated SO much stuff over the 37 years we lived in our last house, I keep a sharp eye for excess. Hmmmm, this I say as my peripheral vision catches a pile of stuff leaning against a file in my writing studio.
Now, you’ve got me thinking. One thing for sure: My guy is not like your guy; he would go to Goodwill only if . . . .
Thanks for all this! 🙂
I loved the poetry fron the 1500s lol, clever. 🙂 x
Billy Collins rocks — right? Thanks for reading & commenting here, Debby! 🙂
What an interesting conversation. A few years ago, after my mother’s death, I received boxes of the diaries she had kept over an eighty-year period, from when she was fifteen until a few days before her death at the age of ninety five. It seemed such a rare treasure, I felt some responsibility to do something with them and chose passages which I thought would preserve a texture of her life. At times it felt like an overwhelming project, but resulted in a book, The Measure of a Life: Diaries of a Mennonite Farm Wife 1920-2000, and I have never regretted undertaking it, even though I could hear my mother say, “Who would ever care about my ordinary life?” Some of Aunt Ruth’s entries reminded me of hers.
I so happy to meet you, Mary Alice. I see from your comment here that our stories have similar threads with a lineage that has had the courage to “keep track” of things. These records are treasures. Aunt Ruthie figures large in my memoir, Mennonite Daughter, but so far her diary entries have become only grist for the blog mill.
From your website, I see that we share a life in academia and an interest in writing. Congratulations on completing your memoir, which I look forward to reading. I did notice that you also have used a quote from Anaïs Nin, which I make reference to in my own memoir.
Thank you so much for commenting here. I look forward to getting to know you better. 🙂
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Marian, those diaries are so precious. I can just imagine the smell of the pages and being transported to a different age. And, to a place that you remember too.
Nostalgia. The thought of it makes me sigh and say “aaaah.” I feel there is a positive connotation to the word, as we do try to remember the good bits in our past. It is for that very reason that I wouldn’t mind going back to earlier years right now. Just to forget our current struggles. Usually, I’m quite happy in the here and now, but this post came at the right time. A time to reflect and be nostalgic!
Liesbet, I’m glad this post provided a little respite from your current struggles. I sense the angst in your voice here and hope you and Mark can find a comfortable resolution. You will get through this as you have done with other challenges.
Thanks for taking the time to check in here today. You are often in my thoughts! 🙂
This is a lovely post, Marian. I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes:
“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” ― William Faulkner, Requiem for a Nun
Oh, LInda Lee, how nice to see you here.
And thanks for posting the quote. I DO remember hearing it, but couldn’t identify the author if I were a Jeopardy contestant. Now I KNOW. Thanks so much! 🙂
Well, I must admit I had to google the quote to find the author. 😉
I do that ALL THE TIME – hehe!
This is a wonderful post, Marian. I loved reading your aunt’s diary. I feel like I remember another post with some other entries. Boy was she a busy teenager. It’s nice to be nostalgic and I agree with Jeff Nillson that it’s good for you. Hope you are having a nice weekend. Is it hot down there in Florida? Super hot here today, yet last week it was cold and rainy and I made soup.
You are right about remembering another post about Aunt Ruthie’s diary. In fact there are three or more: One regarded the opening of school: https://marianbeaman.com/2020/09/02/school-opens-aunt-ruthies-diary-speaks/
And another spoke about weather like you are experiencing today: https://marianbeaman.com/2019/06/05/aunt-ruthies-hot-diary/ And still another speculating about her being 100 years old, some entries posted around her birthday in October: https://marianbeaman.com/2018/10/03/aunt-ruthie-as-100-year-diary-speaks/
Another popped up about the ending of World War II: https://marianbeaman.com/2018/12/05/aunt-ruthies-diary-london-family-video/
You have a wonderful memory. Thanks for tuning in today. (By the way, you don’t need to feel obliged to re-visit these diary posts, but I got carried away tracing back to this topic.) Huge hugs, Barbara! 🙂
Beautiful, Marian. Thank you for more from Aunt Ruthie and the lost art of writing daily diaries. I love the crocheted lace mandalas my paternal Grandma created and they decorate one bedroom walls. On another wall, a photo of my Grandpa’s sister who died in a tornado in Missouri around 1898 when she was 6–with the newspaper article and a family letter about the catastrophe in a special pocket on the back of the photo made to preserve the story. And my bedroom set which belonged to my maternal grandparents, so I’m surrounded by the ancestors in the room where I sleep, and in the rest of the house, I’m surrounded by photos Vic took, mostly ones from India. Slowly the photos on the walls shift to paintings done by a friend, but I won’t give up those old images. They remind me where I belong.
This is beautiful, Elaine.
Awake or asleep, you are surrounded by love and the presence of a wonderful heritage. I especially like the detail of one artifact: “The is a family letter about the catastrophe in a special pocket on the back of the photo made to preserve the story.”