Did you know that, Boomers and Gen-Xers are looking back to their youth, collecting . . .

Cassette tapes

Vinyl LPs

Polaroid cameras

Manual typewriters

. . . 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

Wikipedia image

 

 

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.

 

 

Title page from her diary of 1934, age sixteen. Quote from Longfellow. (In this year, the Dust Bowl hit the midwestern Plains, with farmers  fighting to keep their land as the crops are failing, the water is drying up, and dust threatens to bury them all.)

 

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!

 

Diary scans courtesy of graphic artist Cliff Beaman

 

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 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 ___?___.

May 29

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

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