Purposeful Nostalgia

When I am writing I often use nostalgia as my foundation – using sensory language to recapture an event or an emotion. Its important to me to preserve history while presenting scenarios that are relatable to a younger generation – translating a memory. Little things, like baking cookies or playing in the yard, can come from an ancient story, but at the same time foster or conjure up a moment as reminiscent as yesterday. These desires come out of the oral tradition of my youth. My ancestors were wonderful story tellers.

My great grandparents, great aunts and uncles, and their friends would sit on the porch in the cool of the evening telling stories (memories) of their various life adventures and encounters. I learned early on to keep quiet and take it all in before some grown up noticed there was a child in the midst and stopped the story. Their stories fascinated me. Their stories painted pictures in my mind of places and people I would never see and experiences I would never have. These stories gave me insight about the kind of people I came from – people who endured, resilient people, determined people. I could see them in their youth. I could see them in their travels. I could see their relationships with others, and little by little their stories became my stories.

In my desire to retell their stories, I realized that I had my own stories to tell. So I began adding my stories to their stories; I started creating new stories with a nostalgic feel even in fiction. In a sense I honed my ability to be purposefully nostalgic. I would like to encourage you to be purposeful in conveying your memories and experiences to the next generation. Imagine the stories that will come out of 2020 – both before and after.

You have had many experiences that your children and grandchildren can not imagine. (Nieces, nephews, and other relatives too.) You have seen and heard things that bear repeating. You, and other members of your family, have encountered opposition and opportunity that could be the basis of a young person’s endurance or hope. Yet, these stories may die – never having been shared. I’m not suggesting that you become a writer, although you could, but I am suggesting that you pass on a legacy. I’m suggesting that you share the valuable lessons and experiences you’ve had or been told with a generation who will have no other way to retrieve them.

These stories can be shared while flipping through old photographs. (It’s a little sad that cell phone pics have replace photographs. Handling old pictures is a story within itself.) You can use these pictures to create a family tree while sharing the history of each member depicted. These stories can also be shared while cleaning out the basement or the attic and finding old relics that the children have never seen before like a rotary telephone or an eight track tape player. These stories can come out of pure reflection or recollection on your favorite childhood song or TV show. (Maybe you have some old dance moves to go with the story.) There are stories about first loves, current loves, pets, favorite clothes, hobbies, dislikes, national experiences, civic involvement; so many things that may now be taken for granted as the normal facts of life. Yet, the next generation is not aware of these facts.

Recently, I was sitting in the room with my mother and my granddaughter when the power went out. I retrieved the kerosene lamps and some candles to light the room and other parts of the house. My mom was in the middle of a story about why so many people are afraid of the dark when I returned to the living room. From what I gathered she was saying how dark it was in the rural parts of Tennessee where our family comes from. That led to a very humorous story about how she used to scare her mother (my grandmother) with ghost stories when she was a child. Apparently, they were walking down the road and my mom said, “Watch out you are about to walk into Mr. Jones!” who was a neighbor who had died a year before. My grandmother jumped from the path and fell into a large puddle. My mom laughed so hard just retelling this story that I could imagine how much she laughed back then. All my life I have heard stories about how my mom could see ghosts. This story shed some light on the subject because my granddaughter asked the question, “Could you really see Mr. Jones grandma?” I don’t know how long the power remained out because we were so caught up in the ghost stories that came out of that one question.

Nostalgic storytelling can be very entertaining. Nostalgic storytelling can be quite educational. Nostalgic storytelling is a valuable way to share the treasures of your life experiences from one generation to another. Just be purposeful with your intention to share and communicate the stories of the past.

Bring a smile to your face and to the face of others by sharing a few of your memories with them. Stay well! Remain healthy in body and mind.

Our Voices: From One Generation to Another
A poetry collection uplifting the voices from childhood to the present.
Amazon.com

Purposeful Remembering

Today I found out that some one I care about has died. I knew they were sick, but I didn’t know how bad it was. It saddens me that I missed his last days thinking that I had more time. Yet, I am content knowing that we had the time to know one another and care for one another – time well spent. That’s where purposeful remembering comes in. Now I am going to take the time over the next few days to remember his investment into my life – how we laughed, how we discussed scripture, how we enjoyed good food, how we walked together, sharing companionship without words. I will remember his fatherhood toward me when I needed it the most.

As I writer, it important to me to capture the precious moments of everyone that touches my life. I especially want to internalize their voices. ( This is one of the reasons behind my book: Our Voices . . .) The words that people leave with us are like little treasures. Their words add richness to our way of life, and our way of thinking, whether it’s wisdom, truth, or disagreement. Even lies have an impact on how we think and feel about a topic. People leave something of themselves with us through the things that they say to us, and those things take root in one way or another – emotionally, spiritually, or intellectually.

Remembering in this way is very purposeful. It makes the people you miss live on in your heart and mind. It’s like walking down the lane with a friend. (Now that’s a country reference for you city kids. The lane is the road that leads to a friend or relative’s house where there are no sidewalks and sometimes no paving.) This memory walk makes you smile, makes you cry, makes you laugh, and makes you enjoy the fellowship all over again. Then if you take the time to write them down (diary, journal, scrap book notes with pictures), they are never lost.

My life has been so enriched by people of so many generations. (I’m not just talking about those who have died. Everyday I enjoy the lives of four and five years-old’s, and it’s true they say “the darn-est things.” I also get to spend time with my elders, persons 20 to 30 years older than me. ) I don’t ever want to loose those encounters. I won’t allow myself to forget the valuable experiences I’ve shared. The impact of true relationships is too important to me. The time invested in real relationships is well worth it during the time spent and afterwards. (See “Personal Investments,” Jan. 16th.)

I will share these times with others along the way. That’s part of the purposeful remembering too. Sharing memories with others allows us to expand our knowledge of an individual, because relationship dynamics vary depending on the people involved. The thing that means the most to me may not be reminiscent with your knowledge of that person at all. Sharing will allow us to enjoy and experience that person anew. Like, “Wow, I never knew that!” I’m already smiling just thinking about that. I know this will happen when I go over to the family home of my friend and we begin sharing our memories.

No one should have to say the words, “Don’t forget me!” because we should be mark an effort to remember those we love by being purposeful in keeping them near and dear to our hearts.

My Pen Remembers

My pen speaks of cool summer
Days, baseball in the rain
And your warm wrinkled face
Those fertile rows of wisdom carved
Over time and tilled by the plows
Of segregation and degradation
Yet you smiled.

My pen speaks of wood burning stoves
Black-eyed kittens and the sweet smell
Of gardens planted by your creased cracked
Fingers; a day of hard labor
At a house not your own nor could you enter
Yet you sang.

My pen speaks of overalls of faded denim
And plaid red flannel shirts soft upon your
Frail frame; still working after seventy years
Of being called boy and never a man
Sowing seeds of hope in several generations
Through the long dark days
Yet you found laughter

My pen is silenced by the sound of your love
That still warms my heart and stirs my memories
And calls me to be better because you endured.
What can’t be captured on paper is captured in my heart
So I smile, I sing, I laugh,
And I lay my pen down.

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