Yesterday, I was working with my colleague Dave Plaehn on the many challenges of emotional language, when he asked, “Can kids feel nostalgic?”
That’s an interesting question. Nostalgia is in part a longing for a time past. It’s a time or experience that you desire to have again, yet one that you can never regain. Nostalgia is what you feel when your desire for time past collides with time present.
When you are feeling nostalgic, you’re feeling emotions associated with a particular moment of time from your past. For instance, I remember being a child, standing in my Grandmothers kitchen, helping her make bread. It’s a whole body experience where I close my eyes and picture myself right there, breathing in the aroma of fresh baked bread. I feel the love, the happiness and the sadness associated with that time I long to regain.
But how far back does the memory have to be in order for it to create a feeling of nostalgia? If there is a time-frame, then it certainly begs the question at what age can we begin to feel nostalgic?
When I was little, my Grandmother told me the story about how she remembered my dad’s name. You see they lived in a small Midwest town. No I mean small – like there was only one paper delivery boy. Small, like you actually know everyone’s name, however, apparently you didn’t always know how to pronounce their name correctly. When my mom’s family moved to town and she started dating my dad, my grandmother said she had a hard time remembering how to pronounce “Stucky.” So she decided she needed a rhyme. And the next time she saw dad coming down the driveway to pick up mom she called out, “Looky, Looky here comes John Stucky.” Simple, effective, fun and with the added bonus that it embarrassed my mom (although I believe that she secretly enjoyed the attention).
Fast forward to my high school graduation. Why is it that the person who has the hardest time pronouncing names is the one that gets to announce them as you walk across the stage? Well, my grandma was showing up and I sure couldn’t have this guy saying my name wrong. So I needed a rhyme. “Looky, Looky here comes Greg Stucky” was out because I knew just how likely he was to actually say that out loud during the ceremony. So mom suggested I just tell him that it rhymes with cookie. Ah, perfect, simple, effective, and no chance for embarrassment. Well, that is until I walked across the stage and was announced as “Greg Stew-ky….uuhhh cookie, ummm Stoo-oky.” Even at my last high school reunion, classmates I hadn’t seen in over 20 years were still having fun drawling out the “ew” in Stew-ky. Of course all the beer they consumed made it that much more fun.
It is interesting what sticks with you, the things you remember. Those moments in time of heightened emotion last in your memory forever. Those moments that are so powerful that you don’t need any photos to remember them. Those memories that connect with all your senses to the point you can actually re-live that moment with vivid images, crisp sounds, clarifying aromas, and the tingle of emotions.
If you have a moment, tell me the story about something that sticks with you.