What makes it nostalgia is that I will never really get it back, also that I never necessarily had it in the first place. It might be the lemony-citrus sun dazing behind my yard’s pines, or a rambling, ambiguous decade and its context, or my mother’s Renault, a pair of peacock feather earrings, or, more likely, the specks of dust between all of these things that I can’t ever hold in my hands.
I hate philosophy.
A couple weeks back, my father and I explored the old barn foundation behind my house. I collected an amber 1970s beer bottle, a scrap of brocade-like wallpaper, a piece of metal with the inscription Quaker City 5, and a clear glass bottle. We pushed through the twigs and not yet blossomed elbows of trees, cracking and crunching through an abandoned moment.
My father fell in the scratchy patch so slowly that I wondered if he was losing his balance or attempting to sit. I held scraps and bottles in my arms and, after standing himself back up, he carried the bottles for me.
“You okay?” I asked. I was the child, the one who was supposed to fall.
The sun was coming through the trees like it always did, like it always had.
My father smelled of nostalgia. Patchouli and cigarettes and responsibility. Worn denim and Chamois shirts. Records and taupe and Chevy Blazers and dandelions.
I was supposed to have fallen instead. I smelled like Chiclet bubble gum, my two young children, metal swing sets, clumsiness and shampoo and borrowed money.
I didn’t fall. Nostalgia surprised me.
Now, when I look back to the foundation, the leaves fold down around it. The wall of heavy stones can hardly peek out from behind all the nature. In front of the old foundation is a leftover dog house from the prior owners–distressed red over plywood, simple lines, mossing shingles. That dog was a yellow lab, I bet, a bounding, mud-hungry, stick-eater that would love my dog, Molly. They would sit in the hot afternoon sun near the pine trees, panting together.
When I begin my MFA in CW at Goddard College this summer, my plan is (for now) to run recklessly into nostalgia like a puddle, to roll down the childhood hill in my parent’s backyard into it, to let its grass leave green crosshatching on the skin of my legs and dandelion dander on my cheeks. What I mean is this: I live nearly every moment in hopes that it will be like some moment I’ve already lived. I can’t get away from a setting, context, or moment I’ve lived or wish I’d lived.
I’m struck by the pulsing sun glowing behind the pine trees just west of my house, a view I imagine I share with the college students who rented rooms here in the 70s. I was never there, but I can get there if I just write it.