- a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.
Nostalgia. It’s the comfort calling card when we begin aging or when the seasons of life change. It’s the place we visit to reflect and find joy even if it’s long ago and our memories aren’t as vivid.
After a phone call with my childhood neighbor friend Marla, I become nostalgic. Now, 80 years young, Marla is like a “second mother” to me. My mother has long passed and Marla is one of the few people who knew my mother well. Marla was a lover of holidays and after speaking with her, I toss through my mother’s tin box to find this photo of me at Halloween.
The photo floods me with feelings of warmth, family, and love. It reminds me of crisp fall days, long and leisurely walks to school, and the smell of pumpkin spice. I’m about 6 years old and I’m thrilled to be decked out in this clown costume. There is some semblance of lipstick applied to make me seem more clown-like and I most likely rubbed it off with some candy I ate.
Marla was the mother of my two childhood friends. As a child, Marla was memorizing. Beautiful and charismatic, she was the “cool” mom, the young mom, the every mom all the kids wanted to have. She made holidays come to life.
My mother hated Halloween whereas Marla was all in. Marla would sew exquisite creations for her two daughters – a pioneer girl, an exotic fairy princess, or a charming puppy dog. In sharp contrast, my mother had a completely different view on the holiday.
With a cigarette dangling out the side of her coral lips she’d mutter, “I hate Halloween” while tossing around my neck several strands of mixed matched necklaces, applying bold red lipstick to my thin young lips, and then pronouncing me a full-fledged gypsy. I was a gypsy for three years in a row until I was lucky enough to receive a hand-me-down costume from Marla which I proudly wore.
Each year, Marla dressed up as the greenest and evilest of witches and co-hosted our neighborhood parade which culminated in a walk around our elementary school gym with prizes for best costume. Not only did she dress in character, she became the character, giving out a wicked laugh that would give Margaret Hamilton a run for her money.
Marla became the queen of the parade and took her role seriously as she reigned in all the be-dazzled children as we marched to the local school. The parade started around 6PM just as nightfall would begin its bewitching hour and by the time we got to the school, darkness surrounded us.
There was a sense of magic in the air. The promise of prizes and candy, the shock of scary creatures playing hide and go seek, and the laughter among the young moms and dads who doted on their children with their infectious enthusiasm. It was a time of innocence, of family connection, and a community becoming one.
There’s a reason why nostalgia is so powerful among seniors. It’s a lifeline to a sweeter time and place. It’s a place to run when things appear bleak. It’s comforting, it’s warm, and it’s as inviting as a warm woolen blanket and fire on a crisp autumn day.
You could say it’s a little magical too – an escape route that helps us cope and get through another day. Oh nostalgia, I love your bewitching magic.
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