Nostalgia

It’s going to be another hot day, so I’m up early.  I head to the patio and warm coffee comes with me. There is a slight chill, oh so slight, but I can feel it on my skin.

There is something vague and wistful in the way the air feels this morning. The hint of the warmth that’s to come, mixed in with that slight chill. It feels so familiar.

It’s the way the light is coming up over the apple tree, shadows from the branches falling just so on the green grass and touching the edges of the 3-tiered fountain. The yellowy-white light pulls at my memory; I’ve seen this light before. I know it.

I hear it in the way the finches, bold blue jays and grey titmouse call and chatter. Fuzzy squirrels scampering and digging in the grass and garden tug at something hovering in my mind.

The scent in the air has a subtle, comforting, reminiscent quality to it that dances on the fringe of memory. It’s happy and calming; stirring up a sentimental longing and wistful affection for something… Is it a specific memory or snippets of various memories stirred up by the sight, sound, scent of this peaceful morning? I wonder…

Sitting here at the pine table I allow my thoughts go where they will.

The scent in the air, the light and the creature sounds call up memories of my grandparents’ house in Lakehead, CA. I loved this place! It was nestled in and around pine trees with squirrels and birds galore! I recall the warm, safe scent of those pine trees, the dusty earth, and bubbling excitement of walking through the wooded area to the little market with my grandma. Exciting!

In the warm afternoons, the blue kiddie pool was set up in the backyard under some shady pine trees. Buckets, cups, Barbies, and various other toys made for a fun and easy afternoon. I think time stood still for a bit. My grandma sat in the shade on her 70’s era lawn chair with a sweating glass of sweet tea and chatted with me. Always the safe, old, lovely scent of warm pine and earth.

I remember the thrill and exhilaration of hurtling down a big hill near their house in my little red wagon with the pine-y wind in my face – what a memory of freedom and adventures. I looked forward to the summer-night strolls to visit neighbors and see a few deer as we walked along. Pleasant and friendly.

The sound of scampering squirrels on my fence reminds me of hearing pattering squirrel feet run over the roof of their house and my grandpa’s garage in the early mornings. The garage was a wonderful place. It was full of gadgets, boxes of nails and rakes, the fishing gear, and all sorts of fun things to play with and examine. It had the distinct smell of cars and a tangy scent of oil and gasoline. Order and routine, everything in its place.

I can smell the fishy, earthy, watery scent of Lake Shasta where my grandpa, my Dad and I spent many hours on his boat fishing and motoring around the lake, stopping in the small, quiet coves to cool off and swim. Even in the summer heat, there was the distinct lake chill that danced above the water. Dinner of fresh caught fish back at the house gave me such a warm, cozy, homey feeling. We sat and ate on the enclosed porch at the picnic table, talking and laughing about the highlights of the day. As the adults talked on into the summer night, I would drowse and day dream.

Yes, these are cherished memories. Interesting how a subtle scent on the air, a ray of sunlight and nature sounds have the power to trigger the mind and bring these memories flooding back.

I wish I could go back to relive those parts of life to recapture the feelings and sensations. Happy memories of pleasant times where life seemed simpler, sweeter, and not so complex. I often feel this way around the holidays as I look at old pictures of my family gathered around a festive table, carving a pumpkin, or sitting by the Christmas tree.  When I look at paintings of the holidays in times past, there is a wistful, yearning feeling of wanting to be there. Nostalgia.

Life can be chaotic and unpredictable. I wonder if our adult brains unconsciously seek out the sights, scents, and sounds of those times where things were ordered, reliable, safe, and predictable. I think God wired us to treasure and preserve those moments. We can pull them from our heart-memories as a comfort and break from the monotony and loneliness of life. Blessings.

I think I will pray that nostalgia visits me often, like an old, dear friend; full of comfort, comradery, and memories to make me smile. What a gift!

Traditions

With the holidays in full swing, I have been thinking about traditions and the place of importance they often hold in our lives.  It made me stop and wonder why? There are holiday traditions I definitely look forward to and work hard to make happen, just the way I remember them. Beginning in November, I feel that twinge of anxiety, mixed with great anticipation about how Christmas “should be.” That last part, “how Christmas should be”, becoming my focus. It brings with it a whole lot of expectations, which often lead to feeling disappointed and let down, because things rarely go as planned, right? My tightly controlled ideas of how things will be, how people will act and the expectation that everyone feels the same excitement, rarely come to pass. Someone gets sick, finances are tight, the weather does not cooperate, kids grow up and don’t react the way they used to, it’s a no burn day, so the roaring, cheery fire doesn’t happen, cats destroy carefully wrapped packages and the list goes on and on of things that sneak or blast their way in to our well controlled plans for the perfect holiday.

I have expectations of yummy goodies baking all season in the kitchen, making my house smell festive; I imagine Christmas parties with good friends filling the house; I dream of evenings spent by a warm, cozy fire with my family, pets, hot drinks, movies and all the warm fuzzy togetherness we can stand; a night of hot cocoa, while driving around looking at festive Christmas lights with everyone loving every second of it, with not a fight to be had. This fantastic list goes on and on, of things that are wonderful and exciting and lovely, but not very realistic. These expectations leave NO wiggle room for life or messed up plans or teenagers who don’t want to drive around looking at houses with lights on them.

I asked myself why I get anxious, letdown or sad if things don’t play out the way I expected. What will it mean if none of these traditions I hold on to, with such a white knuckled intensity, come to pass?  Interestingly enough, the first thought that came to mind was “it won’t be safe.” Safety. I can see that. It makes sense in an odd sort of way. Feeling safe is something I have always craved. Remembering back to my childhood Christmases, everything felt predictable, controlled and orderly. It was safe. Secure. All wrapped up tightly. I knew what and who to expect, when and how to expect them.  It was all lovely and predictable. I’m certain that things didn’t go perfectly all of the time; plans were changed, people got sick and life disrupted, as it often does, but as a child, I don’t remember any of that. I remember feeling safe; protected and wrapped up in traditions, knowing that my family would be surrounding me, we would have festive meals and there would be baking and delicious smells; there would be the anticipation of Christmas Eve candle light services and carols and everyone smiling; there would be lights on our tree and evenings spent sitting in the glow of those lights. The anticipation of Santa and listening for reindeer filled my heart with joy and wonder and predictability. What great memories. I love them. There were things in my childhood that were not happy and safe. Christmas and traditions held such importance, because I knew that during the holidays, I would feel safe and things would be predictable and in control. I wonder if that holds some truth for all of us? Do traditions give us predictability, safety and the feeling of being in control in an otherwise unpredictable, uncontrollable life? Is that why there are such feelings of letdown and depression for some, come Dec. 26th?  Unmet expectations? Things not ending up as planned? People not behaving the way we had hoped?

Maybe this year will be different. Can I shift my focus to what is in front of me and embrace and enjoy it, allowing something new to become a great memory, instead of relying on what happened in the past to happen again? Can I celebrate Christmases past, yet open my heart to the here and now?  I want the season to be about gratefulness, focusing on what I have and the season of life I’m in; finding peace in that. I want the season to be more about Jesus and the joy of knowing how safe and loved I am. God came to Earth, in the flesh, to be part of my world, to bring me everlasting life. The King of Kings, the Prince of Peace, Almighty God, Warrior, Lover, Savior – He came for me. He came for you. How’s that for feeling safe! Come, let us adore Him!