For the past several years while on road trips and listening to oldies but goodies on the radio, the music has taken me back to my time in high school. Up until recently I would tell my wife the songs made me melancholy, but I don’t think that is the best word to describe my feelings. Last week I watched a video on Facebook posted by a guy I went to high school with of Simon and Garfunkel singing “The Sounds of Silence” and commented on the post: “listening to this takes me back and impacts me in ways I don’t fully understand.”
As I reflected on my comment, I wondered if nostalgic was a better word to describe my feelings. I looked the word up and the dictionary definition of nostalgia gets close to describing what listening to the music instills in me: “a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.” While I do not have a “sentimental longing” to return, I do have a “wistful affection” for my years of high school and college as well as “happy personal associations.” As happy and excited as I was to graduate from high and college, I clearly remember those were not the only feelings I had the night I graduated from high school and the day I graduated from college.
So much was going on not only in my life, but in our nation and the world during those eight years from 1965-1973. I’m sure readers who experienced those years remember the seismic changes, the progress, the unrest, and the tragedies. There certainly was a mixture of “the good, the bad, and the ugly.” I would guess those who are younger have heard reports and stories about what were tumultuous years.
As I write this post I am back in Cincinnati where I grew up and lived until 1975. This afternoon I drove back to my hometown, through the neighborhood in which I grew up, past where my high school used to be, and by a variety of other places. I had dinner with a high school friend I haven’t seen in 48 years. Tomorrow I’m having lunch with two long time friends from my youth ministry while I was in college. I am not feeling melancholic, but I do have a lot of wistful affection.
Even though it can be cruel at times, memory is a precious gift. It’s not just the music of my high school and college years that make me nostalgic, but lots of other things as well that remind of the life I have lived to this point. I am grateful as I look back, and optimistic as I look forward. And I am reminded of the truth of three trite phrases I have often heard and repeated myself: “things will never be the same,” “we can’t go back,” and “life goes on.” But that does not mean we cannot remember the past with wishful affection.
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photo credit: Steve.Bernacki <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/50194260@N00/3856900987″>Simon & G-funk</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>(license)</a>