Thursday, July 07, 2011

Bitten by the "way-back" bug

For more than a month now I've been operating under the influence of the heaviest bout of nostalgia that's ever settled on my shoulders. It began right after tornadoes hit Joplin, Missouri on May 22nd, and I'm pretty sure it was triggered by televised interviews with tornado victims.

Joplin is only about 70 miles from Springfield, where I lived until I was almost 15, and the speech patterns of those Missouri people just felt "right" to me in some deep part of my soul. People in that part of the country don't have an accent. In fact, I'd say that what stands out about their speech is the lack of an accent: the pure, distinct pronunciation that newscasters across the country strive for.

My sister and I have traveled back there a couple of times in the last 15 years, enough for me to know that it isn't Missouri as it is now that I miss so much.  I miss it as it was in the 1950s. I miss the neat houses on our street, each one different from the one next door, all with windows and doors wide open in summer. I miss the slamming of the screen door, the thump of the newspaper hitting the sidewalk, the creak of the porch swing, and Harry Caray's voice on the radio. I miss the smell of fresh corn and ripe tomatoes in my grandpa's garden and of starched laundry hung on the clothesline to dry in the sun. I miss picking up a chalky rock right in the front yard, one just right for drawing a pinkish-orange hopscotch grid on the driveway. There are so many little things, little moments, I wish I could experience one more time.

I remember telling people when I was in my mid-forties that my childhood wasn't an especially happy one, and I know I believed that when I said it. The funny thing is that now, in my late-sixties, I can't remember why I felt that way. Almost every childhood memory I've retained -- and there are many, many, many -- is a good one, good enough for me to feel wistful when I think about it now.

It's a pretty cool thing the way time strains one's life through a happy filter.


  1. Linda (Although I think of you as Velvet) -
    Yours was the first blog I started reading, 2 or 3 years ago and have read it ever since. I have never written you a comment before because of my "Why would she care what I think?" frame of mind. But, today I just have to tell you what a talent I think you have for writing. I always enjoy your posts and look forward to them.
    (How are Butch and Levi doing?)

  2. Pup, thank you so much for your kind and encouraging words. You might be surprised at how important it is to me to hear from readers. Comments are like puppy treats: they make me want to keep doing more of what I'm doing right.

    Butch and Levi are doing fine, and I'll write more about them soon.

  3. I think you are right about what Grandpa said...I will edit it and add those words. You have a good eye...but I know you worked for a lawyer so you practiced!

  4. Your post was so real...I could actually smell the fragrances you described. Because I have memories much the same as yours. My heart absolutely aches when I think about it and wish ... also.... that I could relive those wonderful carefree times. Freshly mowed grass, iced tea, cucumbers and tomatoes from the garden and the squeak - slam of that wooden screened door. It was a gentler time and we....are soooo lucky to have these memories.

  5. Sister-Three, you're close. That particular skill comes from years of working for educated men whose handwriting looked like chicken scratches.

    Val, you wrote, "It was a gentler time..." I think you nailed exactly what made that era so special.

  6. Velvet, I LOVED this post! It actually makes me nostalgic for my own...even though, right now in my late 40s, I feel so totally screwed up by the rough lessons I learned. Maybe one day, I too can look back and be glad for it!

  7. Holly, thanks. It's one of the best things about getting older. To quote Carol Burnett's character in a movie I saw many years ago, "Just when I got my head together, my ass started falling apart."

  8. It may be.....It could be....IT IS, A HOME RUN!

    I miss him too....

  9. When I think back to childhood and the fun we had in the summer, I can't remember why I was so eager to grow up! Of course, my childhood wasn't idyllic, but I'm so glad I have memories of being a kid before the world turned ugly.

  10. 4th Sister, I wasn't even a baseball fan, but Harry Caray's play-by-play was as common in our house as the sound of the refrigerator humming.

    Janet, I wonder if innocence makes all the difference. Do today's children see the world as a nicer, safer place than we adults do? I hope so.


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