Nostalgia can be as comforting as Linus’s blanket. Don’t take my word for it, science has actually proven it. Idealized memories of one’s past improve self-esteem, enhance confidence, and even increase bodily warmth. It is a powerful positive force, beneficial to your health and well being.
A wistful view of the past triggers much of my writing, a longing to recreate the life I remember as a child in Iowa. Small independent businesses were the norm, music came to us over the radio, and television programs—from domestic comedies to crime shows—shared idealized characters and world views. Part of me knows that even then, there were horrors in the world, but the rosy glow of memory leaves those out.
Writing about that world appeals to me so much more than writing about contemporary times when most activities involve shiny, silver, cold, hard technological devices. Nostalgia allows me to write about the sound of the music on the radio, the smell of summer through an open window, and the taste of popcorn popped on the stove in a saucepan. And the clothes! How I love the clothes, and that they were made from fabrics that had names like seersucker and boucle.
Just to hear Frank Sinatra crooning “Fly Me to the Moon” transports me back to a winter Sunday evening on the farm watching the Ed Sullivan show on our black and white television. I sat on the floor playing with my dolls. My parents sat in their usual spots. Dad slouched on the couch in his undershirt, expertly peeling an apple with a paring knife and sharing the slices, while Mom sat in her chair flipping through a seed catalog. I believed that the romantic and glamorous world Frank Sinatra sang about would one day be mine.
While ole blue eyes had my attention, my brother talked on the phone in the kitchen, having stretched the lengthy, slinky-style cord around the corner from the dining room. We had only one phone in the house, and we kids all had our strategies for keeping conversations private.
Periodically, my brother’s laugh floated into the living room and Dad would turn to the spot where the phone should have been and say, “Get off now. That’s long enough.” After two or three such admonitions, Dad would set aside his apple and paring knife with the shake of his head and a sigh, go address my brother directly, and then resignedly return to the couch.
One of my older sisters waited for her date to pick her up, keeping her eyes on the outside lane, watching for the headlights of a ’52 Chevy or a ’57 Mustang to crest the hill and signal the arrival of her steady. Secretly, I looked forward to my sisters’ dates as much as they did. I had crushes as big as our barn on their boyfriends. My dearest hope was that when they knocked on the door and stepped inside, maybe—just maybe—the boy would look at me and say hi. And then my night would have been made, and I would be more than the invisible kid sister.
I loved the way my sisters dressed in their straight skirts and matching sweaters with detachable lace collars arranged at the neck. They wore makeup and used hairspray and were on their way to movies. To me, the kid on the floor living in the pretend world of my dolls, my sisters’ lives seemed almost as glamorous as the ones Frank sang about.
A few years later, a colored television sat where the black and white model once had, and Petula Clark was Ed Sullivan’s guest. A-line skirts replaced straight ones. My brother had his license, a car, and a steady girl, the same one from the phone conversation. And I was waiting for my date. The handsome young man knocking on the door was for me.
Each era gives way to the next, and for somebody someday, any era—even this one with all its shiny technology—will be looked back at longingly as more ideal than the one in which they find themselves. As the scientists discovered, and as I can personally attest to, writing this nostalgic view of a typical Sunday night from my childhood has enhanced my happiness quotient, raised my body temperature, and made all things seem possible. It has given me as much comfort as a small child gets from its favorite blanket.
About the Author: Bernie Brown
Bernie Brown lives in Raleigh, NC where she writes, reads, sews, and watches birds. Her stories have appeared in Modern Creative Living, Belle Reve, Still Crazy, the Raleigh News and Observer, and several more. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, is a Writer in Residence at the Weymouth Center, and a member of Women’s Fiction Writers Association. One of her stories will appear in an upcoming anthology of short story contest winners from Grateful Steps Publishing. She is currently trying to find a publisher for her first novel. Get to know her better at bablossom.wixsite.com/bernie-brown-writer.