My friend Joanna and I were having a conversation yesterday about the Pumpkin Spice craze that grips the country every year in late August and lasts until the products disappear from retail shelves towards the end of the year. She pointed out that it really isn’t the “pumpkin spice” itself that is so powerful, but rather the emotions that the aroma and the flavor elicit. Pumpkin Spice products bring back memories of family gatherings, pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving dinner, friendship and warmth. It’s a mass market version of everyone’s favorite comfort food that mom used to make.
Nostalgia is a powerful emotion. It can cause some people to remain rooted in the past and leave them unwilling to accept change. It can create a desire to return to the “good old days” that were never quite as good in reality as they are in retrospect. Nostalgia can also create a sense of warmth and well-being that brings back precious memories to sustain and enrich your inner world and leave you a better person from the lessons you learned in the past.
After being laid off from my job of 25 years this summer, I decided to regroup and make my downtime productive. I compiled a fairly lengthy To Do list of projects that I’d been putting off for years due to a lack of both time and motivation. One of the items on my list was cleaning out my basement.
I bought my house in the spring of 1999 and moved in with too many years’ worth of personal belongings. My mother moved with me and brought her own trove of accumulated possessions. My father had passed away in 1996, and his large collection of tools came along with my mother. Everything was hastily put away in the basement, but nothing was really organized too well, and life goes on and the organizing part never happened.
As I was cleaning out the basement and getting everything put away, I came across several tool boxes with my father’s name stamped on them, scraps of paper with his handwriting, and various gadgets that he had cobbled together from spare parts of other things that had stopped working. I’ve missed my father every single day since he died, but being immersed in a roomful of his things brought back a flood of memories. I pictured him in the basement of the home my mother had just left, the house where I had grown up. The basement was always his personal domain, and he took great pride in keeping everything clean, organized and in good repair. The basement reflected who he was as a person, a husband, and a father. He always took care of everything and immediately fixed anything that was broken, whether that might be putting a new handle on an old hammer or patching a hole in my tights by putting a coin underneath the hole and stitching up the tear while I was still wearing them.
I also discovered a box of old 8mm films, some dating back to 1959. There were films of my parents’ wedding day and honeymoon, Christmas movies from many years ago and lots and lots of vacation shots. As I was watching the footage from my parents’ wedding day, there was a scene where my mother and father looked at one another with such a profound expression of love that it brought me to tears. The love between them would remain just as strong throughout 37 years of marriage and gave me a wonderful childhood and a strong basis to venture out into the world on my own. My parents’ home was always filled with love and plenty of laughter. It was a place where you weren’t allowed to take yourself too seriously and where I learned to both cherish the good times in life and bounce back from the rough patches. It gave me a sense of humor and taught me the value of loyalty, honesty and caring for other people.
Sometimes nostalgia can be a good thing. And it’s nice to have a clean basement for the first time in almost twenty years. Now it’s time for that Pumpkin Spice coffee.