Category Archives: Nostalgia

The Good Old Days

 

I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few weeks thinking and talking about “the good old days”, years gone by when everything seemed so much simpler, so much happier.  A mythic period in time that I’ve realized isn’t as static as it used to be.

My friend Chris is in the process of moving his family overseas, a military posting in Europe doubling the already large distance between us and leading to a number of phone calls that we both wish we’d been making all along. We’ve over thirty years of memories together but our “good old days” are the mid 1980s. Days of tree forts, Little League and all day bicycle rides. We listened to Def Leppard and Run DMC, watched Top Gun and played RBI baseball. I traded him my baseball cards for his comic books. We shoveled horse shit and hauled hay bales at our friend’s horse farm for Big League Chew money and loved every minute of it.

I was fortunate enough to be able to spend some time with my other friend Chris this past weekend, also living in another part of the country now but in town for a few days visiting family. It didn’t take more than a few beers before conversation turned to the early 1990’s. Nights spent driving around, looking for girls, Ozzy’s “No More Tears” album on regular rotation. We had our first loves, our first heartbreaks and our first tattoos but had yet to get our first clue about what life was really about. We bagged groceries and stocked shelves for beer and gas money but somehow still spent our weekends shoveling horse shit and hauling hay at our friend’s horse farm on weekends. We loved every minute of it.

 

no idea why I”m wearing a Michigan hat

 

My wife’s birthday was also this past week. I’m smart enough not to tell you how old she is, but we had a nice night out at a restaurant/bar that we hadn’t been to in quite a few years. Its far from our current home, closer to the house that I owned when we first met. She worked nights then, her mother watching the daughter I’d yet to meet, and often would choose to spend the night there instead of driving back to  her own home, a five minute drive as opposed to forty five. This was done purely to save on gasoline of course.

They were late nights. We’d tape Nip/Tuck and South Park on VHS tapes to watch after work or play pool in my basement until the sun came up. More often than not we’d just sit outside on a rickety picnic table, talking under the stars and playing Kenny Chesney and Keith Urban loud enough for the whole neighborhood to enjoy. We hadn’t met each other’s friends or family, co-workers had no idea that we were together. It was illusion, a shared fantasy that there was no outside world to bother us, but it was a moment in time over a decade ago that I sometimes miss and I know that she does too.

 

The Good Old Days
both a lifetime and a minute ago

 

It’s not just something that us adults feel. A few mornings ago my daughter asked if I could make her a chocolate milk and sit on the couch with her as I drank my coffee, like “we used to do.” When she’s overtired and emotional she tells me that she misses the days before school when we could play together all day long. Six years old and she already has her own version of “the good old days.”

It’s easy to understand how we fall into this trap, this romanticizing of the past. Memories can be malleable, molded into whatever we want them to be. Bits and pieces can be chosen, others tossed aside. The future is scary, unknowable. We tell ourselves to “stay in the moment” but that moment is slippery, a part of our past before we’re able to firmly grasp and appreciate it.

There’s a balance that needs to be found, one that isn’t always easy to find. An ability to look back and smile at where we’ve been, appreciate where we are, and look forward to what’s to come. In 1983 Billy Joel sang that “the good old days weren’t always good, tomorrow ain’t as bad as it seems.” I listen to these lyrics as I sit in my backyard, enjoying my home and loving all those that inhabit it. I’m drinking a Zima and remembering when this was my drink of choice, something that wouldn’t be smelt on my breath when I returned home, hopefully before curfew. Like most things nostalgic it’s nowhere near as good as I recalled it being.

I think about “the good old days” and am thankful that there are so many different times in my life that this term can now apply to. I hope that I’m blessed with many more.

 

cheers

 

 

T Shirts and Tattoos

 

Last month I went out and bought myself two brand new pair of jeans, one Levi, one Wrangler, relaxed fit and straight legged.  This may not seem like an interesting event, but is noteworthy because these two brought my new total to three that I’m now able to wear in public without samaritans handing me their spare change.

My T-shirt section of the closet is slightly fuller, augmented by the Avengers and Red Sox additions that my wife bought this past Valentine’s Day. With a gaudy eight now at my disposal, my wardrobe should be all set for most of the next decade.

The Avengers shirt, along with the matching socks, was picked out by my daughter, a point that my wife was quick to make.  She also was pretty intent on making sure I was aware that she still held the receipt and could return any of it that I wasn’t prepared to wear.

She shouldn’t have worried. Not only did I not mind either shirt, ( or the socks ) I thought it was cool that Alaina wanted me to have clothes that matched her assorted superhero wear. Even more importantly, I no longer give too much of a rat’s ass what people think about how I’m dressed. My days of trying to be stylish, trying to be cool, are way beyond me and it’s a liberating feeling.

It hasn’t always been that way.  Your dress and overall appearance is a representation of how you want people to view you.  In high school that meant long hair, dagger earrings hanging from my left lobe, a denim jacket, and a heavy metal T shirt.  I was one of the “smart kids”, but I was determined to be a rebel, whatever the hell I thought that meant.  As soon as I turned eighteen I got Yosemite Sam tattooed on my left arm, followed soon after by a heart, crossbones behind it and flames surrounding the whole thing. I didn’t want to be a smart kid, I wanted to be a badass. More importantly, I wanted other people to think I was a badass.

 

tattos and t shirts

 

I wasn’t and I don’t think anybody was fooled, but I went with the look for a while.

Eventually adulthood, or at least my version of it, forced me to abandon the mullet ( RIP you glorious bastard ) and replace the ripped skull shirts with beer logos and sports merchandise.  A pair of dragons and a back tattoo of an angel and a devil arm wresting over a table of people shaped game pieces help to keep my bad boy credentials intact, as did a young, hot wife who didn’t mind hanging out in biker bars.

Now my kid picks out my clothes. More than that, she draws my tattoos, my newest addition being her representation of how we will look joining forces to fight the forces of evil when she’s a bit older and “better in control of her powers.”

 

tattos and t shirts

 

People change a lot over the course of a life. Tastes change, trends come and go, priorities shift.  We spend a lot time learning to become comfortable with who we are.  Some people take longer than others and there are some that just never seem to figure it out.

Besides the Avengers shirt, my wife was also worried that I wasn’t going to like the Red Sox one that she had purchased either. Instead of the name of a player across the back, this one had another three letters, a name spelled out that I feel does a pretty good job of explaining exactly who it is that I am now.

Just might be my favorite shirt yet.

 

 

 

 

 

Thoughts of My Gram

 

It’s strange sometimes the things that can remind you of someone, a person that may not have crossed your mind for a long time or had a reason to think about.  A song, a place, an article of clothing or a certain type of food. The most arbitrary of catalyst triggering remembrance.

A few days ago I looked out at an extremely crowded waiting room at work and thought about my grandmother, passed about twenty years now.  I looked out at the mass of people, turned to the student that was shadowing me, and remarked that “they must be giving away something for nothing here.”  It was a line that my grandmother used whenever we would pull into a parking lot that contained more than a handful of cars.  As a child I found it much more humorous than the student seemed to.

She lived farther away from us than either of my children’s grandparents now do, but was an important figure in my life growing up.  Summers meant vacations at their house. A week solo for myself, one for my brother, and then a week when we were both there. This time was spent working in their garden, swimming in the only privately owned pool that I knew of, and watching old episodes of Get Smart and Batman using a new innovation in technology called “cable television.”  It was also a time for reading, hours spent in silence as we lay across her bed in silence, each privately engrossed in whatever novel currently had our attention.

 

thinking of gram
sorry ladies, I did some cropping

 

My girls are very fortunate to have two grandmothers and a grampy that are very involved in their lives, as are my brother’s twins.  When she was younger a grandfather that has since passed was a very important role model in the teenager’s life and I sometimes wonder if she may have avoided a few of the pitfalls that she has stumbled into if that influence was still with her.

Over the past few years several very close friends of mine have been confronted with their parent’s mortality. Passage for some, ongoing fights for health continuing for others.  It’s something that’s painful to consider, but a reality that we all must one day face. One more reminder to cherish every day that we have with those that we love.

I think that recent thoughts of my grandmother may have been subliminally influenced by this picture, taken to commemorate the little’s first 100 days of kindergarten.  It’s meant to depict what she will look like at 100 years old. My daughter absolutely hates it, but I think it’s hysterical.  It also kind of reminds me of somebody.

 

looking like gram
a little bit freaky

 

 

 

Next Generation Speedster

 

No matter how long you’ve know somebody or how close you may believe yourselves to be, there are always some things about each other that you may not realize.  Beliefs, idiosyncrasies, fears.  Any number of surprises waiting to be discovered.  Over the past year many of us were faced with the reality of good friends, even family in some cases, that we were much farther apart from politically than ever before imagined.

My wife recently learned something new about me.  Not really a secret, nothing intentionally kept from her, but a skill that she had never seen me demonstrate in all of our years together.  She found out that I’m a kick ass roller skater.

Some of you are probably laughing right now, and I understand that. This beer belly doesn’t exactly scream athleticism and most days my gait is closer to Fred Sanford than Scott Hamilton.

It may also be that you are too young to understand, coming of age in an era that gave you a wider variety of things to do on a Friday night or Saturday afternoon.  If that’s the case, you probably didn’t understand the Fred Sanford reference.  You probably don’t know what it means to “shoot the duck” or ever bruised a tailbone showing off to Van Halen’s “Jump.”  Your first taste of romance probably wasn’t holding a sweaty hand while couple’s skating to Journey or REO Speedwagon.

If you did, then you understand how cool this makes me.  How impressive that after a twenty five year hiatus I was able to lace ’em up and not completely embarrass myself, only falling down once during the three times we’ve gone these past two weeks and not severely injuring myself.

Alaina’s first attempt at following me down this road to awesomeness wasn’t overly successful but I didn’t push her to continue trying as much as I may have another day.  As much as I sympathized with the parent’s trying to hold a winter birthday party on Super Bowl Sunday and appreciated that it was held several hours before kickoff, I deemed the risk of an afternoon in Emergency Care too great.  Everybody seemed content with cake and the video game options available at the facility so I let it go.

 

Secret Skill
not quite ready to borrow my keys

 

She, however, was not.  With yet another birthday party looming at the same place the following weekend, I wasn’t at all surprised that only a few hours later she was asking if we would be able to go back and practice before then.  For my local readers, Tri-State Speedway in Dudley, Mass has a rink that is much slower than the one in Plainfield, as well as a go kart track, bumper cars, mini golf and a large soft play obstacle course.  As an added bonus, there is a sports bar attached. It was the perfect place to refine her skills.

 

An Unknown Skill
the face of determination

 

The practice paid off, as it usually does.  She still wasn’t comfortable hitting the hardwood without assistance, but the kid was doing some serious cruising and had to be coerced off the track when it was time for pizza.  Once again, she made this dad proud.

 

getting the hang of it

 

There aren’t any more skating parties in the near future, but she’s asking to go back.  It’s a great way to get some exercise during these last few cold months and one of our jobs as parents is to pass along our knowledge and skills.  Its also more fun than I should probably admit whipping around and reliving my youth.  I just need these blisters to heal first.

 

 

Pictures Aren’t Worth a Thousand Words

 

Eve 6

 

Last night I was able to sneak off by myself for a few hours and see pop-punk band Eve 6 at the Wolf Den at Mohegan Sun.  As usual my trip there made me wish that I had more willpower when it came to walking by the slot machines on my way out, but this trip also left me feeling both nostalgic and grateful.

Nostalgic because I was reminded of all the great songs that this band recorded in the late 1990’s and first few years of the 2000’s.   In those early days of Napster and file sharing, “Here’s to the Night” was the first song that I ever downloaded, taking approximately twenty minutes to finish.  In those days Friday and Saturday night plans were made based on which cover bands were playing the circuit of bars that I frequented.  The song “Inside Out” was a staple of many of these bands’ set lists.

Grateful because there isn’t a whole lot from those years for me to be proud of.  I remember seeing the band at a music festival around that time, but who I was with, who else played, and much of the rest of the day escapes me.  I’m fairly certain that was the mosh pit where I got cut over both of my eyes after having my sunglasses punched into my face for defending a girl being groped while crowd surfing, but I’m not positive.  Seeing them play live again was a nice time, but being home with my wife by 11:00 and waking up to take my daughter to school made me much happier than anything that may have occurred on that night almost twenty years ago.

 

While waiting for the show to start I spent some time chatting with a younger couple sitting on one side of me and an older one on the other.  The younger couple were trying to decide what pictures to delete from their phones to free up some storage for a few of the band.  The thousands of pictures were all of their children of course, leading to some small talk about parenting ( because that’s what parents do ) and comments from the older couple about how many more photos they had of their two small grandchildren than they did of the entire lives of their two adult children.

It brought to mind a conversation I had earlier that night at work about how cell phone cameras have completely changed the way that we document our lives and also a half written post from about a month ago about how I’m not sure that pictures are always enough. They are reminders of a slice of time, but not true stories of the moment.  I have no pictures of that Eve 6 concert all those years ago, but even if I did, what would that tell me other than that I was there?

 

Earlier in the week my wife was telling a group of people about the spectacle of herself our youngest had made the prior evening at Daisy Scouts.  One of those in attendance mentioned to her that “she really should write this stuff down.”  I found it an ironic suggestion coming from an e-mail subscriber to this very blog, but the fact is that I did write down my wife’s story, adding that moment to all the others being collected in a pile of note books I’ve been scribbling into for the past two years.  I wrote it down not as potential material for future use, but because more and more these notebooks are becoming more about documenting moments than they are first drafts of blog posts.

I’ve mentioned before that this is never going to be a place where I share parenting advice other than the occasional “what not to do”, but I’m breaking my own rule today.  You don’t need your own blog, a fancy scrap booking set-up, or a secret diary under your pillow, but I’d encourage you to write things down.  Spend two dollars on a simple notebook and take a few minutes every week documenting what happened and how you felt about it.  Even if you don’t have kids, write things down. Write down things that you don’t want to forget because the odds are that you will.

I’m old enough to still be amazed by the idea that I have not only a camera with me at all times now, but a video camera.  I take a ton of pictures and the kids enjoy looking through them with me from time to time.  I have a feeling that one day they are going to enjoy flipping through my notebooks even more.