Sunday, February 19, 2012

What is lost and what is found

One of my favorite blogs I often read is Josh Wilker's Cardboard Gods. Josh is a little older than me, and he writes about life and memories in the context of baseball cards. His blog is often an inspiration for me, not just because of what he writes strikes a chord, but also because of the mere fact he started blogging all these memories and was successful doing so, to the point where he wrote a book based on the blog.

Josh, who is a new father, wrote a post a couple weeks ago that resonated with me. The baseball card he references is a 1978 Jim Todd, but the post streams from Jim Todd to, amazingly and fluidly, "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)"

Soon enough it disappeared and became dated almost instantly but then eventually came back to life as an oldie. I heard it the other day on a station that uses the word “remember” in its promotional jingles. You hear that word a lot on oldies stations, but the songs on oldies stations have been played so often that there is no way anyone could ever connect them anymore to authentic moments from the past. There is some kind of insidious anaesthetization of the masses through the numbing effects of corporatized non-specific nostalgia. Are you remembering anything when you hear an old hit song, or are you covering yourself up and hiding in a warm blanket of the familiar? I want that blanket; I hate that blanket.


I love my present life and would never trade it for anything. But I'm always drawn to my past, especially my childhood. Josh's words resonate with me because a part of me wants to recapture that past in some way, shape or form. I sometimes believe that something from my history can make me complete, make me more successful or content, make me see the world the way I did when I was 9 and come up with some eureka moment so that everything will make more sense.

I do what I can to achieve this goal that is probably unachievable. I collect old baseball cards. I watch YouTube and other Web videos of classic TV. I listen to playlists of music that remind me of sunny spring days and cool fall afternoons. I play old-school video games and seek out old board games at resale stores. When I am in Chicago, I visit the places I used to frequent, from schools to parks to forest preserves. I reminisce with friends. Oh, and I write and write and write about the past, to the point that I'm about to start another blog dedicated to growing up Generation X.

I want the blanket Josh talks about. I just am not sure it will keep me covered. Am I restless for my past, or is my past making me restless? Is this a sense of loss I'm feeling, or am I just nostalgic to a fault? Is there something to recapture, something that can be recaptured, or is it so ethereal that no matter how hard I try or how real it seems, it can't be grasped?

In a way, I wonder if I'm pissed at myself for forgetting so much of my childhood. I didn't repress any of these memories -- they just weren't important enough to keep in my brain. We never remember the minutiae of our lives. As adults, that's no big deal: As long as I remember the important parts, especially with my sons, who cares about the rest. But hell, I wish I could recall every minor moment from 30 years ago (or at least the happy ones). Maybe, by embracing the nostalgia, I'm hoping to break the dam in brain holding back everything I can't immediately recall. Wouldn't that be something, if you could turn on a switch and get everything back? With technology today, if you put in the time, you can record everything, via pictures, social networking, blogging, video and smartphones. But I could have approached that as a kid by journaling and getting my own camera. I just didn't know better to do so.

I find myself experiencing the past with my own sons. Some of it I try manufacturing -- for example, taking them for a drive on a warm summer night, playing music for them that they will remember fondly in 30 years. Some of it is naturally occurring, like the feeling I felt last spring on a baseball diamond while helping coach Michael's team. But I'm also experiencing the past with them. I'm starting to miss size 2T, car rides that turned into naps, sippee cups and "Little Bear."

I live in the present, know the future is coming, and want the past not to be so past. In the meantime, I try to reconcile all three. And importantly, I'll keep writing about it.

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