Just so you know, this is my background music for the moment. Feeling nostalgic for my paternal grandparents tonight.
When I was a kid, I hated this kind of music. It reminded me of Saturday mornings in my grandparents’ car, driving around Raceland doing errands with them. It reminded me of wedding receptions, long after the thrill of party food and the potential for cake was gone.
The music was symbolic, in a way. An audible attribute of the small towns of my youth–Raceland, Thibodaux, and all those towns down the bayou. Listening to it reminded me how trapped I felt, not just by the small town-ness of it all, but by my connection to the land and the history there. I wanted to be something special, exciting, not just some kid in a boring car listening to music I couldn’t understand or sing along with.
I wanted so much to get out of there. Not just out of the car with the Cajun music, but the smallness of my world. I wanted to be someone important, do something important. I didn’t want my biggest accomplishment to be 20 years as a sales clerk in the local office supply store.
It’s amazing what you don’t appreciate while you’re in it. Not that I would want to go back to my childhood, but I would love the opportunity to talk to my grandparents from an adult point of view, ask them about their lives, ask them about their dreams and challenges and joys.
Truth be told? I don’t remember much of my childhood. I wasn’t present for so much of it. I was somewhere else, in a made-up world, living a made-up life that pleased me more than the one I had.
But I do remember the music. And believe it or not, it’s actually kind of grown on me.
So, I lift the proverbial glass to my Grandma Reina and Grandpa Merrill, who are probably at a VFW dance in Heaven right about now (or playing cards at a kitchen table with their noisy, French-speaking friends). I didn’t know you well, but I sort of wish I had.
Good night, dear souls. May your dreams be sweet, and may the soundtrack of life always contain a bit of nostalgia.
My 30th High School Class Reunion is this weekend in New Orleans. I will not be attending, but I find it amazing how different things are now than they were at the time of the last reunion. Five years ago, I had absolutely no contact with anyone from my high school class. Now, thanks to social media, I’ve reconnected with many of them. Some of the folks I really liked in high school are no longer people I really want to hang with, and some people I absolutely detested have blossomed into amazing, fascinating adults. I see them so differently now, both as adults and as the teenagers they used to be. With the perspective of time, things that were once painful, hurtful, or just plain infuriating take on a deeper, richer texture.
My former classmates seem to have a different memory of me than I have, too. It’s funny, seeing your past self through the reflections of your adult former classmates. When I think back upon my younger self, I see a nerdy, awkward geek who never came near to reaching her full potential. My memories of myself back then are harsh, judgmental, even hateful at times.
But some of the words I hear now about that younger me include kind, smart, funny, creative – characteristics I never would have attributed to myself at the time. Whose memories are accurate – theirs or mine? And if I was wrong about myself then, what will my future self see differently about the person I am now?
I wonder if my classmates remember themselves the way I remember them? The hilarious pranksters, the so-smart-they-were-intimidating-intellectuals, the beautiful ones, the healers-of-broken-souls. No matter what their pictures on Facebook show, I still see them young and healthy, the girls in their red and grey plaid skirts, the boys wearing grey slacks. I see them in their band uniforms, prom dresses, big 80s hair, full of potential and fear and excitement.
I was not a popular person in school, although I had my circle of friends. For so many years, I looked back on my school days with bitterness and regret. But tonight, in the shimmering glow of nostalgia, I realize that these clever, outrageous, cruel, boring, funny, intense teenagers formed the cauldron in which my future self was clarified, strengthened, and distilled. And all the good memories and bad are merely ingredients in this wonderful amalgam I have become.
So, my old friends, while you are partying this weekend in The City that Care Forgot, please know that I haven’t forgotten to care about you. Please take care, be safe, and maybe we’ll see each other at the 35th.
Go, E.D. White Class of 1984!