I like nostalgia, as a concept. Not the kind of nostalgia that ignores past injustice and pretends things were “the good old days”. No, that’s not the nostalgia I mean. My kind of nostalgia is about finding elements of the past that brought contentment or support for those living then but for some reason don’t tend to happen anymore. My nostalgia is romanticized, surely, but not blindly so. Perhaps examples might illustrate what I mean more clearly. I’m thinking of the kind of town that had a coffee shop with really good pie and coffee. A time when the butcher would take the time to find the right cut of meat for the dish you were making. A place where block parties, ice cream socials, kids’ lemonade stands and fourth of July parades wouldn’t cause law suits or cynical eyebrow raises. A time when community mattered alongside of family. The kind of place that lives in Rockwell’s paintings, grandmothers’ stories and old Hollywood musicals. That is my idea of nostalgia; not quite reality but bits and bobs of the past sprinkled throughout.
Bearing that in mind, I’ve often wondered if I could find such an idealized place in my neck of the woods. I’ve driven through towns – big and small – and looked at the Main street, the parks and schools, wondering if this town was Brigadoon (or more likely Peyton Place). I’m not looking for “Pleasantville”; don’t get me wrong on that front. Freedom to think, to question, to search is far more important than any creature comforts or community goals. But, in my heart, I wonder if such a place exists and would I be happy there. Would I be able to make my home in Brigadoon?
Ultimately, even though I strive to retrieve bits of nostalgic life – warm pies on the windowsill, gingham aprons on the clothesline, good coffee and close friends – I don’t think Brigadoon is the place for me. It’s the elusiveness of such a place that makes it interesting and inviting. Everyday can’t be a holiday, or holidays cease to be special. Warm pie can’t be on the windowsill everytime or there won’t be room for other more risky treats. The lure, and ultimately the failing, of Brigadoon is the perpetual sunshine that smiles on those folks sleeping through each hundred years. That’s a lot of life to miss just to stay cozy in your cottage, untouched by the evils of the world.
No, I’ll always want to visit my daydream town and sit a spell at the coffee counter with a big piece of peach pie, but sooner or later, I’ll want to drive off down the highway and check out the next town and the next. But I’ll take plenty of pictures while I’m there so I’ll remember it all when it’s gone.