Saturday, April 16, 2011

N is for Nostalgia

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As a modern woman writing in modern times about contemporary characters and colonial home crafts, it’s no surprise that I have a fascination with the concept of nostalgia. It’s probably the primary drive behind my interest in old-fashioned skills and domesticity.

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Nostalgia just isn’t what it used to be. Originally it was a medical diagnosis closely related to melancholy, and the word comes from two Greek terms meaning “returning home” and “ache”. It was, in essence, a kind of homesickness.

Now the definition has become tricky; ask different people and you’ll receive differing responses. Some say nostalgia describes the feeling you get when remembering something from your past. Others say it’s more of a yearning for the past. I’ve also heard nostalgia described as a memory triggered by the senses, especially the sense of smell.

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However you define it, I know the feeling. It is indeed a kind of ache. But to me it’s a yearning for something in the past that we never had in the first place. An ideal. An impossibility.

How do you define nostalgia? What do you feel nostalgic about?

3 comments:

  1. Yes!!!! I think you nailed it. A yearning for something we never had in the first place.

    Also, I think it's when we ache for the past, and we're viewing it through tinted lenses. We tend to forget the pain, the troubles, etc., that existed. We only see the good times, the laughter and closeness....

    Love this post!

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  2. I get nostalgic for anything that reminds me of my grandmother's house.

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  3. I'd define it as yearning for something that we no longer have--whether we really did have it in the first place or not. Every fall I get nostalgic for the holidays of my childhood (at my Amma's house, with all the family around)--whether they really were as wonderful as I remember them is debatable, but in my memories they are, and when the air cools off and that autumn smell comes creeping into the breeze, I always have a moment, however brief, when I wish I could have that again.

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