Tag Archives: nostalgia

the good old days

The Best Advice So Far: the good old days - old-fashioned soda jerk offering chocolate ice cream cone

Ah, the good old days.

The simpler ways of bygone eras have become an indelible part of our collective consciousness, stirring a sense of wistfulness at their passing, whether we actually lived through them or not.

Neighbors leaned from open windows or across picket fences to chat, and thought nothing of asking to borrow an egg or a cup of sugar. Newcomers were welcomed with a jingle of the doorbell and a proffered platter of freshly made cookies or a Bundt cake. And it was assumed that all were invited to the backyard barbecue.

During trips to the local grocer or druggist, owners and customers greeted each other by name, never in too much of a hurry to ask about the children or that recent vacation. And partings were peppered with give-my-best-tos.

Young people helped the elderly across busy intersections, offered to carry their bag a few blocks, and climbed trees to rescue their kittens.

Sinewy men slung a tattooed arm around their buddy’s neck as they crowded together around diner booths — some sitting, some standing with one foot propped on the edge of a seat — swapping outrageous and animated stories with other guys from town.

People took leisurely strolls down shady streets, played chess in the park, had picnics on Saturdays and impromptu dance parties on the beach. No one dreamed of whizzing by a kid’s lemonade stand without stopping.

Friends threw dress-up dinner parties, and guests offered small gifts upon arrival, as well as following up with a thank-you card by mail a few days later. Just as likely might be a game night during which participants played Twister, eventually collapsing into a heap upon one another and laughing until their cheeks hurt.

Wholesome stories and images abound, combining to weave a sort of glorious fairy tale — one continuous happily-ever-after.

Of course, we tend to overlook …


our gang

cast of

Today’s post is a tribute to some of my very favorite people in the world. But it’s a tribute with a point and a challenge for us all.

In my writings, I talk a lot about the many interesting and cool people I meet day to day by taking positive social risks. Today, I want to tell you about a different group of people – an inner circle of friends that make for a pretty wonderful life.

Our little gang centers around two sisters, Holly and Dib. Their real names are Charlotte and Olivia, which adds to the atmosphere somehow, because they are truly classy, classic and traditional while at the same time being entirely down-to-earth, modern and cool.

Gatherings typically happen at one of their homes in Marshfield, Massachusetts. Holly’s home is right on the actual marsh of Marshfield – the house where she and Dib grew up. It holds a rich history of personal stories, with new ones emerging all the time, even after the decades some of us have spent together there. Dib’s home is near the sea wall, where you can hear the ocean and smell the salt in the air the moment you step outside. Everything from the lighting to the hand soap feels like a beach escape, yet without the slightest hint of pretentiousness.

Both are gardeners extraordinaire. You’ll never see such personal and beautiful spaces as their gardens; and while dropping in, it is likely you’ll be offered an artisan salad made with their own herbs and tomatoes in an array of colors.

But Holly and Dib aren’t the only members of our hodge-podge family, nor the only ones with interesting pet names. Spanky, Alfalfa and Froggy had nothing on our gang, which includes the likes of Fluffy, Tipster, Pinky and Richie Rich.

I’ve spent twenty holiday seasons with this group of friends. Though there have been additions along the way, it is difficult to imagine a time when we all weren’t there together.  The Christmas tree is always perfectly imperfect, and laden from stand to star with decorations spanning a hundred years: bubbling baubles and tiny trains that run their tracks on heat from the bulbs. Food is made from scratch with old family recipes, and we all clap when it is at last presented by our host, Holly, who is beaming and covered in flour. It’s as close to stepping into a Norman Rockwell painting as anyone will ever get.

It would be hard for me – even as a writer – to describe the feeling when we are all together.  On the surface, we couldn’t be more different. The age range spans 40 years. Some are single and some are married with kids. Some are tech geeks. Some are connoisseurs of cigars, wine and spirits.  Some get serious about Magic: The Gathering while others discuss Nietzsche. Some are boisterous and others as quiet and reflective as I imagine Abraham Lincoln to have been.

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big kids: part 4 of 4

big-kids-4

Today marks the final installment of the current “big kids” series. I hope you’ve been enjoying the trip down memory lane. But more importantly, I hope you collected a few things during your journey and brought them back with you, dusted them off, and started playing with them again in the now.

In case you missed them, be sure to catch up to speed on PART 1, PART 2 and PART 3 (particularly PART 1, which sets the stage for each following post, including this one!).

Let’s take one more look at something we used to know as kids, but maybe have forgotten as we’ve gotten older:

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256

I mentioned my car briefly in yesterday’s post.  My previous car — the one that John mangled early in its life — was Frankensteined back together and wound up lasting me to 251,000 miles.  Even then, it did not die.  I traded it for my current car: a 1999 Nissan Altima, which has already broken the old record and will pass the 256,000 mile mark this week.  My mother says that the unusual durability of my cars is due to the fact that I have been assigned “really good car angels.”  I am not inclined to start arguing with her about this.

A few days ago, I called one of the kids I mentor, to see if he wanted to join me for a late ice cream.  Ever the adventurous one, he was up for it.  When I arrived to pick him up, I chatted quickly with his dad at the door.

“What’s that sound,” he asked with furrowed brow.

“What sound?” I replied.  I didn’t hear anything.  He stepped around me out the door, to where my car was idling.

That sound,” he said, matter-of-factly.  “That’s not good.  You need to get that looked at.  Sounds like a [insert gobbledygook of automotive terms].  I’d hate to see you get stranded somewhere if that lets go.”

Now that he’d pointed it out, I suppose my car was making a sort of rattling/clicking noise.  I honestly don’t hear it anymore.  And, like I said in the last post, it goes right away when I crank up the stereo.

Of course, whatever that noise might be, it is certainly not lonely in my car.

When I turn right (or is it left?), the CV joint on the front right wheel clicks and grinds.  And any time I go above 40, there’s a sort of fwip-fwip-fwip-fwip noise caused by bearings out on the left.  Any slight bump or irregularity in the road results in a squeak and crunch, since the shocks (or is it struts?) in the back have been shot for some time.

Then there are the noiseless culprits.

My catalytic converter needs to be replaced before my September inspection.  And the car hasn’t had working A/C in a few years.  Or, rather, it has “sometimes A/C.”  It works for five minutes.  Or three.  Or fifteen.  And then it doesn’t.  If I turn it off for ten minutes, it might come back.  Or it might not.  The might nots typically happen on the 90-degree days with matching humidity.

I don’t even notice new scratches, dings or dents.  The body rot and paint fading kind of hide them.  The rubber all around the windows looks like rats have been nibbling it.  And the area around the gas tank lip, where the pump inserts, is rusting through.  Last year, at inspection, I had a number of sensors replaced, along with needing to have metal sheets soldered in places where the flooring under the carpets had holes rotted in it.

For some time now, I’ve felt quite lucky at the end of each day that the old gal is still ticking.  (Er … maybe I shouldn’t use another onomatopoeia, given all the other noises emitting from the poor thing.)

I apologize if all of this is sounding like the equivalent of folks getting to that age when conversation pretty much consists of enumerating one’s aches and pains in detail.  So what’s my point?

Well, my point is that the car’s woes — aren’t.  Aren’t woes, that is.  Well, they are, I suppose.  They exist.  And I’m aware of them.  I just don’t have the funds to put into anything but the most urgent of repairs.  But when I think about my car, I don’t think about all of that.  Honestly, I don’t.

I’ll tell you what I do think of.

I’ve had this car for nearly 10 years.  During that time, I have had hundreds of friends and kids in and out of those now-dented and scratched doors.

Sodas have been spilled on those carpets by boisterous boys.  And many a fry has been left under those seats — surprises I’ve found only much later.

We’ve laughed and blasted music and sang together at the top of our lungs in those seats.

The back seat and trunk have held more lost-and-found items of clothing than I can count, as well as board games, fishing nets, beach chairs and coolers.

The ashtray has held countless coins that have been scraped together (along with whatever we could find next to those fries under the seats)  to buy ice cream cones.

The gas from many a gift card — generously given by friends who believe in what I do with that car — has been pumped into that rusted tank.

I’ve perfected my calm-and-steady voice while inwardly screaming in fear for my life, during road lessons for scores of new teen drivers.

We’ve driven to beaches and movies and pizza joints.  We’ve made road trips to and from colleges and, sometimes, wherever the road took us for a while.

Many late-night conferences have been held in that car.  Deep talks.  Meaningful talks.  Breakthrough talks.   Sometimes inside.  Sometimes leaning against the off-kilter hood under the stars.

And many tears have been soaked into the cracked leather of those front seats.

That is what I see when I look at my car with its 256,000 miles.  Every mile holds a story.

And so, rather than champing at the bit to be rid of it, I’ll be a little sad to see it go.  In the meantime, I’ll trace those scratches fondly with my fingertips and continue making one more memory — and one more — until it’s time to say goodbye.

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts, stories or questions. I invite you to leave your comments below.


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