My Name Is Jennifer, And I’m A Nostalgic

I write to remember.

Every memory, every moment—I need them captured within words. Because once they are gone, I will miss them like a long lost friend. And if I have them tucked away, encapsulated in verbs and nouns and adjectives, then I can revisit them whenever I want. And know that they were real, once.

Some people think it’s crazy that I re-read books. In fact, for almost 10 years I read the same book over again every April and October. Of course I already knew the story, but that was the delicious part of the experience. By opening the love-worn pages of this book, I was able to feel anew the joys, sorrows and excitement of the characters. I never really had to let them go when the story ended, because they would remain perfectly intact inside the pages, even if the front and back cover had long ago been taped together.

Yes, I’m nostalgic. Probably overly so. Is that awful? For as much as I cling to the depth of my memories, I don’t hold grudges or judge based on things that happened long ago. But I can remember the exact tone of conversations, or the way my body flushed at just the slightest touch. I can close my eyes and bring to life the entire scene—fully surrounding myself in the scale of the moment,  whether I was naive and clueless or heady with the elixir of control—I can take myself all the way back and relive.

It probably started with my very first diary. Oh those frightening, scribbled pages filled with the subjective woes of a pre-teen girl. He did or didn’t like me. She was or wasn’t talking behind my back. My parents would or wouldn’t let me go over to so and so’s house after school. Really stimulating stuff. And yet, when I happen upon the bin in the dark recesses of my parents basement that contains these afflicted novels, I end up pouring over the pages of each book for hours. Cringing incessantly at the constant whining – or laughing at my follies with all the “wisdom” that semi-adulthood has provided. And with each, I’ll store more details in the corridors of my mind so that the next time I think about it, the memory will be that much clearer.

Recently, I was talking to my paternal grandmother—an exquisite woman who can empower with one word or soothe with just a touch—and she had taken a similar trip down memory lane after stumbling upon an old packet of letters. At first I said “That must have been fun!” But she paused and replied, “Well no, not really.” Because drumming up those kinds of feelings and emotions can be as painful as it is lovely. But she said that she did see some things anew after reading them this time around. Maybe slight nuances that resonated differently with her now than they did in the past. And it makes you realize how incredible it can be to hear someones voice again through even the plainest sentences and paragraphs.

I wish I could say my need for words is selfless, but unfortunately, I have reduced myself to a beggar’s level in order to get them. Written or spoken, sometimes the desire for them is an overwhelming force that has no justification.

I tried to craft my serious high school boyfriend into a poet and asked him to spill his heart to me on yellow, college-ruled paper. Granted, as an enthusiastic thespian, he wasn’t too phased by the challenge, and even took it one step further by reading his soliloquies aloud. But I soon realized that it’s never the same when forced. It’s the unexpected words that make time stand still. The ones you never saw coming, and will never, ever forget.

Once, when I was a sophomore in college, friends and I gathered at a dingy old bar for our regular Sunday night drink deal. Friends of friends were in attendance that we didn’t know and everyone tried to make introductions over the din of twentysomething voices. Suddenly a girlfriend grabbed my arm and whispered in my ear, “See that guy over there? The one with the plaid shirt and messy hair? He just told me that you are the most beautiful girl he’s ever seen.”

I was completely dumbfounded. It had to be a mistake. These were not the kinds of things random people said to, or about me, ever. And though I can’t remember his name, and never saw him again after that night, I have such gratitude for those words in that moment. They serve to remind me that anything is possible when viewed through someone elses eyes.

Fast forward a few years: I’d been living in Chicago, working retail and going back to school for design, when I decided it was time for me to get an internship and start my foray into the real world. I found an enticing ad for an intern needed at a luxury jewelry design company, and was thrilled when they called to interview me only days after my resume submission.

The interview went great and they offered me the job on the spot. When I walked out of that building and started down the busy city street, I felt such an unmeasured joy and excitement about my future. Later I called my sister to share the news, going on and on about how hard I was going to work and how I couldn’t wait to contribute to the company. And she responded, “They don’t know how lucky they just got, finding you.”

It was such an incredibly genuine compliment that filled me to the brim with love for her.  And it’s something I’ve tried to remember every time I thought maybe I wasn’t good enough, or was falling short…that at one time, someone told me I was an asset, and I learned to believe it and work hard to prove it true.

Forgive me for reminiscing, I just can’t help myself sometimes. Not everyone likes to go back. And not everyone can.

My maternal grandmother has been sliding further into Dementia over the past year.  Forgetting her surroundings, her visitors, her life. Right now it’s mostly her short term memory, but at some point, will the long term memories also begin to fade? What will happen to the strong-willed, fiery and fabulous character she once was? I want to write it down—any vivid memories she has left, and those of my own—depicting the vibrant life she once led so that it will always exist.

I try to pay it forward with my own words. If you know me (or are reading this blog at all) you’ll know enough that I am not a short winded person. I could never be a true journalist where the information must be relayed in short, concise messaging that doesn’t elaborate. I’m the girl who wrote about the sparkling, glittering, brilliant, gorgeous, rainbow-colored, splashing diamond waterfall when she was 8. I’m not sure how much has changed.

I give my words freely in the hopes that, sometimes, they will mean as much to others as theirs do to me. I try to paint pictures so crystal clear that I can envelop those around me and take them there, too. And I write about what matters to me most so that I’ll always have a time machine.

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