Recently it was noted that nostalgia is not necessarily a bad thing afterall and might not even have anything to do with being mentally ill in any way. Although I can’t say that thinking about or visiting my home in San Antonio, Texas doesn’t bring about a certain amount of pain; it has started to charm me more as I get older and further away from any painful adolescent memories in order to appreciate it.
It’s possible that I’m able to not only physically pull back from living there, but to also gain perspective on the forest of my childhood home in its entirety. I’m not so focused on needing to get out of Dodge as I am on recognizing my own accomplishment in escaping from what felt like a sometimes claustrophobic youth. Perhaps this is always the case for anyone who has permanently left their hometown and moved hundreds of miles away.
Dr. Nostaglia (as I’m calling him) aka Dr. Sedikides stated that, “Nostalgia made me feel that my life had roots and continuity. It made me feel good about myself and my relationships. It provided a texture to my life and gave me strength to move forward.”
My most recent bout of nostalgia was brought on by reading about and reflecting on the swimming holes of my youth. I have very slowly begun to realize, after 14 years of living in the Midwest, that different regions of the country have different ideas on what constitutes a rocking good summer pastime. Don’t get me wrong; the Midwest idea of “tubing” by holding onto a boat for dear life whilst laying on top of an inner tube is fun as hell, but it takes on a completely different meaning in Texas. “Tubin’” in Texas usually includes the Guadalupe River (sometimes pronounced as “Gwa-da-loop”), an inner-tube for your cooler of beer, and your closest friends. Apparently, this could also be called “floating”, according to another Midwestern transplant.
The thing that I miss most about Texas summers isn’t just the typical style of Southern relaxation and the fact that the water doesn’t feel like a tortuous game of chicken in an ice-bath (ala Lake Michigan). I miss the distinctly childhood memories, the feeling of wonder and adventure, digging my feet into the muddy mess of the roots of a cypress tree, keeping an eye out for sharp rocks or those slick with algae, and living for the summer without the cares of a working adult. I miss the sting of the hot Texas sun and the coolness of an authentic sweet sun tea. I miss the crunchy heaven of a perfect pecan pie and the satisfaction of a pint of Blue Bell Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream. I miss swimming with my cousins and neighborhood kids and climbing all over my dad, the lifeguard and adventurer. I miss discovering swimming holes in the hill country of Texas and swinging from a rope above its clear waters. I miss the feeling of wonderful exhaustion after a long day and the simplicity of a ham and cheese sandwich on white bread that my mom made, with a side of Frito Pie. I miss the church carnivals pregnant with possibilities and many many glasses of aquas frescas. I miss the dusk’s cool relief, complete with wide-sky sunsets.
I’ve been finding that the more and more I go home, the more I reaffirm the life that I have chosen for myself in Chicago. The more I realize that the way I’m living is exactly the way I would want to live. I purposely live a life that revolves around adventuring with friends, making art, playing music, creating local cultural phenomena, being silly, being independent, struggling publicly, and getting involved in politics, not unlike how I spent my childhood when I really think about it. I love living in Chicago in the summer. In fact, it was my first full summer here that made me fall in love with this city and the region for the first time and I fell hard. I love movies in the park, roof parties, sidewalk cafes, the Michigan side of Lake Michigan, sand dunes, riding along the lakefront path, biking with friends, BBQs, drinking in cold, dark bars, visiting Wisconsin, and hanging out in the park.
Perhaps the best kind of nostalgia paradoxically recalls different memories from separate places, but then blurs the line between the two for that time when all you really remember are feeling happy, content, relaxed, included, and best of all: free.