Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Feels Like Home

Regardless of the trigger, there are certain sensations that have the magical power like a wonder straight out of a tale from the mind H.G. Wells. Like the taste of a fresh carved turkey or a meal that feels delightfully home-cooked, the tiniest sampling transports you to that simple place: home. 

Now, any passage referencing nostalgia works much like the passage’s content. It reminds you of every other piece of prose that talks about the sights, smells, sounds of days gone by. However, my point here is not to be outstandingly original. It is more to remind you about those little reminders that are more powerful than a sledge hammer and as deeply rooted as an ancient oak.

These mental/emotional imprints usually predate memory and require neither internal explanation nor differentiation. Like a Frisbee to the forehead, you are instantly aware of their presence and whichever moment their sensation correlates to. Whether the interim is measured in moments, days, or years, the intensity is rarely diminished. The reaction isn’t solely a reminder of a past time. The power is actually two-fold insofar as some inexplicable power almost seems to actually take you back there. The memory/feeling evoked is so vivid it is almost tangible. 

So, after that considerably ‘wordy’ introduction, I now ponder about those things in my life that absolutely take me back. I would have to say my most powerful sense of nostalgia is in a spoonful of green bean casserole. It is an absolute staple at my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving and personally desired at just about any special meal that necessitates fine china. Not only is it one of my favorite dishes in the world, but one taste of those creamy green beans and crunchy topping take me back to all the memories equal parts warm, fuzzy, and chaotic. I am taken back to the mental pictures of family around the table talking, laughing, and spilling milk.

More recently, the latest time warp was experienced as I stepped back to Decatur Heights. Every year since I was 2 years old, my family and I would pack up and head to a small lake in Northern Indiana to rendezvous with my mother’s side of the family. From the moment we pulled up to the front driveway, I remember being the terror of a child I used to be running around the hard wood floors and begging my Uncle to take me out on the lake (regardless of the weather).

One week out of the year was as looked forward to, as it was sad to see come and gone. Whether it was the big red paddleboat ferry that passed by and honked its horn, or the girls’ and boys’ dorms with sets of the worst mattresses on the planet, there were certain things one could always expect when you stepped in that door. There were also a few things one could expect to never expect, one most importantly being silence! With dozens of grandchildren running around, our parents, at times, were definitely in need of some serious medication.

Throughout the years and amongst the chaos, certain traditions stood the test of time. Great meals, bruised children (from tubing), group pictures, usually at least 1+ crying child, ice cold/boiling hot showers, a few family feuds, growing pains, board games (Catch Phrase), and leg wrestling shook the nails out of the studs and almost blew the roof off this cottage once a year. All 100 cousins (literary hyperbole, sort of) would laugh, play and enjoy their turn on the lake and with each other. If there weren’t little ones screaming for the lives on top of an inner tube, they were having the time of their lives laughing under them while building forts on the deck.

The years (20!) continue to pass, and every year there seems to be a new face around. However, most frustratingly, there are almost always a few faces missing. This little thing called life (which the lucky get to escape for this blessed week) gets in the way and keeps the attendance less than perfect. In the past, there have been unfortunate gaps in my own attendance. This year in particular, I was anxious/nervous about how I would fold back into the group. I knew they would remember me, because anything short of a lobotomy wouldn’t remove the mental scaring of my childhood/teenage shenanigans! But, I wasn’t 100% on the new dynamics, faces, and family I haven’t seen in years…

Well, for the 1st time in my life, I was wrong. From the second I stepped in the door (and grabbed my first cookie), I was transported back. Things may have changed, but strangely enough, they hadn’t. The water still had that same grimace inducing after-taste, the laughs were loud, and the family was… family! There will of course be a mile-long blog about this week in particular, but I just wanted to say that its good to be home.

PS – I will say the primary thing that is a constant reminder of change, is this burning, aching feeling all over my body from being a waterlogged rag doll being dragged behind a speedboat with nothing but the sound of screams and my Uncle’s maniacal cackling. He knows that no matter how we age or grow, his nieces, nephews, and own children are ALWAYS nothing but toys that bend to his will on the water. I don’t think anyone has made more children fear for their lives behind a boat.

1 comment:

Abby said...

One word - tapioca!