I’m sitting here still eating turkey three days after Thanksgiving and thinking: Leftovers are food nostalgia.
By enjoying the dishes again, we can trigger memories of the holiday just experienced, savoring the good moments and ignoring the bad. We can focus on recalling the easy companionship of friends and family without reliving the anxiety of complicated preparations, the worry over who might be tardy or absent, the horror of being lectured about politics by people we see only once a year.
As I’m eating, I’m scrolling through “True Fort Wayne Indiana History,” a public group on Facebook I can actually enjoy without suffering through bumper-sticker lectures on politics from people I would probably cross the street to avoid.
The nearly 10,000 members of the group post reminiscences of a time and place that still exist only within our collective consciousness.
And it occurs to me, as I sample the photos from a long-ago city, that nostalgia comprises the leftovers of the heart. It allows us to live in the glow of remembered happiness without considering the miseries small and large that often intruded.
There are photos of the old Maloley’s supermarket, where my parents shopped when we first moved to town. My sister posted there, “When my brother and I went to Maloley’s for bread and milk in the ’60s, it was 90 cents for a loaf of bread and a gallon of milk, and we got to keep the dime that was left. Good times.”
She chooses not to focus on how far our family had to stretch a dollar in those days.
And there are photos of so many places I spent the hours of my youth. Murphy’s department store downtown. The GE Bowling Club on Broadway. Gardner’s drive-in, the Roller Dome, the old train and bus stations, all those city parks.
I choose to remember a carefree innocence, every endless day with something new to learn, a new friend to make, a new horizon to see beyond. I choose not to relive the gnawing insecurities of how to fit in in high school, how to choose a lifelong career, how to negotiate the looming labyrinth of adulthood.
It is said that we are nicer people during the holiday season, kinder and more generous, tolerant and more forgiving.
Perhaps that is so, but it could also be that we go into the season more determined to tap into our better natures. We enter the holidays knowing there will be torments and tribulations, but also so much good will that we will have leftovers to carry us through to a new year. From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day is our annual pre-nostalgic state of mind.
I’m not suggesting that we should pretend happiness is everywhere at all times and that we ignore our own and others’ misfortunes, only that there is a time to dwell on happiness. And this is that time.
It gets so tiresome listening to those who would take away the holidays or rename them to make up for this or that perceived sin of our ancestors, oppressions that we supposedly still perpetuate today, even if unwittingly. It is tempting to engage them, Twitter barb for Twitter barb.
But I’m inclined to seek out my better nature. I have my holidays and they can have theirs, however joyless they might be.
I will merely note that nostalgia is a necessary cushion for our sometimes dreary lives, and if there is no happiness built in, there will be none to tap into. And if you squander so much moral outrage on how other people find fulfillment, you will have none left over when you really need it.