When I'm busy and happy, I don't think much about the past.
But when I'm bored, or feeling lonely, or things aren't going quite the way I want them to, I tend to regress a bit back into those moments in time when it seems things were simpler. They weren't of course; it's just that life creeps forward and what seemed important back then isn't such a big deal now or the memories are rinsed in bleach and sanitized.
When I get into any funk, little things bring on rushes of nostalgia. It's then that I know that something is wrong and these little throwbacks are a means of psychological escape.
Lately I've been getting these gentle reminders from the past. I think they are important to acknowledge because they are part of the sum of the teenager walking her dog down the street, the mother comforting the child, the daughter standing proud, the newly hired worker apprehensive, the little girl on her first day of school.
Psychological implications of these blasts from the pasts aside, I've gotten several cosmic reminders lately - reminders that I'm getting older, that time is precious and stop wasting it worrying about things that don't matter in a day, a month, a year, a decade. That in all honesty I'm *lucky* to be here and take the past with me everywhere I go.
Some of the recent universe-bonking memories that flood me - actually they are more than just memories; they are triggers that, just for a second, transform me immediately from where I am to where I came from on some similar occasion in my life - are hinted at above and described below. I don't know where they come from - from some recessed abscess in my mind, buried treasures of memories that get warped and faded with age, longing for something I've lost...
This summer already has been SO hot in California. Everyone here has such small yards that they spend fortunes at Home Depot and nurseries to get their lawns absolutely perfect. I've picked up gardening (a little bit anyway - more like stick it in the ground, water and prune and am surprised when it grows) and usually find it soothing. The other day the neighbors were cutting their grass and even though everyone obsesses over their lawns for some reason the smell of cut grass isn't one I smell often (maybe because it's so hot we rush from our air conditioned cars to the frigid boxes of homes out back to our high-fence divided backyards to jump in the pool, but the smell brought me immediately back to my childhood when my father would let us steer the riding lawn mower that he used to mow the huge lawns we had. I remember sitting on the chair with him while he switched gears and let us "drive".
I don't know if it's because of the heat, but no one has screen doors here. The door in the front are all solid, thick wooden door to keep prying outs because the houses are all crammed together. I was out walking the dogs when I heard voices and looked up to see a house with a screen on the top half of the door and voices - a family - from inside. They were laughing and for a split second I remembered my childhood home, before the back addition was added. My parent's house sits on a hill so that in the back its 3 stories high. There used to be a big wooden porch back there that sat high in the trees (they've since changed it into a lovely, glass filled room that makes you feel like you're sitting in a giant tree house) and a white door with the same type of top half screen where my mom would call us in for dinner or dad would tell us he's home...
Speaking of pools - everyone in California has their own pool. There is a community water park but it's got big tunnel slides and a wave pool, but not that congregating area of the community pool from days long gone. I saw a kid came running out of the house in his bathing suit with his brother tumbling out behind him, screaming. I was instantly transformed into summertime when the three of us kids would grab our towels and wait for our mom to drive us to the community pool to spend the day, taking our little plastic pouches with a couple of dollars mom would give us to buy something to drink at the little stand.
We drove down to Hearst Castle and stayed around the area for the weekend (the businesses there are getting pummeled because the roads are all blocked due to the wild fires in Big Sur). Two memories took me for a ride on this trip.
First was the castle tour itself. This wasn't as much a memory of a particular event or happening, but seeing the house in its glory and twenties-thirties style decorations, I felt transformed to when I would lose myself in books reading about bygone eras. Books are a great escape to other times, other places. I could recall the thrill of a young girl reading stories (Dickens, fantasy, sci fi) and imagining living in another era. Seeing those old bathrooms and furnishings is exactly how I'd pictured those houses to look when I was reading those novels and mind-escaping.
The second was afterwards when we sat on the beach and lit a bonfire in the pit. The smell took me back to whem our parents would take us camping. We graduated up to trailers that we'd leave and drive up to on weekends and camp for a few days. At the end everything had to be bound in plastic bags to be washed because they'd reek of woodsmoke. The smell - burning marshmallows over the fire to make s'mores, my mother bundled up in a sleeping bag with her feet practically ON the fire because she was always cold, staring into the primordial effect of the fire mesmerized.
Smells. They work too. The 4th of July - sparklers. Smelling that burnt, acrid smell took me back when we would visit our Aunt Libby at her big old house and buy fireworks and set them off - there was barely anyone around for miles and we'd run around with the sparklers in the cool evening, competing with the fireflies for who was brighter (we were of course but ours faded...)
And just this morning, on our daily dog-walk, the dog was pulling to go down a street normally not on our route so we took a detour. There was a house that didn't appear to make an effort to keep up the perfectly manicured barbie-sized lawns and was rather patchy and dry and had a huge tree with leaves covering the ground. I was immediately no longer in California but walking by my parent's house where all the trees are old and huge and lovely and keeping up with raking leaves would be a full time job, so no one bothers.
These little things. A smell, a snapshot, a deja vu moment - tiny reminders of the past that eek their way into the present. Reminding of us from where we came, guiding us to where we'll go.