A friend of mine recently decided to organize an online group that is focused on growing up in New Haven. Within a few days, the group has grown to over 2,000 audience members.
It is a happy, nostalgic look at life as it was, or, at least, as we remember it. When I mentioned it to another friend, he remarked that we all want to idealize our childhood experiences; turn them into happy memories, remembering only the best parts of growing up.
His comments got me to thinking about how we process our past. Do we tend to recall those little scenarios about growing up that only focus on happy times? Do we set aside events in our past that we’re not that happy about in favor of remembering only the Hallmark moments that leave us feeling warm and fuzzy?
I suppose we do. It’s really not that surprising to think that we would set up a mental file of the things that, in retrospect, we have come to believe to be our memorable moments. Most of us have plenty of those memories to enjoy from time to time.
What has surprised me, is the way that so many of us, myself included, have come to characterize a whole period of our lives in a very favorable light. Mostly, it’s the period before reaching full maturity - the time in our lives when we were young enough to not have to be concerned about the responsibilities that come later in life.
This group reminiscences about a way of life that is no longer available to most of us; simpler times with simpler pleasures derived from living in a less complicated world. Thinking back to certain stores that we visited as children, or the neighborhood that we lived in, or certain rituals that we observed as a family are just about guaranteed to bring a smile to our face or even a tear to our eye.
Mostly what people refer to was a sense of community that so many of us experienced - a sense that we were part of a place where we knew and cared about each other. It’s a really nice experience to have enjoyed and it does engender the feeling that those were happier times.
I’m always amused and even surprised at the kinds of things that make the list; an ice cream parlor, buying new shoes for the first day of school, home milk deliveries, the classic New Haven department stores, the corner drug store, regular family meals. Simpler things really.
Even though so many of these situations and traditions are gone in our modern lifestyle, it doesn’t mean that today’s children will have no golden memories to enjoy. After all, it’s up to us to create them; to give our children and grandchildren some Hallmark moments of their own. If we learn from the past, we know that they can be the simplest of things as long as they involve family, friends and the place where you live.
Children are very perceptive and emotionally unencumbered. They will remember the things that they associate with the carefree times of their youth, and the experiences that bought them happiness or personified the stability that we all seek.
Even though our busy lives tempt us with so many opportunities to pursue our individual interests, and even though we can bring the world to our personal electronic devices, it’s still possible to find things to do as a family.
Perhaps it is no longer possible to create these memories from the kinds of things that created ours, but they’re there nonetheless; we just need to work on them.
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