Friday, June 05, 2015

The good ol' days

Anticipation, Anticipation
Is making me late
Is keeping me waiting  
And tomorrow we might not be together
I'm no prophet, I don't know nature's way
So I'll try to see into your eyes right now
And stay right here, 'cause these are the good old days. 
--Carly Simon, Anticipation
It is human nature to wax poetic about the past. After all, what else do we have? The future is tomorrow (despite all the hype about the future being now). And very few people spend much time in the now. Because that's where we reminisce about the past or wonder about the future.

I watch with bittersweet fondness as my children live their now. It reminds me of my then and how permanent it seemed at the time. But I know that the cliche about the fleeting nature of youth is cliche for a reason. It is truth. But we don't accept it until we are plodding the path of our parents.

My children are in awe that I grew up in a time before portable computers and smartphones. They are appalled about the idea of a black and white television with only two channels and no DVR, VCR or streaming video. It was the same when my parents described a world where the radio was entertainment. What did people do during the evening? And who could survive just reading books without a Kindle?

I don't really long for the past. As quickly as it passed, it took a long time to get here. And the thought of repeating it makes me even more weary than I feel at times.

Although in some ways I am in better shape than I was throughout most of my youth. I still find it difficult to pull myself up after sitting on the floor with my children playing board games (yes they still like them despite Kindles and Minecraft). I used to be able to sit cross legged on the floor and rise to a standing position without using my hands to pull myself up. Now I look like I'm playing an awkward game of Twister when I pull myself up.

I feel twinges now that I never had a great deal of patience as I watched my parents age. I never understood why they became so slow and repeated the same stories over and over. I would shut out the anecdotes of what they ate for breakfast or lunch. And I could only sit and "chat" for so long before itching to jump in the car and go do something.

Though I'd always wander around my parent's house when I'd visit after leaving home. I'd feel the nostalgia sweeping over me. And sometimes the pain of growing up there. I felt trapped in that "now" and was so impatient for the future that was sneaking around in front of me as I languished in teen aged angst.

My parents house was a time capsule of old school photos, ancient birthday cards and class projects. I'd open closets and cupboards and marvel at things that had survived spring cleanings and campaigns against clutter.

After both parents had died and we sold the house, most of the stuff was sold, donated or thrown away. I rescued two plastic bins worth of memories before the final estate sale. Both sit unopened in my garage. I don't have the heart to go through them.

After we sold my childhood home to a developer, I knew it would eventually be torn down. The developer rented it out for a couple of years. But then I finally heard from my brother that it had been torn down and several townhouses were built on the property. I felt a pang of loss. I officially have no roots left in the town I grew up in.

It just reinforces the impermanence of things. As a child, I thought my home would always be there. The thought of my parents dying and the house being torn down never occurred to me. And now that it has gone I feel like a part of me has been erased. The yard I played in as a child was now paved over and subdivided. The trees I climbed have been cut down. The bedroom I slept in and listened to train whistles in the distance no longer exists.

The people that buy the townhouses that have been built where my childhood home was will likely never think about what was there before. It is unlikely the townhouse will be their permanent home either. A hundred years or so from now, it will likely be torn down and replaced by whatever the housing de jour is at that time. Or it may be covered with water as the result of global warming.

My maudlin point is that we can't cling to the past or the future. As Carly Simon so eloquently put it, we should stay right here, 'cause these are the good old days.

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