About a year ago I became very nostalgic for the 1990’s. That decade encompassed most of my high school years, all of my undergraduate work, and the very beginning of my life as a teacher. I moved out of my parents’ home in 1999, so in my mind that decade was my last as a child and then a young adult. Once the rent came due in the literal sense I was totally on my own.
The 90’s were a good time for me. I was finally able to travel, experiencing New York City and Walt Disney World for the first time. I worked a lot but my family was close knit and my grandmother still had her faculties. Each Sunday she drove to our house where Mama would cook Sunday dinner. Then we’d pile in the cream colored Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera and drive to the North Wilkesboro Super K-Mart. We didn’t always buy anything. In fact, we mostly window shopped. My father would disappear to smoke cigarettes in the garden center while I followed behind my mother picking up things she knocked off the shelf with her gigantic purse. I never understood why she carried such a big bag. My brother and I were teenagers, so she didn’t have to carry things around for us the way she would an infant or a toddler. Nonetheless, she still carried a large bag that swung wildly across her side as she traversed the Jaclyn Smith Plus Size Collection.
My mother’s clumsiness was legendary in our family. She once put her foot on a wooden pallet of begonias and marigolds at the Yadkinville Food Lion when the board snapped. Rather than fall gracefully, she threw her arms out and splayed her whole body like a intoxicated snow angel in the midst of the flowers. She lay there like a dead opossum until my father ran over and said, “Get your ass up! They’re gonna make me pay for all these flowers! Everybody get in the car!” We sped away before any of the teenage Food Lion bag boys knew what happened. We didn’t shop at that Food Lion for a fortnight.
One one of the trips to K-mart my father looked through the movie rental section trying to decide what low budget “B movie” caught his interest. Among the many classics we rented from that store were Hell Comes to Frog Town and Spaceballs. While my father finished up his purchase my mother looked through a stack of framed pseudo-art prints. Suddenly we heard a muffled crash followed by another and then another. The crashing noises picked up speed sounding like machine gun fire until my mother, with a panicked look in her eye, stood in the middle of an entirely collapsed display of fallen art prints. My father never looked up from writing his check. “That would be my wife,” he told the clerk. I helped dig Mama out of the stack of frames while she and Daddy cussed each other, one for being an inconsiderate ass and not helping her and the other for being clumsy as hell.
I truly miss those days. My parents were, and still are, a lot of fun. But my grandmother suffers from dementia and Mama and Daddy can’t get around quite like they use to. I become sad thinking about those times and wonder why I never appreciated them at the time the way I do now.
Move ahead a few months to a Sunday in September awhen I took my kids to one of the local parks for a day of fresh air and exercise. We threw the football around and the boys climbed the two magnolia trees at the edge of the play area. I pushed Autumn on the swing while we laughed and played the whole time. When I sat down to rest for a few minutes I watched Autumn walk over to the base of one of the trees and point her finger up at Jon. She was blessing him out for climbing too high up the tree. She told him, “Daddy’s gonna get you!” to which he replied, “No, he won’t. He’s too fat to climb up here.” I couldn’t help but laugh. We were having an amazing day at the park. All those feelings of togetherness and belonging that I had in the 90’s were still there.
I learned an important lesson that day. It’s too easy to get caught up in the day-to-day mundane things that drag you down. Rather than let the little things eat away at you, it’s important to live in the moment and enjoy the blessings you have. I had a great time with my family in the 80’s and 90’s, but those good times don’t have to be over. Every day is a new chance to make new memories and allow those good times to flow once again. We don’t have to recapture those feelings. They never left us. We just forget to let them out.
We spend time together as a family each week. Whether it’s watching a TV show together, having a dance party, or taking a trip to a park, we make a point to create special moments that lead to beautiful memories to last a lifetime. When I wax nostalgic now, I remind myself that there are still good times to be had. Those nostalgic memories serve as inspiration for fun times with my kids today.
I am a lucky man. I am blessed today and I was blessed in my younger days. Now if I can just figure out a way to keep my boys from climbing to the top of the magnolia trees where I can’t climb I’ll be all set.