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Sunday, February 17, 2008

nostalgia (noun) 1. A bittersweet longing for things, persons, or situations of the past. 2. The condition of being homesick; homesickness.

MPB gave me a Maine book yesterday, a birthday present she bought months ago, knowing the moment she saw it that I would love it. And so last night instead of tucking the boys in from the side of the bed, I elbowed my way in, made room for myself between them, and read L is for Lobster from a position that I could see the pictures too. When I got to the page that talked about the sand on the beach, I stopped for a minute.

"My beach wasn't very sandy. It was pebbles and rocks and shells, mostly."

"Really?" the oldest looked dubious. He frequently does these days. No more automatic trust; he's learning how to question - a necessary step, but a painful one for me.

I jumped up quickly, danced my way down the bed avoiding little limbs, other books, a purple stuffed bear. In a minute I was back, photographic proof in my hands. The oldest smiled, then pointed at my feet.

"You love those shoes."

"Yes," I sighed. Then I tucked my photo into my Maine book and continued reading.

Later, when both boys were asleep, curled neatly beside one another, the oldest's arm flung over the youngest's neck maintaining what I call the Brother To Brother Connection (B2BC), I stole back into the room to retrieve my book. I carried it to the sofa, where I stared at the photo of my beach for a long time.

We had a summer cottage in a small seaside town in Maine when I was growing up. It was small and cedar shingled and perfect. It was also known by name rather than by address. Our cottage was called Seascape.

I spent three months there every summer. I would pass each morning beachcombing, examining tidal pools, popping seaweed, and searching for beachglass, sea pottery and the rare sea dollars. The beaches in Maine are barnacle-covered rocks and shell bits and pebbles, hard on the feet. So I usually wore Keds with my swimsuits, red ones or navy blue.

I would slog onto the back porch, Keds full of sand and water and shell bits, a plastic pail full of bounty in my hand. Inevitably, the seats of my bathing suits were pilled from hunkering in tidal pools. My hair would be tangled by the wind, dried by the salt, and bleached by the sun.

My mother would help me peel my damp suit off, put my Keds in the sun to dry, and shoo me directly into the shower. When I was clean and in dry clothes, she would let me lay my treasures out on the deck while she made my lunch, which I would eat on the deck, breathing the sea air and planning what to do on the water's edge after lunch.

Every time I see small red or navy Keds, I am back there for one brief, beautiful moment, on that deck, with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in my hand and endless possibilities ahead of me.

(written November 2, 2005)

"nostalgia." The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. Answers.com 02 Nov. 2005. http://www.answers.com/topic/nostalgia
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