Beware of Greeks bearing a Thesaurus.

Or, never look a gift dictionary in the index.

Nostalgia occupied my mind today. Far away from my desk, for reasons good and logical, a place of my childhood was changing hands and out of family custody. (At least, I think so. I haven’t heard if anything may have caused a delay in the transaction.)

Mental snapshots of times spent in that place snuck into my psyche, like a haphazardly-arranged slide show. That’s when I remembered a neat scene from that cable show about advertising agencies in the 1960’s where the brilliant ad man explained to a prospective client the concept of “nostalgia” as an advertising hook. In the brilliant writing of Matthew Weiner and his team, the character explains:

“It’s delicate, but potent…in Greek, ‘nostalgia’ literally means the pain of an old wound. It’s a twinge in your heart, far more powerful than memory alone…takes us to a place where we ache to go again.”

“True,” said my heart. “Really?” asked my head. And so to the OED online I went, to confirm that this noun, nostalgia, rooted in Greek language, really does mean a sentimental longing or wistful affection for a period in the past.

But that didn’t make the ache go away. All it did was help me define these sadness-tinged happy memories that want to linger for a while. It helped me accept that something that can never be sold is the collection of memories of that place, held individually and collectively by all who gathered there. That I am privileged to possess nostalgia, be occasionally haunted by snapshots that sit framed around the house and inside my mind.

In addition to those mental snapshots, the pain of nostalgia helps bring to life the warmth of the deck boards that I could feel underneath my teenaged body as I lay down to dry off after dipping in a cold lake. The smells of dinner that would begin to waft through the place in mid-afternoon. A cacophony of sounds, natural and manmade, only heard there at that time.

Accepting that pain, I can look forward. Look ahead. And not fear the occasional glimpse back, knowing how it will feel.

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