Sudden recollections

Late summer is a fraught micro-season for the traps of nostalgia. This evening, while out for a run, I passed a guy mowing a large lawn on a corner lot, and I was almost completely distracted by the fumes of the gasoline mower engine and the intense odors of freshly cut grass. I was lucky I didn’t run out in front of a car. And it wasn’t even real nostalgia that got me: Here on the East Coast, the smells of yardwork carry different overtones and admixtures than the ones I remember from growing up in the desert. I was a victim of misstalgia, pining briefly for an imaginary, more temperately green personal history.

Earlier in the afternoon, I’d had to walk across campus on an errand. Unbeknownst to me, today was the first day of freshman orientation. There was a big tent in the Yard for check-in, with enormous lines. New students of every description, from fresh-faced to awkward to pretending-to-be-world-weary, milled around with luggage and bewildered parents in tow. Again, my own experience of freshman orientation was in many ways quite different from what these students are going through. But that sense of starting something new, big, and real must be the same, and it came rushing back to me with an almost physical buzzing. It’s no wonder that many of us think of this time of year as the beginning of the year, long after our calendars have de-synced from the academic schedule. And then to go back to school after many years, like I’ve done, is even more enjoyable for precisely this reason, getting to start again as the days get shorter.

2 responses to “Sudden recollections”

  1. Tim says:

    The autumnal madeleine applies here in LA, too, where many people think we don’t have seasons. We do; one just needs to pay closer attention to discern them.

    As I rode my bike home last night around 7:30 it dawned on me that the days are getting shorter. My first unbidden thought was of late-August evenings in childhood when my brother and I would try to squeeze just a little more outdoor playtime out of the dying light, only to be called back inside by our mother.

  2. PB says:

    Dave,
    I have been wanted to comment since yesterday – I just had a conversation in the last few weeks about misstalgia. I was trying to explain the concept to a colleague. We always talk about this in terms of Red Flyers and sunshine, but it is actually a relevant workplace issue as well. People buy into a leadership or culture or policy or whatever that never really existed or at least not in the sense that it is being fondly “remembered.” What makes this so interesting is that everyone sort of knows that it is fabricated and wants it to be true anyway. Although beautiful when written here – it can be an interesting cunundrum in a practical sense.