Joyce Hinnefeld


Friday, May 11, 2012

As I try to write about nostalgia without becoming sentimental or maudlin . . .

I have been feeling quite nostalgic for the last few months. I know that part of this is simply being of a certain age now, and part of it is watching my daughter grow and change so rapidly, slipping out of my fingers somehow, slipping out of childhood. She’s nearing eleven now, so of course still a child--but at this point you can see all the changes coming. (Most of them are good, I might add; she’s funny, and kind, and mostly generous. She’s also whip smart and can be bitingly sarcastic, which unnerves me a little as I brace for the years ahead.)
Being in Chicago at the beginning of March, for the AWP Conference, really set off a long, strange bout of nostalgia for me. I lived in Chicago in the late 1980s, and while I was mostly struck by the giant changes in that city, particularly downtown, along Michigan Avenue, I also had a few moments of remembering my younger self, living there, riding to Wicker Park on my boyfriend’s motorcycle, driving along Lake Shore Drive, home to Evanston, from my job selling tickets at a little theatre in a hotel in the South Loop.
I had breakfast in the restaurant of that hotel, the Blackstone, this past March, and the box office window, just off the lobby, had been boarded up. There was a big plant in front of it, I think. And the crappy coffee shop on the ground level was now an overcrowded Starbucks.
So, that kind of thing.
But here’s something else I’m feeling nostalgic for, today. For weeding the strawberries in our garden with one or the other of my older brothers when I was a kid. I’m remembering one particular occasion when I was doing this, I think with my brother Stu. I have no recollection of how old I was, but I know that somehow we got on the subject of boys and girls liking each other, and somehow Stu remarked, off-handedly, that it was also true that some boys liked other boys and some girls liked other girls. Or something like that; I don’t remember his exact words, or why he was telling me that. What I remember was that it was no big deal. Just something I might want to know.
I find that remarkable, now. And I miss a time and place and older brothers with whom such an exchange was possible. I miss it particularly now, as I sign various petitions in support of President Obama’s having come out in favor of gay marriage. I’m signing them willingly enough, but also with a weird sort of impatience. Should this really be such a big deal? I keep thinking. Shouldn’t we all just get on with things, acknowledge that boys can like boys and girls can like girls, and so that’s probably who they should marry, and then get back to weeding the strawberries?

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