Nostalgia: Do You Really Want to Go Back?


Function: noun
1. the state of being homesick
2. a wistful or excessively sentimental yearning for return to or of some past period or irrecoverable condition; also :something that evokes nostalgia
—Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary

Americans seem to be obsessed with nostalgia, with getting back to some mythical time where things just worked. Those of a rightwing persuasion want to get back to a time when Americans had values. Women were women and men were men, right? Children were the center of the universe, and they respected their elders. Those of the left often lionize the sixties, a time when everything mattered, when change was possible.

Whether from the right or the left, many adults say that things were better when they were kids, that things were different then. I can see reasons for why we hold the past in such misty regard. Things do suck right now. We do seem lost, and it is comforting to think that there was a time when we knew what to do.

I ask you, though, do you really want to go back? Here are some photos from my family’s annual trip to Weston, Vermont, a town that survives on nostalgia. I think you’ll agree that while the past is an amusing place to visit, you don’t want to live there.

Chunked Pork Chunked Beef

This was considered food


Mmm… So was this “Vermont-Style” dish

Monkey and Jack in the Boxes

These popular toys alone explain why so many Americans are in therapy

Bowling Bunnies

Children may have known their place in the past,
but they also bowled over bunnies for fun

Spooky Room

Do you really want to inhabit the past?
Doesn’t it look just a little spooky?

Top photo: The ruins of an old convenience store. Every year, I look forward to seeing how the decay’s advanced. Here’s a photo of the whole building.

Old Store


9 responses to “Nostalgia: Do You Really Want to Go Back?

  1. Damn right.
    The sixties were great. Except we were living in a little back to back, unheated terrace with ice inside the windows and water running down the walls. We had an outside privy full of spiders and darkness (and one time a swarm of bees), a tin bath in front of the fire and the laundry was done with a copper and mangle.
    Golden age, my arse!

  2. Wow, the 60s really do sound great ;)

    I really don’t want to go back. I love remembering pop-culture elements of history, and understanding our past is essential, but I can’t think of a time in my past that I’d like to go back to. I certainly don’t want to back to this idea of a time when “men were men and women were women.” More like “men were men and women were subordinate.”

  3. …or men were gods and women were domestic slaves

  4. I find that for every good memory I have of my past there are a hlf dozen bad ones’ to remind me that I don’t want to go back there. I like where I am and WHO I am at the present time.

  5. I was kind of thinking of Archie Bunker when I wrote the whole “women were women,” but I couldn’t bring myself to say “girls were girls.” I don’t want to go back, either. I don’t want to be June Cleaver, and I’d be dead before I’d allow any child of mine to bowl over bunnies in the living room for fun. That’s just freaky.

  6. The thing is, most people nostalgic for the age when men were men and women were women have a clouded view of then-it wasn’t completely like that. There probably were the outcasts, the ones who went against the norm. I remember that when I grew up, my father was “Mr. Mom” before the term ever took hold in mainstream society. Our memories are not what actually took place. It’s nice of the mind to sometimes gloss things over, change the order of things, gussy it up a little. (Yes, I used the word “gussy.”)

  7. Before Girl, you are absolutely correct. Nostalgia is almost always for something that never existed in the first place.

  8. Still, I love your photos. I laughed at the scary clown jack in the box and the monkey with the cymbals-there is a good Stephen King story about a monkey cymbals toy.

  9. I thought that the Bowling Bunnies thing was just sick.

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