90s nostalgia: “I’m still alive”

Last week I announced a call for content for 90s nostalgia pieces, prompted by the 25th anniversary of the Nirvana release Nevermind, a great way for me to recognize some of my favorite readers and writers by celebrating your stories and writing.

This one is submitted by a blogger friend anonymously (we talked about Pearl Jam vs. Nirvana today, prompting me to go back and listen to the former, and wonder if it’s really just something truthful we think we hear in the music we respond to, as I did in his piece below).

Nostalgia is a dangerous thing.  Facts get confused, memories muddled, and sometimes what once was doesn’t match up to what is.

I married the girl of my dreams in 1993.  We got married on a Saturday night.  The bridesmaids looking pretty damn good in their black dresses and the men standing with me in their black tuxes.  My wife was beautiful and we were meant to be.  Everything was right.  At the dinner afterwards, candles flickered in the darkened dining room.  We danced to “Hava Nagila.”  All of our friends and our family were there.  The world was our oyster and nothing was going to get in our way.   My wedding was the best, absolutely the best, night of my life.  At some point during the planning of the wedding or shortly after the ceremony, I expressed that I wished I could have sang a song to my wife during the ceremony.  In my memory, this song was published right around that time.

In those moments of love and dreams, I thought I had found my true companion.  We would grow old together just like Marc Cohn promised and I so wanted to be able to express those feelings on the magical day of our wedding.

It turns out my memory wasn’t quite right.  Marc Cohn released the song more than two years before our wedding.

Fast forward a bit and our first son was born.  And in my memory, Marc Cohn had another song that magically was released just around that time.

I will never forget the moment when I held my son for the first time and the blur and rush of dreams and hopes I had for him and for our new little family.  We would conquer the world together.  And once again, Marc Cohn had such a beautiful way of presenting those dreams and hopes.  And I wanted to sing that song and feel it and live it for the rest of my life.

The only problem is that I can’t sing. So I never did.  But I felt these things.  And I still do.  I still have those hopes and dreams of the promises found in March Cohn’s words.

But once again, it turns out my memory wasn’t quite right.  “The Things We’ve Handed Down” was released a couple of years before my first was born.  Is that significant?  Probably not, but it speaks to the haziness of nostalgia.

So I look back on these songs and these memories.  The nostalgia of the thing and wonder what could have been.  Because what I dreamed of and hoped for back then didn’t come to pass.  The marriage survives to this day, but somewhere along the way we grew apart.  I write those words like I don’t know how it happened or the where and the when and the why of it.  I know.  I changed.  She didn’t.  We have become two remarkably different people.  On so many levels, we are different and each day is a challenge.  We are not true companions.  We may not even be companions of any type.

And the kids.  Yes, we’ve handed things down to them.  What feels to me some times like our worst qualities and also, at least with respect to one of my sons, an incomprehensible ability to do the exact opposite of all of the lessons I tried to teach him as a father.  I mean how many times can he tell me he wants to have fun instead of taking care of his shit (like, you know, working and college) before I forget about all the magic of those nostalgic memories and the beauty of holding him in my arms as he drew his first breaths.  So many promises.  So many hopes.

So many dreams.  It’s hard to see them coming to reality these days.

Music can bring a lot of memories.  There are songs I associate with the best times of my life.  With best friends.  With times traveling down the road.  I remember listening to Genesis’ “In the Air Tonight” while driving in my brand new car – the first car I owned as a young 20-year-old – and thinking I was so cool.  In the night breeze, with my arm out the window, and those sounds and lyrics blaring from the car radio.  I can remember a song from Roxy Music, “More Than This,” playing as I made love to a fellow law student.  And, well there are other songs and memories.  They’re all there.  Right there.

But nostalgia is a dangerous thing.  Those memories frequently promise things that were never delivered.  Or grew stale with time.  Or were never really meant to be.

Categories: writing

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12 replies

  1. Nostalgia is the teenage hormone of middle age, alluring and irresistible.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Heartbreaking, what time and real life does to love and our dreams. So full of hope and ideals, ground down by reality. Tragic.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Breathing life into those old dreams takes a lot more air these days. Love this little project of yours.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a great way of putting it Jon, and thanks for following along with these great submissions I’ve gotten. Hope your weekend off to college with the kids went well. That’s rich for nostalgia right there. Doesn’t help that it’s fall now either. Bill

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Really poignant piece. And it speaks to one not-so-pretty dimension of nostalgia, which is disappointment. Which, in turn, is one of the more painful elements of the human condition.

    Your series is attracting some beautiful stuff, Bill!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know, I was flummoxed when I read this Saturday night, in a kind of Nirvana/Pearl Jam haze after some friends left, really struck me. I was proud to share it and happy I keep getting great material. Thanks for your observation here Kevin, it’s spot-on. Bill


  5. Lovely, relatable piece. I do that all the time with misremembering sequence, though the meaning is right. Maybe most relationships that survive time, kids plus the usual losses feel this way to a degree…maybe there is still hope (I am hopeful). Really got me thinking, thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The misremembering is its own sub-theme, as we do that. I like how he brings that back a couple times, it makes you pause and go down that hole. I’m hopeful too, thanks for inserting some love for that piece Kristen! — Bill


  6. A really well-written piece, this one. Is nostalgia really based on the hopes and dreams you had rather than the day to day realities? Is suppose it’s different for everyone.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Dave, it’s nice to see you back after your blogger break! I agree, really happy I could share this. And your question (and the piece) are provocative, about the nature of nostalgia. I was hoping some people would grasp onto that theme and go with it. And I agree, different for everyone, but relatable, with a lot of overlap, which is why I like the topic. Plus, I can connect us mid-agers in a sense. Thanks for reading and your comment. Bill

      Liked by 1 person

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