Slightly Off Center

Nostalgia in a time of mindfulness

By Dennis Hinkamp

Nostalgia is a long soothing warm pool with a deep end full of non-vegan sharks. In fact, I think the sharks are paleo/keto and there is no lifeguard on duty. I feel the siren call to go to that end but on that end is my end. Is nostalgia even allowed in an era of mindful eating, dating, sleeping, yoga, walking and breathing? Does Steven Covey have an 8th or Alcoholics Anonymous a 13th step for this? I just got back from a four-day bumper car ride through the labyrinth rapids of nostalgia. I feel sappy (sad, happy and sapped) and now need to eddy out.

I’ve spent a week going to a high school reunion, cemeteries, a baseball game and a celebration of life for someone much younger than I.

I will say that high school reunions get better with age; not like wine but like less whining. They are less well attended but more well intentioned. By the 45th there isn’t much more to show off about; you are mainly just thanking god for name tags because those people are about as unrecognizable as you are in a mirror. But once you catch the names it all comes back. There really aren’t as many dead alums as you might think; by the time you reach the 45th, the culling is more about who still cares.

Speaking of death, I have a cemetery-visiting heritage in my family. I don’t know if it’s generational or geographical but my few remaining Missouri relatives always want to visit my many non-remaining relatives’ remains in their final resting place. Fortunately many of them are resting in the military cemetery on the outskirts of St. Louis. I can testify that if you are inclined to visit the dead, this is the place to do it. It doesn’t matter if you were a general, infantryman, machine gunner or cook on the green side of the turf; everyone here gets the same headstone. The display goes on for acres, dating back to the Civil War.

In contrast, most private cemeteries still allow the living to compete for the approval of their deceased loved ones. Who has the most flowers, highest monument and general décor? Now some graves feature multicolored solar lights!

While the final resting places are conflicting, I’ve come to enjoy memorial services more than most elements of nostalgia. They bring people together who generally “next-time” you the rest of the year. I am guilty of this myself, joking that I can’t come this time but I’ll definitely come to your next wedding; your next funeral, probably not. Even though I have over  a 50% chance of being correct, I confess it’s a horrible trait of mine.

In the end, sports nostalgia ties us all together through its banality and safety. If you can’t express your feelings, you can always fall back on sports and the weather. This used to be more of a guy thing but it is becoming an everybody thing as more women accumulate their own sports experi­ences. Even though I have lived 70% of my life in Utah, I will always be sealed to the St. Louis Cardinals, yelling at the TV when they lose close games, because the team was embedded in my formative years.

Dennis Hinkamp is mindful of the past even if that is a contradiction.

This article was originally published on May 31, 2019.