My Definition of Nostalgia ©

A Story by Travis Burchart

Super-Conglomerate Retailer Leaves Me Misty Eyed and Nostalgic

NostalgiaWhat is nostalgia? If you’re going by my dad, it’s a bunch of chromatic snapshots from the 1950s: things like orange packages of Teaberry Gum, the smartly dressed milkman stooping over a doorstep, little girls in navy sweaters spinning hula hoops.  If you’re going by me, nostalgia is Wal-Mart.

Nostalgia can’t exist without the phrase “used to.” There must also be a little bit of longing (maybe even sadness) to go with a sense of joy. When my son was four, we “used to” patrol Wal-Mart looking for action figures. We’d leave my wife with the shopping cart and rush off to the toy department. Together, we’d dig through the rows of packaged superheroes – Superman, Batman, Aquaman, Wonder Woman. When we found one he didn’t have, his smile would shine like sunlight. I became so fixated that I used to show up alone on stocking day, anticipating the weekly toy shipment.

But, as I said, we “used to” do this. My son has since grown out of action figures. Now, our trips to Wal-Mart are about DVDs and video games. Our action figure adventures are becoming harder and harder to recall. I desperately wish I could remember the last superhero we bought (that little bit of longing and sadness).

Last week, I found myself alone in Wal-Mart’s toy section. I find myself there quite often, checking out the action figures and thinking about which ones my son might like. Of course, if I bought him one now, he’d have no interest in it. But I’m still interested – interested in the joy that’s rekindled by these miniature, plastic heroes.

Nostalgia isn’t always about rotary phones and toy soldier sets. My dad, he gets nostalgic and a little misty eyed when he hears Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come.” Me, I get nostalgic and a little misty eyed when Wal-Mart stocks a new Batman.

photo by Fritz Park

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3 Responses to My Definition of Nostalgia ©

  1. Welcome to BOBB. Great story! I get nostalgic when I look at my old Woodstock tickets, but as a father of three sons I also get the action figure nostalgia. When my boys get together they talk about the day they crashed and burned the Ghostbusters ambulance for the last time, or the fun they had playing in the creek while I was playing on the softball field. Thanks for activating some good memories and adding some perspective.

    • Travis Burchart

      Thanks Will. I wish I had some old Woodstock tickets to wax nostalgic about. It’s funny you should mention tickets in the context of nostalgia. Since I was 15 years old, I’ve saved every movie ticket I’ve ever purchased. It’s both fun and a little weird to know the exact dates and times for when I saw “Rain Man” and “Good Will Hunting.”

  2. Bobbi Parker

    Ahhh nostalgia. I look over at a picture taken of my two blonde daughter and sitting right next to it is a blonde Fisher Price “Little People” doll. Yes, I too can get misty behind my eyes.
    Thanks for helping me to remember when.