A Story by Travis Burchart
Super-Conglomerate Retailer Leaves Me Misty Eyed and Nostalgic
What 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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