These pandemic-laden days have us nostalgic for a time in the not too distant past. We long to sit in a movie theater, see a live sporting event or just give someone a hug.
COVID-19 and the resulting social-distancing restrictions have taken those things and others away from us. No matter how introverted you are and say you like the solitude, the fact remains that we are social creatures. We need human interaction. We need a sense of what we see as normalcy.
As the city has lifted some restrictions and places are opening up, we breathe a sigh of relief that we’re headed back to normal. But not so fast. The virus still lurks like a thief in the night waiting to rob us of our health and normalcy again.
Last week I saw a few things that gave me a sense of pre-pandemic times. That was comforting and reassuring.
What I saw driving past Drake Field one afternoon was kids playing an organized baseball game. Across the street from my house, kids were playing pickup basketball. The sight and sound of an ice cream truck cruising through the neighborhood and kids flocking to it made me feel comfortably nostalgic for times of my youth.
Nostalgia literally means “pain associated with home” or “homesickness.”
However, nostalgia did not originally mean what we now consider it to be.
In 1688, a Swiss medical student named Johannes Hofer gave the name nostalgia to a condition he had observed in young people who had been sent abroad, chiefly mercenaries — one of Switzerland’s prime exports at the time — along with household servants and others who found themselves in “foreign regions,” wrote Dave Berry in his essay “Why Nostalgia is Our New Normal.”
Hofer saw this longing for home as a pain as well as sort of medical malady, a disease that could progress from simple physical ailments like indigestion to even death.
According to Helmut Illbruck in his book, “Nostalgia: Origins and Ends of an Enlightened Disease,” what Hofer meant was that nostalgia was “the quite continuous vibration of animal spirits through those fibers of the middle brain in which impressed traces of ideas of the fatherland still cling.”
We all are now nostalgic for a time before the coronavirus, a time just a few months ago.
We may or may not ever return fully to the way things were before, but we can look for little signs of it from the sound of an ice cream truck or the sight of kids playing ball and find some sort of contentment from our nostalgic feelings.
We can go back there in our minds, and if we think, we can.