Friday, July 6, 2012

A Bit of Nostalgia

At least once a year, my wife, the kids, and I pack up the car and make our way down to Colonial Williamsburg.  Now although this may not make a lot of sense to those of you who have been, marveled at the recreation of colonial America and now that you have the t-shirt are ready to move on to some other wonder of the continental United States, for us, Williamsburg has always been one of those special places that keeps drawing us back year after year.  Why?  Well there are a number of reasons which I'm sure taken as a whole offer a satisfactory explanation, but as are most things in life, sometimes the answer is 'just because'.
I'm not going to say 'just cuz' however, that would make for a very boring post.  My friends and I all went to the College of William and Mary, which is of course, in Williamsburg, Va.  It was at W&M that I met my wife, fell in love and proposed to her on the Crim Dell Bridge.  It was in my freshman dorm that I finished my first novel and began my second.  Through the W&M Choir I was introduced to some of the most magnificent sights in Europe and even sang mass in St. Peter's at the Vatican.  I could go on, but what it comes down to is that Williamsburg has always felt like home.  The place where I grew as a person and sorta figured out who I was.  I traveled a lot when I was a young as an Army kid and then later on when I joined the Army and so for whatever reason, Williamsburg became a sort of anchor.  A place where all the pieces of my life kind of came together and it has always given me that happy, comforting feeling. 
This year we went over the 4th of July and it was quite cool (actually it was nearly 100 degrees) to be in such a historic place on Independence Day.  On July 3rd the Union Jack flew as always marking the city as a colony of the British Empire and then on the 4th was replaced with the Stars and Stripes lining both sides of Duke of Gloucester.  What's funny though, is that while I was attending W&M, I used to constantly remark on the lack of life the old fogies must have who frequented CW and could even be found wandering about the college grounds.  Fast forward 15 years and I'm wandering around the college with my family, remarking how much things have changed and how much is still exactly the same.  I'm marveling at the history of the place and trying to get my children interested in the splendor of treading on the same ground as Thomas Jefferson and others who formed our country.  Basically, I'm that old fogie with no life.  Although, strange as it may have seemed to my twenty year old self, partying, skipping class and hanging out with my girlfriend (that would be my wife now), I have a lot more of a life now than I did back then.
It's true that I don't drink or party.  I don't go out much at night anymore and when I do it's usually because a call came in at the firehouse.  I don't have plans for Friday night and I was excited when my wife suggested we go to Mount Vernon for father's day.  And the thing is, this shift in activity happened with so gradually that there was never a point when I looked at myself (except perhaps right now) and thought, "man, I am so boring.  I need to get a life."
So take all that together and it brings me to my latest observation.  During this trip to CW, I noticed a shift in my wife and I's attitude toward the place.  Although I enjoyed being there and had laugh or two over some of the familiar places, I no longer felt like I had come home.  As my wife kindly, but matter of factly pointed out when I asked her, "no, even if I lost forty pounds, got a really close shave and some trendy clothes, no one is going to mistake me for a college student." 
Now as an official member of the Peter Pan Complex Club I would have expected this information to be a significant blow, but in fact, I was not at all taken aback.  Nor was I hurt or disappointed.  You see, home is not at my high school on a football field, or at college wandering amongst co-eds.  Home is where my wife is sitting beside me crocheting a blanket and my kids are playing dragons.  It's where my dog is curled up by my feet and tonight I will probably fall asleep watching a movie before I make it to bed.
Nostalgia, history, the past, glory days, remember that time when's, they have their place.  It's fun to go back and tell stories and reminisce, but when you first realize that you no longer long for those by-gone days.  That you no longer wish you could go back and relive those moments, that's the point when true happiness starts knocking at your door.  When you realize that memories are simply springboards for the memories yet to come and that home is more than a place but a state of mind.
Next year, I'm sure we might make it down to CW for a visit, probably to go to the big water park or Busch Gardens, but as far as a vacation, I'm thinking maybe the Keys. 

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Scarlet Hopewell