Writing nostalgia

WritingDoes the start of school make you feel nostalgic?

No. 2 pencils, clean sheets of lined paper, textbooks so new they crack when you open them, textbooks so old they smell of dust and mystery. Ahh!

Decades from now, when today’s grade-schoolers look back, what will spark their nostalgia? The weight of a favorite stylus? A blank Word doc? The feel of a page-turning swipe on an ebook reader? Or will future generations have fewer occasions for nostalgia, simply because digital containers are less permanent, less tactile, less “historical” than paper and lead and glue? Pixels don’t smell. They don’t yellow with age. They aren’t stored on a bookshelf where you might unexpectedly stumble across them later. Can they invoke nostalgia?

And it seems like we are less likely to cling to the digital writing tools we use today. Keyboards are easily replaced. iPhones are continually upgraded. Ebooks will never contain hand-me-down margin notes and highlights and dog-ears from a previous reader.

What do you think? How do you feel?

What are future writers likely to be nostalgic about? What are you nostalgic about? What memories and feelings does a new school year evoke for you?

Post something in the comments so we can all get wistful with you!


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9 thoughts on “Writing nostalgia”

  1. I think they will be nostalgic still. It’s human nature. They will just be nostalgic differently. I can imagine statements like “When I was a kid we used weird symbols called ‘vowels’. Words sometimes had two or more meanings. There used to be ‘bad’ words.” That type of thing. Also, “remember keyboards?” or “Remember a company called ‘Apple'”. However, I can’t image what smells might conjure up a memory. One of my favorites is kindergarten paste. It had the nice spearminty taste and smell.

    • Know what else I love? When you have a big, heavy textbook that is so new the pages kind of glom together. You open the hardcover and hold the whole thickness of those glossy pages in your hand, and then with a twist if the wrist you curve them and run your thumb across the edges. Ahhh!

      • Yes, that was cool, looking through the new book and seeing all that you would learn and the smell of the new printing.

        I used to like to look at the names on the library book check-out cards to see who checked them out that I might have known.

  2. I think for us, old textbooks etc. are memorable. Certain scents, textures etc. bring us right back to those moments past. They remind me of the classroom. They remind me of the sleepless nights my head was stuck in them in nursing school. I’m not sure about these younger generations though… Since they always want the next best thing, they seem less sentimental. Which is ok. One of the Tri-Creek schools in Lowell, IN. have started a trial without books. Any physical books that is. According to some of my colleagues, their kids have EVERYTHING on the computer this year. I know that’s green-friendly for paper; e-textbooks will be more cost effective & more frequently updated, but even as techy a person I am & I LOVE all things digital in the hospital, I still can’t help but think these kids will miss out on something; maybe. Carrying all those books kept us in shape!
    So yes, there is, or soon will be, something nostalgic about notebooks, textbooks & number 2 pencils. I also think instead of personal diaries or journals people used to write in, teens especially use FB to express their thoughts unplugged in that digital format for all to read, instead of handwriting into something personal.
    There is just something nice or permanent feeling about having something in print though. When i gave up FB for Lent, i wrote hand-written notes/cards i may not otherwise have. Maybe we will appreciate those things more when they become less common?

    • Good thoughts, Michelle. It’s good to remember that just because kids today will have different nostalgic memories than we do, doesn’t mean that ours are better! Who knows, maybe their nostalgia will be tied less to scent and more to sound—the hum of a hard drive, the chirp of a Facebook message, the whoosh of a sent email, etc. :)

  3. That is true… you are so right. Sometimes it’s hard to fast forward looking back now at the present, being the past LOL. Never thought of that though! Like, remember when email used to say, “you’ve got mail?” Thanks Mel for all you do getting us thinking. Ps. Photo is great… perfect use of leading lines :)

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