Today is Cinco de Mayo, but there will not be a community-wide party this year. Our town, as a whole, has accepted and adapted to our Mexican and Mexican-ancestry residents quite well. One way this is apparent has been our annual Cinco de Mayo celebrations. During the past several years, the downtown streets had been barricaded and various booths and kiosks had been set up. Music, crafts, ethnic foods, and souvenirs were the merchandise of the day.
The best part of our Cinco de Mayo party was the mixing of people from nearly all demographics. Downtown Norfolk, Nebraska was a teeming, happy, massive collection of people. Mostly we had fun being “Mexicans for a day”. Obviously, the big party is on hold this year. All we have are our memories of the fun times. Simply reminiscing about some of the past celebrations brings me joy.
Although I’ve frequently slipped into nostalgic mindsets and have written many nostalgic posts on this blog, I’ve long had a love/hate relationship to nostalgia. Personally, I don’t think living in the past is healthy. Nostalgia is akin to an indulgence. I do like to ponder history–the world’s and my own. There is a difference between contemplating history and wishing for the return of “the good ol’ days”. Nostalgia seems to be a fuzzy dysfunction of the urge to study history. In its extreme form, nostalgia is a slippery slope escape from the present.
When I recall last year’s Cinco de Mayo, I remember a mild day with the threat of precipitation. We did have a light shower in mid-afternoon that caused the crowd to thin out for awhile. I think the high temperature was approximately 70 degrees Fahrenheit. My friend, Jorge was in town and the two of us enjoyed a few hours of comradery.
As I press my memories further, I had experienced some difficulty walking on the pavement after an awkward misstep off of a curb. I worried about the possibility of a twisted ankle. Thankfully, it was only a mild strain. Also, due to the overcast sky, I did not suffer any sunburn that day. Any overall discomfort I may have felt was masked by the enjoyment of the mariachi bands who played on a makeshift stage at one of the street intersections. All things considered, last year’s community party was enjoyable. The recollection of it brings a smile to the face.
The nostalgia I feel about last year’s Cinco de Mayo is a harmless mini-escape. I enjoyed spending much of the day, except for the rainy part, downtown with my friend. However, I don’t wish for a time machine to return me to May 5, 2019. I have a life to live today. There are happy and unhappy aspects to experience. There is an abundance of living in the moment stuff to play out.
Now that I’m an older person, I have a more relaxed view of nostalgia. Although I don’t want to fall into the trap of living in the past, I do appreciate the years I was growing up and trying new experiences for the first time. That type of nostalgia is a reminder about how I formed my tastes and opinions. The mindful use of nostalgia as a tool rather than a psychological drug seems healthy and constructive.
In as much as I yearn for the times before the quarantine, it is vain to wish for the “good ol’ days” to return. I can remember the good and the bad times of the past along with the lessons they taught. Nostalgia about pre-quarantine years can be a good tool for writing, but I try to use it to demonstrate philosophical points to share with you, the reader. In as much as I might reminisce about 1970, or 1990, or 2019, I do not want to hop onto a time machine to relive those days. I look forward to the rest of today and what time I may have left in the future.
Nostalgia in the age of the quarantine has its place. It’s best to be mindful and temperate about its use. Hopefully, today will provide fuel for meaningful nostalgic memories in the future. Perhaps this could be described as nostalgia for a better future.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes literary critic, editor, and writer, Anatole Broyard. “It is one of the paradoxes of American literature that our writers are forever looking back with love and nostalgia at lives they couldn’t wait to leave.”