We made a quick trip south to the city of Everett WA. It is about an hour and a half drive from our house. The purpose of the trip was to take my bride to see a special chiropractor. She had been suffering for over a week with back pain brought on by a narrowed spine. The doctor in Everett was the only one that seemed to consistently bring her relief so early in the morning on my day off we headed out.
The trip served a double purpose, as Everett is the place where my wife grew up. Her mother passed away several years ago but her father still lives in the house she grew up in. With our two youngest boys safely strapped into their seats, the oldest being five years old and the youngest a mere 4 and a half months, we planned to spend a good part of the day with Grandpa.
We made good time in spite of the rain and wind storm. After a successful visit to the Chiropractor we splashed to a stop in front of the familiar house with the familiar yard in the neighborhood that held my precious as she grew from a young girl into the woman I love. The house was conservatively decorated with lights for Christmas and inside was warm. We spent the next couple of hours with her dad. The boys took their turns in Grandpa’s lap and we spent a wonderful time basking in the warmth of generations.
Closer to noon we invited Grandpa and a friend of his out to lunch. Our choice was a restaurant in one of the older, more established parts of the city. They were known for their very substantial and very yummy breakfasts. My mind was on chicken fried steak and eggs and I was on a mission.
Entering through the rear entrance, near the back door of the kitchen which was open to allow the hot air out and the cool air in, we proceeded down a long hallway. It was dimly lit. The yellowish paint and the off brown carpeting did little to brighten it up. As we walked down the the hall we passed several doors. A couple of doors for the bathrooms, appropriately designated to specific genders, and doors leading to the kitchen and various storage rooms clearly labeled “EMPLOYEES ONLY”. There were a few benches in the hallway along with a 1970s vintage coin operated telephone and the entrance to the lounge. The hall was thick with the smell of sanitizers and antiquity. The scent hung damply with a tint of humid masonry which clustered around our heads as we made our way to the restaurant.
We stopped as the hall gave way to a large room. It quite possibly looked the same way it had for the past 30, 40, or even 50 years. We made our way around a pull tab machine and past a few tables to the booth where the waitress with a distinctly Texas accent invited us to sit. The table was covered with a plastic cloth, silverware wrapped tightly inside white napkins with the glasses placed upon printed coasters made of paper, imprinted with a map of Washington State surrounded by fish, sailboats and skiers. It is the kind of paper product that harkens back to a time when state pride was high, a time when residents and transplants alike were proud to share the attributes of their place of abode with visitors from afar.
While none of this was particularly outstanding in and of itself, (though the breakfasts were wonderful as advertised) the feeling of nostalgia that was stirred up inside my mind was strong, like the onions located a room and a half away. The smells were familiar from dozens of other places from decades long gone, the ambiance familiar from my childhood gone by. It wrapped me up inside a warm blanket of nostalgia. The feeling of the past was pleasant and I allowed myself to feel it all and revel in the way that it seasoned the moment like the subtle seasoning of my fried steak.
In all honesty, my childhood, the time from where all the memories of lighting and scents sprang from, was not all that great. My young history was a time marked by abuse and abandonment throughout. Even in the later years as my parents settled a bit and donned a thin cloak of responsibility, there was no purpose in parenting. I was merely present until that time when I wasn’t. The reality of that period of time is starkly different than these feelings I get as my mind goes back.
The wonderful thing is this; nostalgia still feels good. It hangs from the shoulders of my mind comfortable and warm. Perhaps it is because these things came to pass. That’s a phrase I read in the Bible. Never did I read that anything came to stay. The events came, and they went, like all things do both good and bad. They made me who I am, formed the fabric of my conscious being,both by their lingering presence as well as the disciplines necessary in the process of healing. There were also joys. My childhood was not completely joyless. There were happy moments and pleasant occurrences even in the midst of all the difficulties. Perhaps the nostalgia reminds me that all days are the good old days, even those currently being checked off of the cosmic calendar. Some seasons are mostly difficult with a smattering of joys mixed in to the recipe. There are also seasons of consistent joy, peppered and seasoned with some pain and struggle. It all is as it should be. It all is as it was created to be. And lo, it came to pass. The only thing that comes to stay is the fruit of love. God’s love, our love. Like the Apostle Paul said, “the greatest of these is love”. I have been loved. You are too. God’s gift of love to us was Jesus. Merry Christmas!