Site Meter Peculiar Susceptibility: "a feeling as infinite as an open accordion"

Sunday, August 17, 2008

"a feeling as infinite as an open accordion"

Rosario, 2004. By Margarida Correia

During my last several conversations with my mother, she has remarked that I must be feeling nostalgic lately. I've been asking her to tell me stories from when I was a child - whether it's a story of some friend who fell and got a concussion, or whether she remembers my brother and I ever fighting (she doesn't). I've been wanting to know those little particular histories.

I spent yesterday by myself, doing a variety of things that would seem to support her charge (although she wouldn't call it an accusation, I find that I respond to it with a degree of defensiveness).

I opened up and dusted off my clarinet for the first time in 13 years. I played for hours.

I went to the ArtSpace tag sale, where I discussed Nancy Drew with a small girl and her mother. The girl, in a manner entirely reminiscent of my own experiences of family tag sales, demanded of her mother "You're not selling those, are you?! You said that they were ours!"

I opened one of the books to find a scene I remember from when I was a child in which Nancy disguises herself by coloring her trademark blonde hair with mascara (successfully, if you can imagine such a thing!).

I went to Integrity 'n Music, one of my favorite places to visit, where I was treated to the always-impressive Jackie McLean Youth Jazz Orchestra. I found there, among other things, Court and Spark - an album that was woven firmly through the entirety of my first two decades. I sang it through twice - I've always liked the way my voice bends around those songs. It was a sweet and pleasant hour-and-a-half.

And yet, I'm not sure it's exactly nostalgia that spurns these activities. It's true that I'm seeking to solidify my experience in the present and I know I'm concerned (me with my imperfect memory) with having some kind of document of my days. But I think there is something more to my impulse than the desperate grasping for proof of existence.

In Svetlana Boym's formidable The Future of Nostalgia, she traces a history of the malady. Nostalgia came into existence during a paradigmatic shift that effected much of the world. In the 18th century - that period of constant exploration, rapid colonization, and concerted nation-building - people responded to the universalization of experience, of space, and of time (think of the popularization of clocks, of the systematization of map-making) with a keen longing for the particular. As Boym suggests, "Nostalgia, as a historical emotion, is a longing for that shrinking 'space of experience' that no longer fits the new horizon of expectations" (10).

Perhaps what I'm feeling is not nostalgia alone, but something akin to Kant's ideal melancholy - that which enables one to be particularly attuned to the dilemmas of life.

Then again, maybe I do just want another chance to be seven, to thumb my way through a card catalogue, and to be aware of those moments through which I pass.

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