Nostalgia as Family

My Maternal Grandmother's House in Polvo, El Salvador.

Nostalgia has always been another member of the family. It sits with us at every meal, chomping away with its mouth open. It joins conversations without an invitation “...because it brings me back to that one time...” It comes in heavy doses around the holidays. “What year did we stop having a turkey? The same year Tia moved away.” It can infuriate me because it reminds me of the person that I was in any frozen juncture. “Remember when you were small and powerless?” it mocks in its crystal clear form. There’s no logic that my adult brain can break through that iceberg of time. “Yeah, I remember,” as I concede, forever wishing to give my younger self a sip of my adult confidence.

When I was younger, I loathed memory. It angered me to know that there were places I would never visit with people I would never meet. This quandary created an insatiable yearning for what could have been. "You really should have been there," it says in the same subtle elitism as someone who just came back from a semester of studying abroad. "It's not the same trying to explain it," ze says in a souvenir accent. My deceased uncle seemed like an charismatic personality if only his illness didn't end his life 9 years before my birth. My dead great­grandfather could have told me the story of us, the one that set on fire with all the other historical documents during the Salvadoran civil war. The innate nature of the past didn’t allow me meet them. All this knowledge out there and I'm stuck here in the 90's with all these poopy feelings and no internet/social skills to commiserate with strangers. This created in me a resentment for the past.

As adolescence raged on, I learn to take the yearning and morph it into an affinity for all things vintage. Vintage clothes and vintage sounds. Digging into the past was my way to reclaim all the things that were lost upon my generation. I was determined to make up for lost time. This also was encouraged by my impoverished childhood, repurposing vintage clothes as an aesthetic choice versus the distressing financial reality that I could not afford “cool” mass produced clothes. Those Doc Marten boots and I were never meant to be.

By that time, the world wide web began to bloom in its full dial­up beauty. My Dad brought home a found computer by the dumpster and I found the internet. Those modem sounds are forever etched into my subconscious like Mana’s “Sueños Liquidos” because my sister kept replaying it every single damn bedtime. The internet represented this anonymous network of people and places I’ll never meet, all a click away. Anything I ever wondered was within reach and I never had to remember anything again. LiveJournal blog posts carved my identity. Cryptic AIM away messages called my true form. The “cool” way to arrange my top 8 on Myspace was a mantle of who I cared about. I didn’t need memory. I had the internet. All these login accounts were my horcruxes: pieces of me scattered over the http://.

Fast forward to my early twenties when anxiety grows into a new useless organ in my body. The novelty of the internet wore off and I retreat into myself. I deactive my public accounts. I grow insecure. Fixating on the past becomes a need to confirm the present. Did I say the right thing? Am I reading nonverbal cues correctly? Retracing steps so clearly where the mind becomes blurred with imaginary reactions and a million drafts of every message ever sent. The present tense made me tense. The emotionally abusive relationship of my early 20’s was rocket fuel to this anxious combustion. Nostalgia stuck by me, for better or for worse, to remind me of who I used to be to in contrast who I wasn’t at that moment. After the nuclear holocaust of that break­up, memory served to remind me of what use to grow organically on these scorched fields. Which condiments do I like again? What used to be my favorite movie? I took back the power to make my new self, from the ashes of the old one.

Now in the infinite wisdom of 29, I embrace memory for all its faults and for reminding me of who I used to be, for who I am now. I embrace all my former version of myself like humble Salvadoran Matryoshka dolls. I am the sum of my decision­making, the product of the previous generation’s risk­taking, the difference between here and there. I listen more intently to what my older Tios have to say. I soak in every anecdote from my parents. After years of self­work, I no longer cringe at the past. I can sit all my little muñequitas peacefully. Who I am now is enough. I even lay out a table setting for nostalgia at the dinner table now. I welcome it with open arms even if it didn’t call before arriving. “Remember when you were obsessed with Gloria Trevi’s ‘Pelo Suelto? You were so cute when you danced it with messy hair” it starts. “Ay... Yes, I do. But I’m not doing the “Sopa de Caracol” dance,” I smile.

Published in Chiflada Zine, October 2015