According to Merriam-Webster, nostalgia is “a wistful or excessively sentimental yearning for return to or of some past period or irrecoverable condition”.

Before recovery, I had a hard time with feelings of nostalgia. They used to overtake me. They had the power to disconnect me from the present, so much so that I was taken into lack of acceptance of it. Yet no matter how fond the memories, those too were never “good enough”. Inevitably, I would end up focusing instead on what could have or “should have” been. My experience of nostalgia was a confused mess of happiness, sadness and frustrated desire.

Recently, while searching for something in a drawer, I came across an envelope of old Christmas photos. Most of them were of my brother and I, in the 1970’s. In some, we are seated under the tree, dressed in flannel and smiling with gifts strewn about. In others, we are dressed in our finest, seated at the holiday dinner table. Suddenly, I found myself revisiting certain memories, which caused in me great feelings of nostalgia.

I remembered one day, several weeks before Christmas, in the late 1970s. My mother took my brother and I shopping for art supplies, to make homemade ornaments with clay. We spent a whole day at the kitchen table, the 3 of us shaping our ornaments by hand, painting them, baking them and sealing them. I was so proud of the ones that were made with my own, two little hands. I remember hanging them every year, for years and years to come. Although those ornaments have long since crumbled into broken bits and gone, I still remember all that went into making them…

I remembered that every year (maybe until age 14), I’d spend an entire Sunday in December, in the kitchen with my father. With one fork and his hands, he magically transformed a heap of flour and fresh cracked eggs into golden pasta dough. He turned the dough into wide ribbons on an old, hand crank machine. My job was to keep both arms outstretched for the long ribbons to be hung upon, until they were transferred to a floured, wooden board and cut into sheets. He used the sheets to make pans of lasagna that were taken to the freezer for safe keeping, until Christmas Day. But he always, always, baked a personal sized one, just for me to have that evening. Although I have not eaten pasta in nearly 5 years, it’s not the pasta that I yearn for…

I remembered my mother singing carols and coming down the stairs, beautifully dressed for church on Christmas Eve. I remembered our yearly tradition of going to midnight mass, then coming home to feast while watching the 1951 version of“ A Christmas Carol”. I haven’t been to church in years and my mother’s fancy dresses and high heels have long been retired. She’s still beautiful of course but I love remembering her exactly as she was, her long, flowing black hair, her painted red lips and sparkling green eyes…

I’m so fortunate that my family is still intact. However, all these years later, my aging parents are not the same, our lifestyles are not the same and although I am grateful for where I am today, I can’t help but have moments when I look back with a sense of longing for the past.

Back then, I could not have predicted what I would carry in my heart more than 40 years later and I owe this entirely to my program of recovery. Recovery showed me how to see the past with a new lens, allowing me to experience both past and present in a balanced way. Recovery taught me to accept the present with gratitude and awareness that these moments will one day, most certainly be, irrecoverable.

Wishing everyone a peaceful holiday.

Much love,