A feeling that lingers long after the taste is gone.”
Some things seem to exist in our world for no other purpose than to remind us of years gone by. In a sphere of nostalgia, where we all find ourselves at times, we dwell on what made lasting impressions that we carry through to this moment, here and now.
And sometimes, in the midst of our nostalgic waxing, we may find ourselves in an entirely new sphere altogether; a place where thought runs poignantly wild.
But, a memory can live anywhere…
Even within the smallest stone can live a timeless memory. Sometimes it’s an old coin. Other times it’s the smell of a book, or the rhythm of a song. But, it can be anything. They all bring us back to a particular moment, one that has silently lived alongside us for our entire lives.
Sometimes these things, these agitators of memory, are quite silly. It’s as though only we could ever understand them, and no one else. But, it is true, we all have our own special silliness about us. It is what makes us who we are, and what defines us in a world of unsilliness.
But how silly can they be?
For me, if it weren’t for an old package of Fig Newtons, I may not have recalled a memory that was buried somewhere in my mind for the past thirty years or more.
I was at work the other day and took a short break to have a snack. The options available for us are quite broad in the sense that we have plenty to choose from; all of which is nothing healthy or substantial. If one were looking for a meal, perhaps a variety of assorted chips or power bars would be the only options. Nonetheless, one has to eat from time to time.
And that’s when I spotted the Newtons.
I hadn’t had one in ages. It didn’t occur to me when I unraveled the package. But as I bit into the tiny fruit cake the smell and the taste brought me back to a time when Fig Newtons seemed like the Creme Brule of life.
The cakes were stale. I suppose that no one that I worked with cared for them much, or not nearly as much as Snickers bars, or the sour cream and onion chips which I can never manage to get my hands on.
But what brought me back to that time of my youth was the stale taste.
My grandparents always had a cookie jar. The types of cookies in the jar varied from time to time, however, they were usually gingersnaps or Nilla wafers. So, if there were ever Fig Newtons, they’d sit there for weeks until the grandchildren came by, usually going quite stale in the interim.
By the time we’d get a few Newtons, they’d not only be stale, but they’d taste like an amalgam of gingersnaps and wafers along with whatever else was leftover in the jar, as there was only one jar that all the cookies shared.
Gingersnaps, on the other hand, never really went stale. In fact I do believe they are made specifically to taste stale and slightly burn the tongue. But that’s another story..
Nevertheless, the dry flavor of the fig newton brought be back to that simple time, reminding me of something that I’d long forgotten, and making me pause to look about my surroundings.
It reminded me of the last time I saw my Grandfather in the spring of 2004.
He was my Dad’s father. We never saw too much of him. And quite frankly, he wasn’t the most pleasant man to be around all in all. But he always offered the cookie jar to the grandkids, probably in hopes that we’d finally clean out all of the gingersnaps. But some memories are quite fluid, and it was my memory of him standing on the porch, waiving at me as I returned to my car and left my hometown once again; a place I hadn’t visited in nine years until that spring day. It was that powerful memory randomly sparked by a simple smell and taste of an old cookie.
But my nostalgia didn’t simply end on a sorrowful thought.
I work in a casino. And in midst of that oddly sparked memory, I walked around observing my surroundings. I watched as the people sat and talked. I looked on as people walked here and there, stopping and sitting, rising and walking again. I returned to the gaming floor and watched more of the same thing.
People were walking from slot machine to slot machine, from the bar to the cafe. They sat at the tables, drinking and smoking. People of all ages, from early twenties, to mid eighties, all walking about seemingly with nothing in common whatsoever.
But all of them had one certain thing in common, as do we all.
As I looked around, a sudden thought occurred to me.
One day, all of these people that I see before me will no longer be alive. One day, their presence will not be known, only remembered. One day, all of them, including myself, will die.
One day, all the faces I see occupying this space will no longer be. This world will no longer house these souls. Instead, like my grandfather, they will only be remembered at times; living quietly among us in the ether.
Perhaps they will be remembered by someone.
And, perhaps they will live on in some way.
This is the power of nostalgia. Even with a small bite of a stale cookie, we may stumble upon our deepest memories, and step onto the path of even deeper thought. I only hope we have the clarity to understand these moments, and the gratitude to appreciate what they deliver to us.
All that from a cookie, you ask?
Well, it wasn’t a cookie after all.
It was a Fig Newton.