“Look guys!” I said to the kids standing near me in our house, “It’s the house you didn’t grow up in!” I pointed to the picture of Eliav, our 12-year-old, standing in front of our old house in Potomac.
To him, to his little brothers, and even to one of his older brothers, it’s just a house. An address. It’s nothing. It’s a brick façade and some planters; a lovely cul-de-sac and a muggy, oh so muggy, July afternoon.
To three of them, it’s the house that represents the life they probably wouldn’t have lived; we tell them often that the chances are good that they wouldn’t have even been born if we had stayed.
To our oldest two, it’s a distant memory; it’s really just the stories we’ve woven of those years of riding bikes in the cul-de-sac, watching Caillou before carpool, walking Griffey, and playing in the blow-up pool in the grassy backyard.
But to me, oh to me, it’s the meaning of nostalgia rolled into a picture.
What a strange experience, what a strange emotion, nostalgia is. It is reminiscing about those years; about times gone by; about a life so far in the past and so nicely, warmly, gently lived.
It’s a memory of years of growth, change, stability, enjoyment and family. Of lovely people and beautiful places. Of the excitement of first-time home ownership; the drama of home repairs; the starting of two labors; the planning of britot, Purims and Pesachs; the anticipation of family visits.
It’s a memory of driving up that long road to the cul-de-sac for the last time and holding back the tears as our friends waved Israeli flags and cheered.
It’s a memory of long goodbyes, of hoping that the decision was a good one, of separating from family, from friends, from all that was familiar.
Fortunately, it’s not a burning nostalgia; it’s not filled with regret or fear, what-ifs or despair.
Rather, it’s nostalgia from a place of cherished memory, of where-in-the-world-did-all-of-those-years-go wonders. Of taking stock. Wondering who we would have been had we kept to the path usually taken.
And 15 years later, it’s a hard-to-place emotion to see the child who has grown up in such a different reality standing in front of that one.
But with everything that we’ve achieved, the nostalgia is still there as I look at the picture of Eliav. Nostalgia for those great, beautiful years and for the little people who have become so big and independent along the way.