When Nostalgia Hits: Greetings From Washington.

posted in: D.C., Washington 10
The Cleveland Park stop on the D.C. Metro's Red Line. That was my stop. Photo: Wikipedia.
The Cleveland Park stop on the D.C. Metro’s Red Line. That was my stop. I stood right there. Photo: Wikipedia.


Keeping a blog for as long as I have kept the ol’ PG means learning something about content balance. I know not to get too goofy or flip in post after post (you won’t take me seriously); nor do I allow myself to be too dark or dour for long stretches (hello, Eeyore.) Varying the subject matter is intentional, but it’s not insincere: I simply try to write the kind of blog I would like to read, namely, one that makes me laugh and then cry and then laugh again. That’s why you get PG posts about sweetened condensed milk, then something about love, then death, and so on.

Tonight, I felt very sad. When I knew that I wanted to blog about this sadness because writing helps me understand things, I thought, “Well, you can’t write about that. You were sad in Berlin and that was only a few weeks ago. And you were sad when you wrote The Big Post. You had just better find something else to write about.”

But that’s wrong. Texture and balance is good, but you and I both deserve honesty, whatever that looks like. Besides, a “real” post about being sad is going to be ten times better than a hollow one with a nice little bow on it. That’s always going to be true.

I got sad because I’m in Washington, D.C. tonight. I’m glad to be here, but it’s just so heavy. As many of you know, I lived in this city for about a year-and-a-half between 2013-2015. (If you’re new around here, start here. If you’re not new around here, remember when I moved into the Kennedy Warren?)

I’ve come for a conference held by the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP). The graduate writers at SAIC are encouraged to come to this annual event to learn more about the business of writing; there are about ten of us here. When I heard about AWP a few months back and saw that it was to be in D.C. this year, I knew it would be strange to be back in the city for the weekend, but I ponied up for the ticket, anyway. I arrived this afternoon, went to my hotel, and promptly took a two-hour nap. I was tired, sure, but I think I was also zapping myself out, giving myself a psychic break. I self-zapped.

After a reading event this evening, I had a lovely dinner with a fellow grad and then bid adieu to the group. I hailed a taxi and as we sped through the streets of Washington, D.C., I watched the world zip by. I saw monuments and U Street and 14th Street and Dupont Circle. I saw a whole world I used to inhabit, a world I almost committed to completely, a world that imprinted itself upon me and I upon it. There in the taxi, Mozart playing on the radio, my scarf wrapped around my neck, my hands shoved deep in my wool coat pockets, my chest constricted and my throat tightened; I felt my heart flutter and my eyes began to burn and there it was: I began to cry.

I cried because I loved it here and I forgot just how much. I cried because it was all so confusing, that whole time.

I cried because some information passes through the mind and never, ever sticks — the name of that one neighbor, locker combinations, dates of various revolutions, etc. — and some information you never, ever think you’ll ever need to access again but then there you are, speeding into Georgetown, and you’re flooded with a hundred thousand impressions indelibly made when the world was different and you were different within it. This poem of mine gets at some of the emotions I’m talking about.

Tomorrow, maybe I’ll see a duck or a funny hat (or a duck in a funny hat) and I’ll be moved to write about that; tonight, it’s all the bygone cherry orchards and the cobblestones I adored.

10 Responses

  1. Mary Lou Hutson
    | Reply

    Yes, I know exactly what you mean. My husband and I have moved around a lot and anytime I visit one of the other towns where we lived, I feel regret because we’re not still there. There are things I’ve loved about each place. So many sweet memories. You captured the essence of it.

  2. Pat Hicks
    | Reply

    I am glad you are able to reflect about your time in D.C, Do you think you would move back to D.C. if the chance came ? Hope your sessions there were what you expected.

  3. Lauren
    | Reply

    I’m at my computer now to book a flight home to clean out my parents’ house so they can downsize for retirement. I live overseas, my kids are in a good school, my husband likes his job, and I’m about to cut the last tie to my roots. Nostalgia sounds so romantic, but it packs a punch.

    • Heather
      | Reply

      Well said, Lauren. I hope that everything goes smoothly, even if it will be heart-wrenching.

  4. Kathleen Kurke
    | Reply

    I got married in the Kennedy Warren ballroom in 1986. That marriage has ended, and every time you mention that fabulous building in your posts, I experience the feeling you’re writing about. I hate that feeling, but I love the feeling. If ya know what I mean …

  5. Gabrielle
    | Reply

    If you a duck in a funny hat, PLEASE take a picture. I need a good laugh today.

  6. Kim
    | Reply

    I am well- acquainted with that feeling. It’s a sort of bittersweet nostalgia.

  7. So Soon, Luggage? - Mary Fons
    | Reply

    […] trip was not without its pain, as you know, and I’m afraid that it wasn’t just nostalgia pain I had to endure. This trip forced me […]

  8. Jan C.
    | Reply

    My father was in the army. I didn’t attend as many schools as some military brats, but a few. 9. But the feeling of loss, the feeling of longing, homesickness. It was there in the new place. . Right in your heart. Missing what you had, the people you were dear friends with. And not understanding how you can be homesick, when you were nestled in the love, family, comfort security and ” things” that were home! Yeh, I get it.

  9. Diane
    | Reply

    The Cleveland Park stop was my daughter’s stop when she lived in DC a few years ago. Her apartment was just a block from the stop and we’d walk to the zoo when I came to visit. (Hello, pandas!) I saw the massive and impressive Kennedy Warren and was immediately smitten! I read that in the early days they implemented their own AC by opening the lower level doors that opened into the ravine or something like that. The cool air would fill the building.
    Boston is the city that stops me in my tracks with longing. But when I’m there, I know that it was a 33-year-younger me who was living all of the experiences that helped make me who I am today. I wish that I could reach back in time and give that young lady an ‘atta girl (and a little spending money). The sound of the creaking T cars, walking by the Charles River, the coconut buns in China town, the tough girls of Revere and their big hair, it is all seared into my soul.

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