Nostalgia Old and New
by John C. Westervelt
On the way home from the grocery store, I was first beside and then behind a bright yellow, 1962 Volkswagen. I recognized the year by the size of the taillights. I sensed a sweet nostalgia.
I bought a new Volkswagen in 1962 for $1600 after going to work for North American Aviation and losing my car pool at Century Electronics. The Apollo program had just begun. With a single-car garage on 23rd street, I parked on the yard beside the driveway. As soon as tire tracks showed in the grass, I gathered used bricks from a dirt and rock dump area down the street and across Sheridan. I dug out the grass to the depth of a brick and laid a drive one brick wide in each track.
In the winter, I bundled up because there wasn’t much heat in a VW. In the summer, I turned the wing windows out to blow air across my perspiring body – a different kind of air conditioning.
Five years later when my son Paul was a Boy Scout, I would let him shift gears in the Volkswagen as we drove to troop meetings. My brother’s two boys were in the same troop. Having been Eagle scouts as boys, my brother and I helped at scout meetings and camped with the troop once a month for several years.
After another five years, with Paul in high school and working after school as the maintenance man for an apartment complex, I sold him the Volkswagen for $200. Some time later, I watched Paul unbolt a fender, knock out some dents, fill the crevices with body putty, and sand the area smooth. He then used matching paint in spray cans to paint the repaired fender before reassembling.
On this day, going back into the garage for a second load of groceries, I though, “My Honda is a much better car than the old Volkswagen.” Then I realized that the sweet nostalgia was not so much about the car as about the times. I was young and robust. My life revolved around family, scouting, and my church.
Life moved on. In time, I became a widower, and a few years later reached retirement age. To fill my mornings, I volunteered to help with the Asbury weekday preschool. I began accumulating memories of children and their hugs.
So today, I remember the faces of the children that shared a classroom with me for nine months. Each fall for eleven years a new group of children arrived. The memory of these children is my new nostalgia, and it, too, is sweet.
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