I did something nostalgic recently. I made grape juice. My mom’s recipe, straight from my childhood. It’s easy enough to make, if you’re into that sort of thing. Grapes, a pinch of sugar in a quart jar, then fill with boiling water and can.
We made it outside on a fall day. Jars were lined in irregular rows across the picnic table, chickens curiously looking on. We set the big stock pot atop a propane burner and filled it straight from the hose, after a quick splash to freshen the bird feeder. We’d all get a drink that day.
We watched as the water slowly rolled to a boil, against conventional wisdom. We submerged the lidded jars slowly, easing out the displaced water until they reached the bottom.
And then we talked.
About my childhood, about how my mom used to make juice every fall. About the grapes that used to grow wild in our yard. We debated the proper way to eat a grape – spitting out the seeds or the skins, or crunching it all whole. We sat quietly.
We pulled the jars from the pot and watched as the clear liquid turned deep. The miracle of water turned to wine – or pre-wine, I suppose. Unfermented sugars swirling around in thick glass bellies.
After a moment, I heard the familiar sound – the quiet thunt of the lids being pulled into place. The work was done. All that was left to do was wait.
Two weeks later we pulled out a jar, its contents now dark and sweet. A spoon popped the suction with a sharp sound and we strained it into glasses. Fancy glasses, because that’s how one must drink such a thing. A clink to the past, and one more to the future. Both tasted sweet.
It all felt so very nostalgic, in both directions.
Nostalgia is the warm blanket when life feels cold and overwhelming. It’s the certainty to counteract life’s uncertain. It’s the little things that tickle our senses: a sprig of mint, the sound of a waterfall, the crunch of fall leaves, the smell of orange and clove. The things that whisk us back to a different time.
Not always a better time. Some of those days were just plain hard. But still, we remember them fondly for their familiarity. Comfort for what’s known and knowable. Hindsight, 20/20.
It all makes me wonder, what will we look back on? What sights and smells and sounds will whisk us back to now?
The smell of baking bread, the sound of a new hobby? Coffee sipped in the crisp morning air, instead of in a car ride to work? The feel of a linen letter sent through the mail? The soft cotton of a flannel mask, the warmth of our own breath against our skin?
Some years are just plain hard – but even hard years make memories. Some by happenstance, but some are intentional. Jars on a picnic table on a crisp fall day. Sweet grape pulp surrounded by bitter skins. Dark, sweet juice in a fancy glass. Somewhere in the future, at some random moment a cool breeze or a quiet thunt or a sweet taste will whisk us back to now.
I stack the thick glass jars of juice on a wire shelf. All but two, that is. One I’ll give to my mom and the other to my daughter. My mom to take her back, and my daughter to plant the seed of a future memory.
Nostalgia, in both directions.