I read an article in one of the Sunday newspapers about the positive impact nostalgia can play in people’s mental well-being. I’ve been told I’m too nostalgic a person, too prone to dwell on memories. I’ve never seen anything wrong in that – I’m fortunate that I have some great memories on which to dwell and they’re a source of great joy and sometimes comfort to this day.
Last night was cast in a halo of nostalgia. I spoke to the Women’s Institute in the village in which Mum lived for for than 30 years. Mum was passionate about the W.I. . She loved the friendship and the shared experiences it brought her and it felt appropriate for me to speak to them about Dementia Friends. It was a strange and slightly uncomfortable experience to walk in to the Parish Rooms in the village. I’d had my 18th birthday party there – and the venue hasn’t changed at all in the 32 years since that auspicious occasion. In 1982, the village bobby still paid a visit to events in the Parish Rooms and two of my more experimental friends were in the process of expanding their minds when PC Local turned up. Oh, and I think I wore a black shirt with a spider’s web pattern on it. Not all memories are so comforting.
Later, 20 years later to be precise, Mum and Dad held their 40th wedding anniversary party in the same place. (The spidery shirt had long been consigned to the bad taste wardrobe by this time). I hadn’t been back to the Parish Rooms since and walking in last night instantly took me back to that happy day. Both Mum and Dad were in their element, surrounded by friends, many of whom had been to their wedding 40 years before. It even seemed to me that the tables were laid out in the same way – they were undoubtedly the same tables. Happy, irreplaceable memories.
I told Mum I was going to talk to the W.I. . She laughed.
“Bad luck,” she said.
Standing in front of the assembled ladies last night, I couldn’t help seeing Mum amongst them. I hope she’d have been interested on what I had to say. She always returned from meeting, enthused by something. Sometimes, I’d hear the speaker’s text second hand. My talk will become another memory associated to that place. Not as warm as others, perhaps, but a memory nonetheless. And as I spoke, it reminded me – yet again – how priceless memories are and how much, it seems, Mum has lost by no longer having access to her past.