Memories Are Made of This

When I was young, I often heard that older people spend a lot of time reminiscing about the past. Now that I am older, I know that happens. Many older people drift off to better times in their minds. I know I do. But I sometimes wonder if I haven’t embellished those memories the more I revisit them. Were high school and college really the best times of my life? Was it all just one big sock hop, dancing with the cutest guys to “In the Mood” and “Rock Around the Clock”? Were there really no down moments of crying on my pillow when one of those cute guys broke my heart? Apparently, not the way I choose to remember those days.

What is so appealing about the past? Well, for one thing, I was young and cute (not beautiful, but cute), and full of pep. I was everything I was supposed to be in the fifties: a good student, a good dancer, and a popular teenager. What more could anyone want, except maybe to get engaged and married, which I did, also in the fifties? And let me not forget the crowning achievement of that magical decade: I had a baby.

I’m sure the Baby Boomers have very different memories. If the fifties were peaceful and placid, the sixties were chaotic and compelling. Depending on where they fell on the sixties continuum, young people experienced the Vietnam War; the fight for Civil Rights; the space race; the summer of love; the Beatles; the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., and Bobby Kennedy; Johnson’s Great Society; the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago; and the moon landing.

It was an eventful decade, but looking back, what I remember are babies and housework, women’s lib and consciousness-raising groups, a new city, new friends, getting a job, and raising “latchkey kids.” The whole ten years flew by in a haze.

The seventies, on the other hand, are vivid. At a time when no one I knew was getting a divorce, I did. It was not my intention to be a trailblazer. I could never have predicted how tough the seventies would be: being a single mom, commuting from the suburbs to downtown every day, becoming a writer no matter what it took, changing jobs multiple times, and struggling to make ends meet. It is not a decade I like to recall.

Of course, I could go on and on. From the beginning of the eighties until the present, I have lived through more than four decades. I have raised two daughters who have built successful careers and good lives. I have achieved my goal of becoming a writer, filled binders with published work, authored forty-nine books (so far), and helped many aspiring authors write and publish their books. I technically “retired” just before COVID hit and hunkered down to write two more books. COVID is, unfortunately, still hanging around, and I am still writing.

In a decade or two, when I’m a centenarian, I will remember my eighties with fondness and nostalgia as the good old days. I will probably imbue them with an exaggerated sense of wonder and ask myself, were they really the best times of my life? Older people tend to do that, I’ve heard.