I am unimaginably homesick today. I know this because I desperately want Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. The kind that comes in the blue box, with the envelope of cheese-like powder, and the old-school elbow macaroni. It looks something like this:
This is remarkable, because I haven’t eaten Kraft Macaroni & Cheese in probably a decade. One day I looked at the neon orange cheese-like powder and said, “This can’t be right” and walked away from the KMC.
KMC was a staple of my childhood. It was cheap, effective, and about one of the only things I’d eat. I still remember the salty tang of the sauce made from the cheese-like powder. I have fond memories of that cheese-like powder. (And yes, I find this as disturbing as you probably do).
The thing is, I don’t really want the KMC. I want the comfort of a nostalgic past, one that is swathed in a blanket of peanut butter sandwiches and macaroni and cheese and blissfully free of discord and struggle.
KMC is my golden age.
While—again—this is likely disturbing, I’d like to think that all of you know what I mean. We have memories, objects, places that anchor us to what we think of as the best parts of ourselves, the best parts of our past.
This leads me to talk about two things: stuff and movies. These are two of my favourite topics. I could jaw about stuff and movies all day long. Be glad that I don’t.
But on the topic of stuff, why do we have it? Why do we keep it? Why do we fight like hell to be the one who has Grandma’s old, broken-down faux-crocodile handbag?
This may be too simplistic, but in my mind, we keep stuff—especially other people’s stuff—because the stuff is something we can wrap our hands around, something we can feel, something we can say, “Yes, this is you.”
I am, of course, talking specifically about dead people’s stuff. I am thinking specifically about my mom’s stuff.
It hit me the other day that next week will be the 20th anniversary of my mother’s death. It does not weigh heavily on me, per se, but it is remarkable how present it is in my mind. Perhaps it’s because I’m quickly approaching the age that she was when she died. Perhaps it’s because it happens to coincide with Thanksgiving this year, and I am very far from a home of four-day holidays, pumpkin pies, cranberry sauce, and Black Friday. Perhaps it’s simply because I miss her and wish she were here to help me figure out where I’m going and whether I’m making the right choices. It’s hard being a responsible grown-up sometimes.
Sometimes, you feel like you’re in uncharted territory and you’re trying to hold it together in such a way that everyone assumes you know what you’re doing.
Actually, let me revise that.
I think most of us go through each day feeling like we’re in uncharted territory. I think we careen and bump along from one side to the next and just pray that we get through the day without seriously screwing up the relationships and the things we value most.
When we feel like that–when we’re breathing a bit more quickly than normal, feeling uncomfortable, and far outside of what we know–I think most of us yearn for our own KMC golden ages. Looking back at the known past is easy; facing the uncertain future is hard.
Woody Allen’s new film, Midnight in Paris, explores this very issue. Of course, it is gorgeously shot, has a great soundtrack and relatable characters, and patented “Woody Allen patter”. It’s so much more than that, though. He explores this idea of “golden ages” and comes to the conclusion that the only true golden age is the present. The right now. This moment.
I like that idea. As uncertain as we feel some days, as much as we mourn the things (the people) lost, as fondly as we remember the past (including cheese-like powder and blue boxes of macaroni), the reality is we also create joy in *this* moment, in *this* now. Our feet may be anchored in the collective experiences of our past, but if we’re lucky, our arms are spread wide and open, ready for the unknown adventure that is our future.
What a thrilling thing.