Memories or Nostalgia?

Nostalgia: a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.

Memories are peculiar things in that they may/may not be expected… and they may/may not, be pleasant. Nostalgia is much nicer because, by definition, it is pleasant!

My older sister passed away in 2002. We were 3 years apart and born on exactly the same day. In our early years, both our parents worked in theater, and so we were constantly traveling around England. As a result of that mobile life style, the only stable friends we had were each other.

When my younger sister arrived, the decision was made to look for more stable work which they found (in Peterborough) and, from that point in time, Valerie and I gravitated towards our own age  groups. When she was in her teens, it was no surprise that she wanted little to do with her younger brother!

While I was at a college in S.Wales, Valerie got married and moved out of Peterborough. Not long after that, my parents sold up and moved around 100 miles south, which is where I went after finishing college. I did return to Peterborough to live on my own but, although Valerie was only a short drive north, she was having a lot of relationship issues and we hardly ever saw each other.

Eventually, I got married and started a family while Valerie was trying to work through her relationship issues.  She was unsuccessful and eventually  moved to Essex to live with Mom and Dad so, again, there was little regular contact. She eventually got into another relationship, and we emigrated to Canada so now the Atlantic Ocean came between us!  I met with Valerie a few times as I visited England, and she did come and stay with us about a year before she passed away.

A few days ago, I sent the draft of my book of poetry to the publishers. This opened up a quite large “time slot” in my day because so much time had been used to edit, edit, edit and edit! I decided that I would go through all my photo albums, and my boxes of “bits and pieces”, and put together an album of Valerie!

Going through the albums was a simple matter of turning pages and taking out any pictures of Valerie. Going through the boxes was a very different experience because I found so much of her handwriting. Letters covering her health issues and her constant battle.  Letters which seemed to deliberately focus on the happier times. There was a letter of support as I went through my divorce, and a letter of celebration when I bought this home.

Valerie had a very troubled start to life because she was born with a very odd skin condition, which we just all accepted. When she was in her early teens, and thereafter (when physical appearance sadly matters) she felt very isolated and had few friends. She experienced rejection from a number of areas, the most critical was probably when she went to Paris to take up and au-pair position and, although the family had all her medical information, they still refused her entry to their home. I cannot imagine how devastating that must have been. I cannot imagine the feeling of arriving at your destination in a foreign country, and then being turned away at the door.

Reading through Valerie’s letters, I think that she was more attached to me than I ever realized. We never had any issues come between us, but we were just never that close as siblings… or were we?

Memories… or nostalgia? I am going to go with nostalgia for what was, what is, and what perhaps could have been. Grammatically, that really does not make sense but as I go through Valerie’s letters, I feel closer to her than I have in a very long time.

Valerie and me – 1951


32 thoughts on “Memories or Nostalgia?

    • I love to reflect back but, with people passing on and other less than happy events, it’s not always a time for happy smiles. However, there are people who deserve to be remembered, just as there are past events that can be lessons for the future. I find that nostalgia keeps me “grounded”! I can understand me today, because I can remember “yesterday” and all the inherent influences of those times. 🙂

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  1. Hi Uncle Colin, was really nice to read this particular article about Mum. Can’t believe it was really 2002. Time doesn’t heal a loss like your mother, but you do learn to live and cope with the loss. Anywho, I’ve been able to read most of your blog articles and they’re great – thanks for sharing and keep up the good work 🙂

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  2. I have a baby brother, my only sibling, so I KNOW she cared for you greatly. We are always prouder of our baby brother’s achievements and see him as smarter, more clever, and better than ourselves. She probably felt this way about you.

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    • Hi Ron. Glad you enjoyed the Post however, as your brother is still alive, you might wish to consider taking the first steps to closing the relationship gap just a little? Who knows what tomorrow may bring? 🙂


        • Go for it! I used to have a Norton Model 50 (350cc single) in England. Beautiful bike to ride! I hope your joint ride materializes and, if it does, think of me when you’re out on the open road! 🙂


  3. What a tender post!
    So glad you still have your letters from her. How nice to take the time to look at pictures and re-read the letters. I would be guessing that you are right. I bet she was more attached to you than you realized. In you she found acceptance and love.
    Sorry to read about her skin condition how she had to deal with rejection due to that. So very sad, people can be so cruel!
    Love the picture! You both look so sweet! 🙂

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