In Praise of Rainy Days
Sitting at home on a rainy day, I’m reminded of a day many years ago when I was in the ninth grade. I’m not sure what the ninth grade was like for girls because I went to an all boys school, but for 25 to 30 early teen boys in one room to voluntarily remain quiet for almost an hour was a rarity indeed. Perhaps this is why that particular day is one of the very few days still vivid in memory in what has now become the blur of high school years. Obviously, if everyone was remaining quiet, there is not much to tell. The facts are simply this. It was English class right after lunch, and, perhaps not wishing to compete with the noise of the heavy rain falling outside, our teacher instructed us to turn our desks toward the window and watch the rain fall. That’s it. We watched the rain and nobody said a word until the bell rang about 45 minutes later. All of us, a group that included more than our share of brash talkers, were entranced. I don’t have the slightest idea of what was on my mind that day, but whatever it was I must have delved deeply into it.
That memory pops into my mind often on rainy days. Fortunately, I usually write these blogs on weekends, so today I am able to re-live, at least partially, the peacefulness of that day. During the week, I’m not so lucky. The traffic studio is right next to the studio once occupied by our beloved Luther Masingill, and I find myself wishing I could spend the afternoon looking out Luther’s Hullco Window, and losing myself in the gray clouds and pouring rain. But there is traffic information to gather and report, often busier than normal on a rainy day, and quiet reflection gives way to the frenetic pace of the highways outside, and 3 separate radio broadcasts inside. We all lead busy lives. I guess the important thing is to be able to recognize opportunities for quiet reflection and to take full advantage of those moments when they occur.
Lately, I’ve discovered another way of slowing my mind for a few moments and quietly forgetting the world around me. I think for many of us, there is peace in nostalgia, and there is a difference between history and nostalgia. History is made up of moments in time crystallized in our memory. Weddings, funerals, births, moments of great joy, heart wrenching sorrow, or absolute shock stay with us for the rest of our lives. On the other hand, nostalgia, is anything that sparks, not necessarily a specific memory, but a general recollection of what our lives and loved ones in those lives were like in younger days.
Recently, I visited Knitting Mill Antiques on the north shore. Many of the items on display took me back to times long gone in my life, such as when gas stations gave out free glassware with a fill up, towels were included as a free gift with the purchase of a box of laundry detergent, and fresh milk came in bottles left by a milkman at my grandmother’s front door. For anyone over the age of 45, I would recommend a visit to such an antique store if only to free one’s self for an hour or two from current problems with a short trip to the past.
Another excellent source of nostalgia is YouTube. YouTube is perhaps the closest any of us will ever get to actual time travel. Quite frankly, there is a lot of worthless crap on YouTube, but there is also much that is valuable. All of us certainly recognize the historical value of YouTube through videos of Pearl Harbor, the Zapruder footage, or President Reagan demanding, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” But there is also much that is of nostalgic value. I offer links to two such YouTube videos. Please view, and allow yourself a peaceful escape from whatever may be weighing on your mind at the moment.
Now, obviously, I don’t have a clue as to who any of these people are, but it doesn’t matter. Also, I don’t really remember the 1940s, but the video conjures up memories of old pictures and stories from my parents and grandparents. There are many more where these came from. Simply type “old home movies,” or “1960s home movies,” or something similar in YouTube’s search field. You’ll be surprised.
I am certainly not advocating living in the past, and I hope I won’t become, after a few more birthdays, one of those old people that believes the world is going to hell just because things aren’t like they used to be. If I ever do become such a person, tell me to snap out of it. I’m simply stating what appears to be something even a group of rowdy ninth grade boys instinctively knew on a rainy day. A little quiet and a little reflection is good for the soul.