There is something about blasts from the past that tend to “get me” in the back of my throat, in that mysterious medical cavern where throat lumps are manufactured. I believe this cavern has a direct line to my tear ducts too, because once activated, I am a mess in the face of anything remotely moving. I realize I am an extreme case in the realm of nostalgic reactions, but I’m pretty sure we are all affected when pieces of our past are presented to us unannounced, resurfacing memories and feelings we have long forgotten.
TV series have a particular place in my world of nostalgia. For example, last summer when the Happy Days gang visited Miller Park, I got choked up while watching them on the news. (Yes, I really did.) So, one can only imagine how I handled the recent finale of ER, a show I’ve watched for nearly 15 years. The weeks leading up to the series finale lured me in, with weekly guest appearances from past ER characters.
Seeing Carter, Benton, and Ross… it felt like old times. Then, after weeks of “going back” on these episodes, I sat down to watch the three hour series finale. My favorite part was the hour-long preview of interviews with cast members. As they talked about the show and past episodes, it became clear why the show was so successful. As Juliana Margulies described the show’s success, “the stars aligned to create something fabulous.” Every actor communicated that what they were doing was much more than a job- ER became their home. The real chemistry these characters shared on and off screen could be felt in every living room in America.
Clearly, I was not alone in my draw to the ER finale, as it was called the “most watched drama wrap up in 13 years.” An estimated 16.4 million viewers tuned in to say goodbye. Perhaps this is due to the fact that as human nature would have it, when a group comes together that works, we want to be a part of it- whether it’s on our TV screens, at work, school, or on the trail.
This reminds me of my “flagship running group;” my core group of five friends who saw me through my first marathons. (see “Find Your People…”) I don’t run with them regularly anymore, but when I do see them on the trail, I am (almost) as excited as I was when I saw Dr. Carter return to ER last month. Similarly, at my high school reunion a few weeks ago, stepping into the restaurant to see old friends was like slipping back to the time and place when they were a part of my daily life. It was almost as if no time had passed.
I was thinking of all of the above today as I ran and listened to 80’s music on my iPod. I came to the conclusion that blasts from the pasts are great… but they do hold a certain bittersweet element to them. Many times, these memories of the past, lead us to think “I wish things were like that again,” or “too bad we can’t all be together one more time.” Perhaps the toughest part about thinking nostalgically is it sometimes makes us realize that when those good times were happening, we didn’t grasp just how good they were. Enter the mysterious “lump in throat.”
As I rounded the corner back to my house, I concluded that there’s a definite danger in looking back, as it inevitably begs the question, “Why didn’t I slow down and enjoy that more?” Of course I had this epiphany just as I approached my house and needed to make dinner instead of ponder this revelation further.
A half hour later, I was eating dinner with my husband and two step kids. We laughed a lot, and talked about important things like Twilight characters, middle school classes, and baseball. It dawned on me, then, that while being nostalgic is great, the good stuff is happening now. Five years from now we will not be having these conversations. Tonight’s dinner will soon be mixed in with many other memories as we look back someday.
So, after that dinner and earlier run, I decided that the key to life… in runnerchica terms of course… is to simply enjoy the run and all of the beautiful scenery and people it brings us. Then years from now, when our knees go the way of ER, we’ll look back with a little bit smaller lump in our throats, knowing we gave it everything we had.