By Madge Cook Wylie
A few nights ago I decided to watch a movie that I hadn’t seen for years. It was called “Alexander’s Ragtime Band”. It was after midnight, but I just thought I’d check it out and then go to bed.
When the music started I was enveloped with the strangest feeling I couldn’t identify. I was instantly drawn back into my memory. I was at the Glendale School basement and it was midnight and we were setting sandwiches out on plates for the dancers. The school teacher, Gladys Bishop, said, “Here, you can put these out.”
Well, the guys were giant teen-agers and older men who staggered outside and came back in, falling down the stairs. I said, “I can’t do that – they’re drunk.” Mrs. Bishop assured me they were harmless. I was probably 11 or 12 years old.
Those were the days when the folks went to the dances and took their kids. The babies were on blankets on benches around the room. When the older little kids got tired, they were likewise bedded down.
The band was a family from Nampa. They were playing the tunes of the day. They played Mexicali Rose, Marie Elena and eventually they would play “It’s Three O’Clock in the Morning”. But the tune I loved to hear and wanted to hear over and over was “Alexander’s Ragtime Band”. My dad would take a turn teaching me how to dance. There were a few high school girls and if a boy didn’t ask them they would dance with each other. Carla and I were the only girls our age, so sometimes the big girls would dance with us and teach us behind the curtain on the little stage.
But, that night watching the television I was overwhelmed with the nostalgia that overcame me. I was there again with the music and the gaiety that has eluded the generation I’m living in now. It was so real it was almost painful.
Those big boys soon went off to war (some never to return); the world changed; the music changed; the schoolhouse changed and disappeared.
I looked up the word “nostalgia” the next morning and there it was: “a longing for something far away or long ago or for former happy circumstances”.
I love that word. Are you ever caught up in a moment that reminds you of days gone by? That feeling sweeps over you for just a moment and almost takes you out of yourself. Sometimes, when my siblings and I get together, we talk about sleeping on top of the haystack under the stars in bygone summer days. If you are young enough you almost think you can reach up and touch them. Eventually my sister, Mackie, and I would see who count the most stars and that would soon end in slumber.
When someone mentions milking the cows I don’t go back to the dirty, physical smelly job of sitting between two cows. I remember that that is where I did my most significant daydreaming. I composed stories and traveled and thought of all kinds of joyous things I could be doing. The next thing I knew, the bucket was full, the cow was happy and I was done with that tedious chore.
Oh, how uplifting nostalgia is!