Yeah, You Kinda-Sorta Can Go Home Again: Tacoma Tribute Edition

I’m not sure I believe in reincarnation, but I do believe in past lives. I have several, and I like to keep in touch with them. After all, to misuse Faulker’s famous line, the past isn’t even past.

This past weekend The Mate and I headed down to Tacoma, where I had scheduled a reading of The Flying Burgowski at King’s Bookstore. Tacoma is also where we moved in 1990, became Northwesterners for good, raised our kids, and spent the bulk of our professional careers.


Although we moved away four years ago when our youngest graduated from high school and The Mate retired, Tacoma is our most recent and vibrant past life. And I do mean VIBRANT.

Need an example? Here’s a shot of said high school from which our boys graduated:

I KNOW, right?!

I KNOW, right?!

Tacoma also has its very own zoo and aquarium, at Pt. Defiance, which just happens to be within walking distance of our old house. Seattle’s zoo and aquarium might be bigger and snazzier, but OURS has a walrus (actually 3 at this moment). A WALRUS. ‘Nuff said.

(orig. image courtesy Partner Pages)

(orig. image courtesy Partner Pages)

I could go on indefinitely with this Tacoma boosterism: the Bridge of Glass (where I used to stop with my students on our History Museum field trips); the Antique Sandwich Company, which serves killer espresso cheesecake, lets you sit all day on their mismatched furniture, grading essays and drinking tea, and is working on its 50th anniversary; Pt. Defiance Park with its giant firs and twittering eagles, right there in the ‘burbs.


But what really draws me back to my latest past life is people.

Despite having moved away four years ago, I still see…

…my same dentist. He’s from Iran, and he gives me tea, even though we both know it stains my teeth. I ADORE my dentist. My favorite hygienist is from the Philippines; we compare notes on our boys. I adore her too. I actually look forward to my dentist appointments like little reunions!

…my same doctor, for annual physicals. He’s a distance runner like me, and doesn’t get freaked out by my resting pulse of 40. I even forgive him for making me do things like get colonoscopies and mammograms.

…my same book club (now starting its 15th year). True, I only make about half the meetings now, and I’ve even skyped in, but I read the books even when I can’t make it off the island. Brownie points!

…my same musical potluck group of former neighbors & forever friends, affectionately known as the WingSing. (Come @ 5 to sing, @6 to eat…except these days it’s pretty much a free-for-all since we only see each other quarterly instead of monthly as we used to.)

I know that someday I will start seeing a dentist and a doctor on Lopez Island. I already have friends there to discuss books with and sing and potluck with, and I suppose it’s possible that someday I will stop leaving the island to discuss books and sing and potluck.

But no time real soon!

Our previous Past Life, in North Carolina, is also still very much with us, and the focus of our annual Cross-Country ACC Basketball (and BBQ) Pilgrimage. But Tacoma, bless its aromatic little heart, is a little easier to get to.

How about you? How many places do you count as really having LIVED there? How well–or how–do you stay in touch? Is it the place, the people…or both?

Nostalgia Does Not Equal Depression? Wow, Thanks, Association for Psychological Science.

This (not) just in: I’m not depressed. 

No, I don’t mean to imply by that double negative that I am, in fact, depressed–what I mean is that this is NOT breaking news. I read a piece of old newspaper, ok? Sometimes old newsprint comes into play when I clean up the bakery before closing, and this one article caught my eye…from, I guess, 2009. (Don’t worry, it was a CLEAN old newspaper.)

The article said that the Association for Psychological Science had just announced that they no longer considered nostalgia to be a symptom of depression.

My reaction? The bloggable version? “You don’t say, Sherlock.”

I love to live in the past. I’ve kept an active journal since October 1975, and I love reading back on it. (Also a great way to win arguments, btw.) I can lose myself in photo albums, the digital or “real” kind. Hell, I can lose myself in a single photo.

Music? The other day on the highway, the Eagles’ “I Can’t Tell You Why” came on the radio. I turned to my husband. “This song was playing when we first drove up to the Grand Canyon,” I informed him. That happened in 1980.

Smell? Walking along a country road in Vermont last month (where we went for a wedding), I caught a whiff of billygoat. Instant mental picture: the old goat barn of the field station at Duke University where my dad did his research. Late 60s, early 70s.

Helen and Gretchen 2012

I also love the recent past. There’s this game I play–OK, high trust, I’m letting y’all know right now how anal I am–called “A Week Ago.” While on a long walk or bike ride or drive, I will challenge myself to remember something that happened exactly a week ago. For example: “Had so-and-so over for dinner, and had my music lesson.” “Was driving home from the airport.” I can usually go back a whole YEAR doing this, but I limit myself to six months. Hey, I’m not a complete nutter.

I’d like to say I play “A Week Ago” as a strategy to stay as mentally alert as my 103 year-old grandmother was before she passed away, just in case I inherit those genes. But the truth is, I simply enjoy it.

And anyone who knows me will tell you, I’m the least depressed person they know.

However, lest you have your doubts: I also enjoy the hell out of anticipating the future. And the present? Aces with me. In fact, I think I’ll get back to it right now.

How about y’all, though? Living in the past? Does that bring you joy, and if so, in what ways? Or can you get stuck there? If your past contains sorrow, do you still find some joy in thinking about it, or does avoidance work better?