I’ve been thinking we need a good dose of nostalgia. In fact, I’m hoping for a new age of nostalgia, rising up over the horizon. There were some good things way back when, things worth remembering, reviving. Surely we can’t claim we have it all together in the present. I know I will be told to be careful not to idealize the past, and yet I am discovering that memory can restore a richness we might have lost, a stability perhaps, more continuity, making for a more colorful story. Sometimes it might guide to a better way of living.

I find myself in a kind of reverie these days, more than usual it seems. I am sure it has something to do with the chaos in which we are living. Some of the images come, surprisingly, from way back, from deep within, many from childhood. These kinds of memories have nothing to do with work or positions or successes or failures along the path. That’s another kind of remembering, worth doing, but not the kind I have in mind. These memories seem to tap into something deeper, down into the roots that feed the person I have become.

The poet Billy Collins talks about nostalgia this way:

As usual, I was thinking about the moments of the past,

letting my memory rush over them like water

rushing over the stones on the bottom of a stream.

It’s those stones at the bottom of the stream I want to retrieve. We all have them. It’s good to lift them up, wash them off, hold them up to the light, feel the texture, admire the color. They’ve been lying down in that stream for a long time? It’s good to remember them.

Over the Mother’s Day weekend, Sharon and I got to reminiscing about the early days of our marriage, the first time she got pregnant, jerking her abruptly onto a path of becoming the mother of our boys. We were way too young to have those first boys, our twins, but these things happen, as we say. There was lots of pain, especially for Sharon, but she cradled that new life deep within her, wrapped it in her love, carried them all the way to the eruption, that gasping into life. Sharon carried those boys with a love she has given them every day of their lives.

Women are something else, I blurted out! How can we remember all of this, I thought, without being struck with wonder? And gratitude for mothers and the new life of our passionate embrace. We relived some of that joy the other day. It was a good day of nostalgia.

The great St. Augustine, in the fourth century, in his masterpiece Confessions, comments at length that “great is the power of memory.” It is “an awe-inspiring mystery.” It is a “force of life,” the gift of a loving God, the one who draws us to himself as we remember. Memory is the way we “recall joy,” he adds.

I’ve been thinking a lot about roses these days. We live in the city of roses, of course. I see them softly announcing themselves from all the nooks and crannies of every garden and byway. And I’ve thought recently about the roses my father used to plant, how he would nurture and pamper them, how he would head straight to his beds the minute he got home from work, leaning down to smell, almost embracing them. They seemed always to spill out of their beds in fragrant abundance, red and white and yellow and pink, drooping heavy in their extravagant beauty. My father was not always a man who expressed tenderness or exuberance. Maybe he thought his roses would speak for something deep within him that wanted to come out.

These memories—the stones at the bottom of the creek, the birth of our boys, the roses—these shape the mystery of our lives. This mystery of memory is indeed a “force of life.” It renews us, heals us. Yes, a good dose of nostalgia would be good for us in these days as we think about rebuilding our lives and our world. We need those stones on which to build. We need those roses reminding us of something good.

So it’s okay. Go ahead and indulge. There was something good back when. Something worth remembering.