Monday, 19 January 2015

Reports from Break and Reflections on Nostalgia

Sunset at the Wright homestead in Greenfield, IN
It was nice to spend some time with family in Indiana over the winter break, although the Katie and David of the future need to give themselves a few more days of downtime at home before engaging in the stress of the holidays. I had a difficult time enjoying as much of the trip as I usually do, as I went straight from spending the final few days before traveling in grading papers, entering final grades, and baking (I don’t like to come to visit empty-handed). By the time we made the long drive to Indiana (with a cat who just wouldn’t settle down, which is unusual), I was ready for a three-day nap.

Painting party with sisters.
I always do enjoy being back in places that are so familiar to me, though, and it’s such a strangely-wonderful feeling to drive around in places which are so imprinted on your memory (I know so many back roads and short cuts, though not by name--only by sense or landmark). Isn’t it cool how we retain our child-senses about familiar places (knowledge by landmark or sense)? Nostalgia also creeps in when I’m back in Indiana, though I try to remind myself of roundness of experience that I had there--not everything was wonderful; not everything was homey; not everyone was kind; and I had many scarring experiences in this place, too. I also remind myself not to be like a person I grew up with, who daily succumbs to the world of nostalgia with its siren call and only sees the past as good (the BEST) without the pain and struggle that was also truly there. Nostalgia is pleasurable but deadly if not balanced with reality.

I think it’s also a great deal more difficult to relate to others in their pain and trying experiences if we only live in the memories of the good parts of our lives. Of course, swinging the other way is dangerous, too (living the mantra that life is only good in the future).

It was also fun to be with family (though tiring, as there is so much fun we need to have!). David and I felt very filled up with deep conversations and love when we left.

Our two-week break was lots of this ...
We both spent our two weeks before the beginning of our spring semester in gradually revising our syllabi, reading, watching TV (I watched a great deal more of “Bob’s Burgers” on Netflix than I care to admit here), and taking a few fun adventures. Our best adventure was journeying to one of our favorite bookstores of all time: Kaboom Books in Houston, TX. Picture this: nine-foot shelves, stacks of books on top of half-sized shelves, many comfy chairs and bean bags and couches for reading, a friendly cat roaming around, a quiet space, friendly owners who love books.

Last week we started our spring semester at Sam. Both of us have a new plan for the way that we are presenting materials this semester, and we’re excited about the fact that because we understand the study body a bit better, we can probably help them achieve more by teaching in a way that they understand better. I’m keeping records of what I changed and why I changed certain things, so that later I can develop a better set of curricula for this course (and so I can remember my reasons why I decided to shake up my class). This is a big “test things out” semester for me (and for David, too), so we’ll report in at the end to let you know if we were able to do a more effective job.

Last week I also finally went to get my Texas driver’s license. I resisted doing this for a long time, and it was actually legal for us to keep our Indiana DLs while we were in school (it’s hard to become a state resident if you are only here for school)--or, so I thought. We learned that you are actually driving illegally in Texas if you don’t get a state DL after being here for 90 days. [Sigh]. I succumbed. I have a temporary license for now, but the new one should be here soon. I did get to see my picture, and if you are my friend on FB then you saw my notice about this (bad picture but crazy eyes). I am looking forward to seeing people’s reactions to this awful picture. This week David has to run the gauntlet for the DL himself.

As we were returning from College Station a few nights ago (for our bi-monthly Indian food fix), I had the realization that driving back to Huntsville from different places now feels like we are returning home. Throughout my time in both College Station and Newark, I never really felt that either place was home (in both places I felt my own difference very naggingly). Huntsville, though, feels like home. Part of me is really annoyed by this (I don’t want to stay in Texas!!!), but part of me is just relieved. And, I remind myself, just because Huntsville feels homey now doesn’t mean that I couldn’t feel homey in other places, too.

But before I make any declarations about how long we’re going to live here or whether we’re actually settling down, we need to find out if David will win back his position which he had to reapply for. If he doesn’t, who knows where I’ll be calling “home” next year at this time.