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Resident Nostalgia: The Comfort of All Things Familiar

Zaynab Khuder takes you on a journey through her childhood set amongst the coziness of Resident Nostalgia. 

It is no mystery as to why, as members of the human race, we gravitate towards the undeniable nostalgia of the past. We are creatures of habit, we find comfort in the familiar, in the things we know have moulded us into the beings we are in the present. Our ability to dwell on the fixations of our childhood and early teenhood is habitual. It's almost second nature to regress into a moment in time; a yearning that’s trapped in the pages of a yellowed book, a compact disc or vinyl record, or the buttons of a worn-out Playstation controller that has carved its mark on our calloused thumbs. I’ve found that the word itself– nostalgia  is enough to send a chill prickling up my spine and into my brain where it buries itself comfortably with no intention of leaving. 

It's strange because I feel like nostalgia is everywhere, even when we’re not entirely conscious of it. I hear and feel it all the time. It creaks beneath the old wooden floorboards of my childhood home, which once housed my father and his siblings, and it threads between the cigarette smoke that he and my tayta* smoke between bitter cups of Arabic coffee that stained my milk teeth as a child. Nostalgia is the reflection in the mirror that looks back, the light seeping through the cracks when I look at that damned chicken pox scar I’d gotten as a four-year-old while overseas visiting family in Syria. 

Nostalgia, I believe, most notably evades me through experience. It feels like the past year has been riddled with it. I recall its intensity with the countless times I’ve felt it, sat with it, and dwelled in its inevitability. It would creep up with a fierce vigour when I’d watch live music. 

Live music, specifically the music of our adolescent years, is the most successful in carving out that yearning for the ‘better days’ and serving it on a silver platter. Nostalgia through music is probably one of the closest things we’ll get to time travel, through the sheer will of our imagination and memories. It's the image of an eleven-year-old me dancing in an empty kitchen after discovering The Smiths for the first time, to a much older version of me watching Morrissey perform The Smiths’ discography at the State Theatre. A crowd of others might’ve surrounded me, but when I closed my eyes amid all the dancing and bodies around me, I was that eleven-year-old girl in the kitchen. With fishnet gloves and black eyeliner, singing my heart out to My Chemical Romance and Evanescence last year, was a tribute to the emo-kid I’ll forever be at heart because it's so not a phase. 

Nostalgia is a feeling unlike anything and it's a compulsion that can be so easily satiated. It is a late September screening of Dario Argento’s Suspiria at The Ritz cinema and flicking through CD albums on the shelf in my bedroom to play Live Through This by Hole and contemplate the person I was when I first heard it. It’s buying everything second-hand to make new memories out of something already loved. It’s the used books with notes and old plane tickets stuffed in between the pages that belonged to somebody else, and the Monster High Dolls that collect dust amongst my books. Nostalgia is the stacks of DVDs of films that I can’t bear to lose or imagine a world without. It’s reruns of Star Wars and Shrek 2 with my sister and the endless laughter and commentary that follows. 

Because what is better than indulging in that yearning for the past, the nostalgia for the things that swaddled us in comfort and left us before we could soak up their warmth? Nostalgia found me so many times in the past year, sitting cross-legged, back hunched, fingers flexed around a Playstation 4 controller as I ventured as one of the many Resident Evil protagonists (Leon S. Kennedy, Claire Redfield and Jill Valentine, you’re everything to me). Never have I found greater comfort than in the darkness of my living room, solving puzzles and killing zombies. It's the old horror games you played as a kid that began your love for the genre, the weird solace I’d found in filtering through the cold and comforting fog surrounding the town of Silent Hill to find a daughter, a wife or a father. Or venturing through dark tombs as Lara Croft and fighting with your sibling for player one on the Nintendo Wii. 

Vladimir Nabokov in Speak, Memory says “One is always at home in one’s past” and it’s without a doubt that many of us seek home, the fiery comfort of memories that blanket us; fleeting and far but stored wholly in the recesses of our minds. We are obsessed with nostalgia because we long for an escape from the obstacles of the present and the dread of the future. The past is just that; passed and done, unchangeable without any uncertainty. So, it's no wonder that we let nostalgia reside in us and settle deep in the marrow of our bones. It is the feeling in which time stops and the world settles, a home that is everlasting. 

*tayta: grandma in Arabic


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