Sometimes I wonder if I’m too sentimental.
For the past five months, America has been at the forefront of my mind. A land I once felt certain I would never reside in – primarily due to guns and the spectre of extortionate health care costs – quickly became a land I longed for; a girl in Philadelphia had my heart. Believing it to be my home in the not-too-distant future, and more generally a country that had always fascinated me, I immersed myself in its history and culture: from tomes on the American labour movement and European conquest to daily politics via the Washington Times and New Yorker and everything in between (not forgetting, of course, my local Philadelphia Inquirer).
All of this, though, is merely now a memory whose coarse itch I am waiting to fade. And that would doubtless be a much swifter, smoother and less difficult process, if it wasn’t for every little thing that takes me straight back there – to her.
Last weekend I visited my grandparents on the coast. Time away. Above the fireplace is a miniature LOVE decoration, modeled on the famous sign under which I became engaged. That Sunday I went to a BBQ to see off old friends visiting from Australia for a wedding. Her favourite musical artist was Paul Simon and, looking forward to sharing a love of (particular) songs (like we did with films) I began to inhale his discography. I suspected his music would be too raw at the moment, but nonetheless put on ‘Late in the Evening’, a track she was never fussed by, but which I had come to adore (and, truth be told, always pictured us dancing to at our wedding). That was fine. ‘Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes’ – that hurt. Graceland will have to gather dust for now. Tomorrow at work, it’s American Diner Day. The flags and fried chicken I can deal with, but the biscuits and gravy – considering she was a Southern gal and it’s a Southern staple and one of her favourites – seems a bigger deal than should any meal which never even appealed much to me in the first place. Last week I saw a headline in the Wall Street Journal about the CEO of Barnes & Noble stepping down. We visited Barnes & Noble on both my visits, for probably more than an hour each time, wandering around, picking out books for one another and simply sitting on the floor flicking through photo-books. I can still see the smile on her face when, walking hand-in-hand and proudly feeling a ring on her finger, I suggested a monthly ‘book fund’ from which we would treat ourselves every quarter. Why does a faceless CEO hurt me so?
The wounds are still very fresh, of that there can be no doubt. But can sentimentality become regressive, or even repressive? I fear it can, but whether I’m right or wrong, it feels like an important question all the same.