Unlocking Nostalgia by Tracy Williamson

Last week my friend Marilyn and I took a little break in sunny Eastbourne.  We had no idea when we booked it some time ago that the temperatures would be hitting unprecedented highs across the country, but we still went as it seemed better to be on the coast than roasted inland. . .

I booked the hotel which was unfamiliar to us, online and I wasn't sure of its exact whereabouts (I'm useless with maps) so it was amazing to discover that it was situated right on the front overlooking the sea, not too far from the pier.  

From our arrival onwards as the minutes and hours rolled into one another and we drifted along the prom and tackled the shelving shingle on the beach; as we  paddled in the calm sea at low tide and took big breaths to jump in the waves and swim in the high tide. . .As we sat on the pier reading exciting novels against the backdrop of lapping waves and hazy scorching sunshine, as we enjoyed fish and chips and eating outside in the breeze of the evening sun, I became more and more aware of a deep ache in my heart, the warmth of familiarity, the pain of longing and sadness, the recognition of pavements I'd walked before, breakwaters I'd climbed over 50 years ago, ice cream parlours that may have changed names but where I'd once sat and discovered the joy of long deep scrummy desserts.

Here I'd been 50 years ago, for 8 years or more.  Eastbourne, a place of safety and comfort.  A place away from home, a free holiday for widows and their children, a gift offered by my dad's place of work after he died.  A time of fun, of safety, of risks of being me.  

Now nostalgia stirred within me, an ache, a laugh, tears, warmth, safety, companionship. What was this happening within me?  This yearning?  How could I find it and put a name to it? 

Thank you Lord for the gift of words and the discovery they bring. 

The words we write as we explore our hearts with the Holy Spirit alongside, open windows into our buried memories, our glimpses of pain, our hopes and confusions, our loss and our joy.  'Why are you downcast O my soul?' That Psalmist explored his own nostalgic feelings as he remembered going to worship as part of a happy throng yet not knowing why he now feels downcast and alone.  

The power of nostalgia - putting pen to paper after my trip to Eastbourne last week helped me connect again with my little Tracy.  A confused lonely child, struggling with undiagnosed deafness, the loss of my dad and abuse from my new stepfather. I hadn't understood how much our annual holidays in Eastbourne were an oasis to me.  A time when I felt I could just enjoy being.  Loving books safely, taking risks by jumping into waves bigger than me.  Enjoying treats like any child.. All these things were rekindled as I walked that achingly familiar prom and strolled the pier.  I took my pen and wrote as I gazed the silver pathway of the setting sun. The words written down clarified the buried ache and I recognised, saw and understood.

Thank you Lord that writing is one of the many gifts you give us to become whole, to discover gratitude and joy, to take the step into peace and life.  Thank you for the beauty of seascapes, of sunshine on water, for the roar and suck of waves on shingle, for books and the worlds they take you to, for ice creams and chips and fun with others in safety. Thank you for your healing presence and immense love.  I knew nothing of you as that confused, scared 9 year old, but you were there.  Thank you,

Tracy Williamson is an author and speaker working alongside blind singer songwriter Marilyn Baker to bring people into intimacy with God.  Tracy and Marilyn share a home together in Kent with their two assistance dogs, Bailey, Tracy's Hearing dog, and Arlo, Marilyn's Guide dog.  

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