Nostalgia, Motherhood, Moving On and Closing Doors

I got rid of some old email addresses this month.    

I was surprised how emotional it made me feel. That email I had acquired nearly 20 years ago in the early days after my divorce, the one I spent carefully setting up as I installed, for the first time, a modem all by myself, finally making a break from dial up and AOL. 

I remember sitting on the floor of my basement after my six-year-old was asleep, the instructions laid out in front of me, taking deep breaths to talk myself of the ledge of panic that seemed to assault me at every turn those days.

I remember all the firsts as a single parent

This process sat on top of the first time I bought a car by myself, the first time signed a mortgage by myself, the first time my bank account had only my name on it, the first time I filed taxes by myself, the list went on and on. But that email account, that old modem nestled in its box, those printed directions, they all represented a triumph, a small step toward being able to do things on my own, even if it meant that every night I collapsed into bed and cried a little bit because it was all so overwhelming.   

Those days are so long in the rear-view mirror now, they aren’t even closer than they appear.  Rather the opposite, they feel hazy and muted as if I can barely see them through a thick fog.  

Lately, I’ve noticed on my Instagram feed a trend in nostalgia reels (I almost typed videos which would have made my 24-year-old daughter howl with laughter) about the early-mid “2000”s. And I have to be honest, I’m a little obsessed with them. I’ve had my fill of nostalgia for the70s and 80s of my youth and the 90s of my overall-wearing, Lilith-Fair going heyday. 

I am nostalgic for my daughter’s youth. (Photo Credit: Katie Collins)

The 2000’s were such a difficult time for me

But 2000-2010 or so? That time when I was barely hanging on by my fingernails because every day just felt so hard, and so long as I tried to be both 100% employee and 100% mom?  I missed so much. I miss so much.  

So, I scroll past images of mall play areas, Chuck E Cheese parties, Silly Bandz, Pizza Hut sit down restaurants, and shopping mall Santas; past inflatable slides and Sponge Bob, folders of CDs and portable VCRs; past Capri Suns and turtle-shaped sandboxes, the Toys R Us giraffe and boxes of school valentines. I can’t get enough of images of Arthur the Aardvark and the Disney Channel, bottles of thick Amoxicillin, Kid Cuisines and McDonald play areas.  

High school yearbooks gave way to college apartments. (Photo Credit: Katie Collins)

It’s not my childhood I’m nostalgic for, it’s my daughter’s

But it’s not my childhood I’m trying to remember – it’s hers. For this hazy “nostalgia core” as it’s called, is like watching a highlights reel of things I was too busy or too tired to notice, the everyday-ness of our lives, and the things I’d just plain forgotten as Barbie houses made way for desks and SAT prep and prom dresses.

As high school yearbooks gave way to college apartments, graduation trips and resumes. Now, only a few remnants remain that say “a child lived here.”  

When my daughter visited for the holidays, we found ourselves with a few days with nothing on our agendas so we indulged in a re-watch of all three High School Musical movies, with a Cheetah Girl movie thrown in for good measure. As we watched, we reminisced about those days, comparing notes about what we remembered.  

Life was so overwhelming back then

At times I found myself near tears remembering only my exhaustion, my constant worry over finances, my inability to cook anything other than pasta or pancakes (thank goodness my wife joined us in 2009 and rescued us both from my terrible culinary skills), the urgent care trips, the orthodontist bills.  

But my daughter remembered watching these movies over and over with me, singing in the car, seeing the Cheetah Girls in Concert in second grade, trips to Justice for ‘cool clothes,’ a bright pink bedroom, a stack of headbands, a house that felt safe and fun, and eventually, her first email address with a typically 12-year old email handle.   

Pulling the trigger on deleting our old email addresses felt like finally closing a door to those days, and leaving them nestled in the safe mist of nostalgia. So, I shut down the account, updated my settings, and said a final goodbye to the stressed-out mom and her little girl with the glasses and the American Idol t-shirt. Something tells me they’ll be ok.   

More Great Reading:

Parenting Teens Is a Delicate Dance of Holding On and Letting Go

About Katie Collins

Katie Collins, a native Mainer who has called New Hampshire home for the past 32 years, has been a contributing writer to Grown and Flown since 2017. A nonprofit development professional by day, Katie also has over 30 years of experience in community and professional theater and in 2013 was awarded the NH Theater Award for Lead Actress in a Drama or Comedy. . When not working, writing or acting, she enjoys road trips and adventures with her wife and visits from her talented daughter, a college admissions counselor.

Read more posts by Katie

Don't miss out!
Want more like this? Get updates about parenting teens and young adults straight to your inbox.