How To Cope With Nostalgia

I was putting groceries away last week when, in between the kitchen counter and the refrigerator door, I got hit by a wave of nostalgia so strong it knocked me back on my heels. I managed to not drop the eggs, but I couldn’t stop thinking about CityShop.

My first CityShop

CityShop is one of Shanghai’s great wonders. I hate shopping for clothes, but love going grocery shopping (think there might be a correlation between those two truths? nah.) and CityShop was my chain store of choice in China. They’re a great combination of domestic and import goods, ridiculously expensive produce, reasonably priced in-house baked goods, and recognizable cuts of meat. Their marble pound cake got me through my pregnancy.

Still, what I loved most about CityShop was its Western-ness. The aisles are actually aisles, that is, straight rows with reasonably grouped boxes, bags, and bottles of food, not labyrinths ranging over numerous floors. The smells of cheap soy sauce, mystery meat, and durian do not permeate the entire store. Towards the end of our stay in downtown China, CityShop even started stocking mochi ice cream balls. What more could one ask for from a grocery store in the Far East?

So why was I overcome with an urge to go outside, hail a cab, and head to CityShop? I’m still puzzling over that. In the meantime, here are some handy tips to cope with your own battles of nostalgia, be they foreign or domestic:

Savor the memory. Remember what it was that you loved about that time, place, moment, aroma, sound. Our experiences make us who we are and we should celebrate the great moments we’ve had.

Get in touch with someone connected with your nostalgia. Catch up on mutual friends. Reminisce over good times. I’ve let too many good friendships go to seed over the places over the years, and I don’t intend to do that any longer if I can help it.

Enumerate the reasons you’re grateful for the life you’re living now, lest your nostalgia become more bitter than it is sweet. Lists are my thing, but I suppose anything that is conducive to gratefulness will do.

Happy Lists

When I was living in southern China, I had a little circle of friends who would meet regularly for Ladies Who (Frugally) Lunch sessions. We were all very busy people but we found that taking the time to meet a couple times a month over lunch gave us a chance to vent, tell our China Frustration Stories, and generally maintain our sanity.

Over time, we started to notice that our conversation at these luncheons was becoming distinctly negative. In an effort to combat this, before each lunch we’d each prepare a list of 10 things we loved about the city we were living in or China in general, and share our lists with each other over the meal. The Happy Lists were a great way to keep our lives in perspective and keep us focused on the good.

Now, in this my re-pat adventure version 2.1 (2.0 was a 3-month return that might have lasted longer had the economy not been so heinous), I find myself rather ambivalent about being back in the US of A. This is a huge step up from re-pat adventure version 1.0, when I was miserable for a year and nine months straight, with occasional breaks of sunshine and optimism. In the spirit of fostering that optimism, I’m going to share two lists with you: My I’m Glad to Be Back in the States list and my Can’t Wait to Get Back to THIS in China Someday lists. So much for being concise with the naming of those.

Now then, without further ado…

I’m Glad to Be Back in the States List:
1. Trader Joe’s. My goodness, did I miss me some TJ’s while in China. My friend O and I would text each other dream lists of what we’d buy that day if only there were a TJ’s nearby. Mochi Ice Cream balls, Chili Spiced Mango, the medley of tri-colored baby potatoes, Nerello del Bastardo, I could go on and on.
2. Running into people I know at the grocery store. I come from a smaaaaaaaall small town. If you grew up here too and were born within 3 years of me, I know you. It’s nice to see you again.
3. Really, genuinely fresh air
4. I get to take a ferry several times a week. It’s beautiful.
5. Driving a car
6. Drive-thrus. I am convinced that nature invented these for the single-during-the-day mother. I used to just be hungry until I had another set of hands to help out. Now, I can (kind of) nourish myself.
7. Carseats and all the places they fit (into strollers, over the kiddie seat in shopping carts, into the base of an upside-down restaurant high chair)
8. Outdoor performances, especially of the free variety
9.  Chinese people who are genuinely impressed with my Mandarin. I know. I’m so vain.
10. Berries. Strawberries, Raspberries, Blueberries, Blackberries, Salmon berries, Marion berries galore!

Can’t Wait to Get Back to THIS in China Someday:
1. 东北菜 (Northeastern Chinese cuisine) It’s insane. Everywhere I’ve been in China, DongBei food is one of the easiest kinds of foods to find. In the States…nothing!
2. 湖南菜 (Hunan cuisine)
3. Banks that open on the weekends
4. Shops, restaurants, etc. that stay open past 10PM
5. Chatting with taxi drivers
6. Mani/pedis that I deem “affordable”
7. Our really, really international circle of friends 
8. Older Chinese people in parks
9. The workout I got carrying my daughter and her stroller up three flights of stairs. I’m really going to struggle to walk anywhere near as much as I walked in China. See previous list, Item No. 5.
10. Tropical fruit. The mangos here are preposterous.