Nostalgia crops up in the least expected places

Shelby Niehaus, Columnist

Friday I took a big, important test. It was in the Pearson VUE center at Ninth Street Hall, in a basement-level computer lab.

I sat at a desk in a white cinderblock room with tiny, wood-encased windows just below the ceiling. Outside light was blotted out by Venetian blinds and bits of cardboard, but we still heard junker cars roll up to the outside crosswalk and rattle away like so many tin cans. I believe this hidden-away testing center is one of the least attractive rooms on campus.

Nevertheless, I took a few moments out of the start of my test to admire the scenery. The computer desks benched up against the walls, the tiny, high-set windows, the ambient noise of a street… all of it reminded me of my childhood, hiding under modular desks in the old high school computer lab and waiting for my father to finish his work.

I savored the flood of memories: hours of Radio Free David playing through busted-up speakers, the glowing images of Windows 98 startup screens, the fading sun behind closed curtains, careful tool and material selections on errands designed more to keep my hands occupied than to help dad.

Just like my fond memories of our old Toyota Land Rover and its AM-only radio, there was nothing spectacular or fashionable about my memories of following my father to work, but the memories are all so personal and are such major parts of my childhood that I will always have a soft spot in my heart for them.

These days, the high school my dad works at has no proper computer lab. He maintains a lab of sorts, but only repairs school-issued laptops and mobile devices, and he hires adult help instead of enlisting (willing) child labor.

Radio Free David’s website, once a little-known hub for great music with a fully-functional player applet and a comprehensive “now playing” list, now plays trance and deep house from a half-finished website with more filler text than content.

White cinderblock and tiny ceiling windows are now relegated to musty testing centers instead of technological hubs. The physical remnants of my childhood, the ones that relied on the most solid parts of the world, have faded into the ether.

But while the physical parts are gone, the memories remain. I may not be able to recreate my childhood evenings spent under computer desks, connecting monitors to towers and tipping CAT5 cables, but the misty-edged remnants are just as beautiful, and their slow fade into obscurity is, in its own way, beautiful as well.

Nostalgia crops up in the least expected places, and sometimes the most vivid and cherished memories are the ones that revolve around what seem, at the time, to be the least important parts of your life.

The big, life-changing moments will never leave you, but the little pieces between—what makes your life a life—will vanish with time, so savor the afterimages while they remain.

Shelby Niehaus is a senior English language arts major. She can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].