Does nostalgia fuel your writing?

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“Simple things entertain childish minds.”

Some fifty-odd years ago one of my treats at Christmastime was visiting the street in front of the old Woodward’s Department Store in downtown Vancouver to admire their whimsical Christmas window displays. The animatronic creations in each storefront window were “portals of Christmases past” and intrigued me.

They’ve become part of Vancouver’s history now, and when the Woodward’s store was finally closed in 1993 the figures and sets were purchased by Canada Place. They’ve been restored and are once again on display there and at various other venues around the city, bringing delight to a new generation.

I’ve also admired the heritage village displays that make their appearance at this time of year – those tiny porcelain Victorian village collectibles, each miniature building nestled in make believe snow, with lights winking from their windows and inch-high people frozen in their busy everydayness.

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For all my delight in such things, I’ve never had a set. At least, I hadn’t until last year when a set of three tiny buildings and their accessories appeared at our church’s silent auction. I bid… and I upped my bid a few times, knowing that my frugal nature wouldn’t allow me to indulge myself if the price went very high. I think the other bidders took pity on me as I hovered anxiously near the auction table when closing time neared.

Not only did I end up with the set last year, but when a fourth piece appeared at this year’s auction, I claimed that one as well. I’m not sure how I explain my fascination with these pieces. I don’t even write historical fiction, but there’s a nostalgia connected to the endless stories my imagination concocts for them.

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The main character in my most recent novel couldn’t resist their appeal either. With her home recently vandalized, and her husband in hospital, her Christmas is filled with uncertainty. The petite Dickens’ village scene she discovers in a store window sets off a yearning for the security of a bygone time and plays a significant part in the story.

No, I’m not going to tell you what happens, but I’ll ask if any of your own longings find their way into your stories. Have you ever let your characters have possessions that you’ve wished for?

This is a post with no real purpose, other than to try to justify my totally unnecessary acquisitions. My mother was probably right and I’m indulging my childish whims. I enjoyed setting these little porcelain pieces in place yesterday and will continue to be enthralled by them throughout the Christmas season… guilt free. So there!

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5 thoughts on “Does nostalgia fuel your writing?

  1. Sue Harrison says:

    Yes, Carol, my characters definitely have things that I long for or even things I have and love. One thing I’ve found is that sometimes just writing about a character who buys, inherits or is given something I would like to have makes a difference in my longing, and I’m as content as if I had the desired object in my hands!

  2. christicorbett says:

    My mom has an entire collection of those tiny buildings, so much that it is now refered to as “The Village” and takes up a sheet of plywood that lays on sawhorses. She buys some already finished and then gets other buildings plain and paints them how she likes. Each Christmas she unpacks everything and arranges it just so.

    And, growing up my brother and I weren’t allowed to even get near enough to breathe on it, but now my own kids are allowed to move the people around! Ahhh the joys of spoiling grandchildren :)

    Christi Corbett

  3. joylene says:

    I just finished assembling the village I inherited from my MIL. I had always wanted a Christmas, but it just never seemed to happen. I remember Woodward’s window displays, and the ones at Sears and the Army & Navy stores. I’ve since realized that the magic is in the mind and heart. Merry Christmas, Carol!

  4. Judith Robl says:

    We have three. Friend-husband cannot stay away from them. I keep him out of the “village” aisles when we shop for Christmas. We have room for only one at a time on display, so they get rotated.

  5. Carol says:

    Thanks to each of you for dropping in and sharing your responses here. I see I’m not the only one indulging my fascination with Victorian miniatures, or of letting my main characters share some of my desires. :)

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