The Corner


Reunions and the Power of Nostalgia

College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass. (Facebook)

This weekend I attended my 25th college reunion at the College of the Holy Cross. Reunions of all kinds are fun enough for reasons of the present (hanging out with old friends, making new memories) and the past (reminiscing about past adventures). But a campus reunion that’s reasonably well-attended, especially in a small college, evokes a powerful kind of nostalgia that goes beyond reason, and speaks to our deeper longings.

As an adult far removed from the rite-of-passage years of college, rolling out of your dorm room or onto the campus and seeing familiar faces everywhere in familiar places re-creates the most powerful kind of nostalgia: the illusion that this place, full of these people, was just waiting for you to return to it. Every reasoning part of your brain knows this isn’t so: Aside from remaining faculty (and many of the Jesuit faculty we once knew now rest in the campus graveyard), the people we went to college with have left the campus just as we did, and gone on to lives of their own, which we all spent much of the weekend discussing. If you’ve remained actively in touch with old friends, you’ve likely seen many of them regularly for years away from the old place. And yet, the illusion remains: the feeling that the place and time and community that we left is still there, eager to take us back; glad to welcome us home.

That desire — not so much to go back, as to know we could go back, that it always remains an option — is one of the oldest of our human stories, and the bereavement of losing it recurs in everything from the Biblical story of the Fall (which bars the return to Eden) to the newborn child’s desire to re-create the confinement of the womb. And it need not be Eden we want to return to; many of us share that drive to return to high school, graduate school, the Army, or other places that were terribly hard on us. Hometowns, of course, never lose that pull. Because college is such a formative time in the modern passage from adolescence to adulthood for so many people, it assumes an outsized role in our imaginations (especially if, like me and like many of my classmates, you met your spouse there). But no matter the place and time that calls to you, the most powerful thing is neither the place nor the time but the sense of community and belonging that beckons, always over our shoulders, almost always just out of reach. The ability to wrap your hands around that again even for a few days is a precious thing.


Dan McLaughlin is an attorney practicing securities and commercial litigation in New York City, and a contributing columnist at National Review Online.

Most Popular

PC Culture

Defiant Dave Chappelle

When Dave Chappelle’s Netflix special Sticks & Stones came out in August, the overwhelming response from critics was that it was offensive, unacceptable garbage. Inkoo Kang of Slate declared that Chappelle’s “jokes make you wince.” Garrett Martin, in the online magazine Paste, maintained that the ... Read More
Film & TV

Joker: An Honest Treatment of Madness

When I saw that the New York Times and The New Yorker had run columns berating the new Joker movie, criticizing it not simply on cinematic grounds but instead insisting that the film amounted to a clandestine defense of “whiteness” in an attempt to buttress the electoral aim of “Republicans” — this is a ... Read More

The Origins of the Transgender Movement

Editor’s Note: This article has been adapted from remarks delivered at a Heritage Foundation summit. I’ve been asked to talk about the origins of transgenderism and how it relates to children and their exploitation. But first, I would like to start with a little story. Yesterday I was wandering around ... Read More

The Democrats’ Disastrous CNN LGBT Town Hall

A few days after Donald Trump committed the worst foreign-policy blunder of his presidency by betraying America’s Kurdish allies in northern Syria, former vice president Joe Biden, the elder statesman and co-frontrunner in the Democratic presidential primary, was on a national stage talking to CNN’s primetime ... Read More
White House

What Is Impeachment For?

W hat is impeachment for? Seems like a simple question. Constitutionally speaking, it also appears to have a simple answer: to cite and remove from power a president guilty of wrongdoing. Aye, there’s the rub. What sort of wrongdoing warrants removal from power? I’d wager that the flames of ... Read More

CNN’s Anti-Religious Town Hall

LGBT activists gathered last week for CNN’s “Equality” town hall with the Democratic presidential candidates. The advocates present were, in the words of Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David, the “tip of the spear in our fight for full equality.” The “spear” metaphor grew more apt as ... Read More