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Guest Opinion

“Mark Your Calendar” for nostalgia’s haymaker


Up until the community events page, I was just reading the newspaper. When those five columns filled with art exhibits, music, theater, film, clubs and organizations, workshops and classes, support groups, and yard sales appeared, nostalgia reached out and punched me in the face.

I’ve read newspapers my whole life, but for the past several years, even pre-pandemic, they’ve been on a screen. It’s easy and convenient and I, too, became wrapped up in the everything-on-a-screen way of being.

The paper I read one day last week, the first actual in-my-hands paper in years, was the Bucks County Herald, picked up by an older person in my life. After she read it, I decided to pretend it was the 2010s. I curled up on the couch, and read the paper.

I stiffened the tall unwieldy pages to keep the top from folding over. Just like riding a bike. I read every inch of every section — headline, byline, lede, body, tail, sidebar and captions. I admit I skipped sports, which I dislike no matter the format, and real estate, because I dislike houses I’ll never afford.

When the Mark Your Calendar page appeared, all five columns of nothing but text — that’s when nostalgia hit me.

I worked in newsrooms, compiling similar calendars, and was awed at the monstrously large printing presses that churned out the paper each night. I used to want to write for magazines but got sidetracked into newspapers and liked the pace, the people, the deadline panic, and my words on pages in picas. When I had a regular byline, I bee-lined to the convenience store on publish days to buy extra copies to keep and share.

Every time I moved, my first stop was always the same stores to buy the local papers to find out what was on their calendars so I could attempt to become part of the community. One city had two dailies. Alternative newsweeklies were everywhere.

All of those previous versions of me are history. The days are long, but the years are short, and nostalgia likes to sucker punch.

At this rate, I might skip venturing back to the bookstore to browse for hours, something I did often pre-pandemic. (For the record, I still read actual books, bought online and delivered from independent booksellers.) It’s possible that in-bookstore nostalgia could knock me over or worse, or perhaps the element of surprise has gone the way of newspapers’ late afternoon editions.

After last week, I don’t know if I’m feeling strong enough to find out.

I’ve lived long enough to have memories light the corners of my mind (apologies to Barbra). But the pandemic has done a number on me, I think, the depths of which I’m only starting to realize.

Either way, I’m learning that nostalgia’s a pugilist whose true name I didn’t know until last week, when I felt it, in black and white, while I read all over, and remembered, and remembered, and remembered.

Tara Lynn Johnson is a former journalist and freelance writer, currently caregiving in Middletown Township. Reach her at

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