Glimpsing into our past can pull at our heartstrings. A few notes of a song, a particular aroma, and the sight of a familiar stature walking toward us on a sidewalk trigger nostalgic thoughts.
People say nostalgia is looking at the past with rose-colored glasses. I prefer to think it’s a chance to relive good memories and to see how the difficult memories have shaped us into the people we are today. We can relive those moments by telling stories of the past to the next generations who might realize their own courage was a trait shared by a great-grandfather, or one's generosity was abundantly apparent in a favorite aunt, or feel relief to know stubbornness was helpful to a grandmother who wouldn’t give up ideals which were not favored by the society of her time.
Places where our family trees are rooted become the settings of our favorite stories.
I recently assisted a friend as she took family pictures at Prospect Park posing in picturesque spots around the pond. I often see people being photographed there; groups of fancy teens on prom night, high school seniors, newly engaged couples, and families, posing against the lush green of the park. I wonder if they choose the spot because of the natural beauty or because of sentimental attachments.
It’s a place that brings memories to many Quad-Citians. Perhaps they feel a chill in their bones thinking about trudging up the hill toward WQAD with the cord of a Radio Flyer wrapped around a woolen mitten matted with icy balls of snow, or a game of “Crack the Whip” so intense they were sweating inside their winter coat from ice skating so fast. Some recall catching their first fish, turtle or frog at the peaceful pond, another can tell you she had her first kiss sitting on a bale of hay at a hoedown in the pavilion.
Some families start their story at Quad City Music Guild, located in Prospect Park. Romances began during long hours of working on productions, leading to marriages which produced second and third generation Music Guild performers.
My favorite story about the park was told by my grandmother. Her eyes glistened as she spoke of her first date with my grandfather; how she placed her hand in his for assistance stepping onto the train they rode from Coal Valley to Moline in 1918. After arriving in Moline, a trolley transported them to what was an amusement park at the time.
I have a 1918 dime which was found in the dirt at Prospect. When I hold it in my hand, I picture my 18-year-old grandmother wearing a belted, straight-skirted sailor dress being escorted on the walking trail around the pond by my grandfather in cuffed slacks, matching coat, and a derby on his head.
When my children were young, we would spread a blanket on the hillside overlooking the pond to have a picnic. Munching on sandwiches, we pointed out objects in the puffy clouds and I would tell them how crowded the sledding hill had been when I was a child. We had to beware of others sledding down the hill, especially those on shiny, silver saucers spinning around and squealing as they tried to keep their legs tucked up.
These are memories I now tell my grandchildren as we walk around the same pond my grandparents once circled. The children always seem most intrigued to hear of a bear who once lived in a little hut at the park, but I think someday they will appreciate knowing their family started because of that first date a century ago.
Anne VandeMoortel is Moline school nurse, grandmother of five, Prader-Willi mother, serial hobbyist, and collector of people and their stories.
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