Heraclitus, an ancient Greek philosopher from the city of Ephesus, once expressed the idea that the one thing that remains consistent in life is change itself. Our world is in a perpetual state of transformation, and many of us acknowledge the positive aspects of change. Change often brings about improvements. As an 80s kid, I wholeheartedly share this perspective. Nevertheless, it’s important to note that change may not always bring about positive outcomes, as there are instances where it could lead to a decrease in the quality of something that has changed. Then there are aspects of life that resist change, creating nostalgic memories that we fondly refer to as the “good old days.” However, despite the passage of time, these moments remain etched in my heart, carrying their own kind of magic. Today, I’d like to share four memories from my childhood that have either faded in their original brilliance or ceased to exist entirely. These nostalgic recollections are something I’ll carry with me until the end of my days. [Image: Sunset at Galle Face Green, Colombo, Sri Lanka]
Traditional Pen Friends
While I was growing up, I had a few pen pals from different parts of the world. One of them was Miyoko Ikeda from Japan, who used to complain about how my English was difficult to understand. Then there was Jessica Lamb from the USA, who liked to show off her Taekwondo skills. Another notable pen pal was Jan Hendrik from Norway, who had a passion for discussing computers. We all communicated through letters sent by postal mail. Nowadays, people still have pen pals through email, but it’s not quite the same as having traditional pen friends. You miss out on the feeling of excitement while waiting for the mailman, the happiness of opening a physical letter, and the aroma of fresh ink on paper. While postal mail pen pal services still exist, it’s important to note that in today’s world, sharing your personal information with someone you haven’t met in person is not considered very safe. Overall, traditional pen friendships are memories from my childhood that have lost their initial brightness.
The Real Christmas Tree
In Sri Lanka, the real Christmas tree is another cherished memory from my childhood that has faded in its original brilliance. In the past, we would use a branch from a Pine or Cyprus tree to set up our Christmas tree. Finding a suitable branch was an easy task for us, as we had two Cyprus trees in our own garden. During that time, in December, it was a regular sight to witness Cyprus branches being transported from Nuwara Eliya to Colombo on the overnight mail train. This was because Cyprus trees do not naturally grow in Colombo. Our Christmas tree was exceptionally tall, reaching a height where the Christmas star on its top grazed against the ceiling. Nowadays, you can still come across a Christmas tree crafted from PVC plastic in nearly every home when the holiday season arrives. However, I long for the nostalgic scents of natural Cyprus and Pine that used to fill the air. Additionally, the cost of the PVC tree is determined by its height, which is why I haven’t observed any trees reaching the ceiling in recent times.
The Good Old Typewriter
My friends are often amazed by how quickly and accurately I type on my MacBook Air or any other computer without even looking at the keyboard. What they don’t realize is that I spent years sharpening my typing skills on a mechanical typewriter. Unlike the slim and portable MacBook Air or most modern laptops, typewriters were large and not easy to transport. They required regular oiling to maintain smooth functioning. If they needed repairs, it was a time-consuming process since most technicians were located in Colombo and the surrounding suburbs. If you made a typing mistake, you would use correction fluid to erase it. Whenever you used a typewriter, those around you would immediately know due to the distinct noise it produced. Back in the 80s and 90s, government offices were often filled with the sound of multiple typewriters being used simultaneously. You can still buy both new and used typewriters in Sri Lanka, but it’s rare to find individuals who are skilled in operating them.
Public Telephone Booths
There were two types of public telephone booths in Sri Lanka before Cellular Networks and Phones became widespread. The first type was coin-operated, where you would insert coins to make a call. This was later followed by the second type, which used Prepaid Cards for operation. These Prepaid Cards featured images of various animals, birds, and places, making them collectible due to their attractive designs. I have vivid memories of my childhood friends going from one store to another, exchanging their paper money for coins, which they would then use to make calls to their girlfriends. Even after cellular phones became available, these public telephone booths continued to exist for a few more years. This was because cellular phones were initially expensive and making calls on them was also costly. However, as cellular phones became more affordable and call rates decreased, public phone booths gradually disappeared. Unlike traditional pen friends, real Christmas trees, and the typewriter, public telephone booths have completely ceased to exist.
In reflection, these fading fragments from my past hold a profound and poignant place in my heart, preserving the innocence and wonder of childhood. Each memory, whether it’s the art of letter-writing with pen pals across continents, the aromatic delight of real Christmas trees adorning our homes, the rhythmic dance of typewriter keys echoing in quiet rooms, or the nostalgic charm of public telephone booths that once dotted the streets, is a testament to the ever-changing tapestry of life. While change sweeps us forward into the unknown future, these moments remain as cherished tokens of another time, a haven of familiarity amidst life’s unpredictable journey. As the present hurtles onward and the past melds into the present, these recollections, once vibrant and alive, now reside in the treasury of memory, shaping the narrative of who I am today. Their significance endures a reminder of the roots from which I’ve grown, offering comfort, connection, and a sense of continuity to a world that was, and always will be, an integral part of me.
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