Mark Twain
on Nostalgia

from Life on the Mississippi

We reached Hannibal, Missouri, where my boyhood was spent. The only notion of the town that remained in my mind was the memory of it as I had known it when I first left it twenty-nine years ago. That picture of it was still as clear and vivid to me as a photograph.

I stepped ashore with the feeling of one who returns out of a dead-and-gone generation. I passed through the vacant streets, still seeing the town as it was, and not as it is. The things about me and before me made me feel like a boy again -convinced me that I was a boy again, and that I had simply been dreaming an unusually long dream.

It had suffered no change; it was as young and fresh and gracious as ever it had been; whereas, the faces of the others were old, and scarred with the campaigns of life, and marked with their griefs and defeats.

During my three days' stay in the town, I woke up every morning with the impression that I was a boy - for in my dreams the faces were all young again, and looked as they had looked in the old times - but I went to bed a hundred years old, every night - for meantime I had been seeing those faces as they are now.

(edited by David Van Alstyne)
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