I came across a 1980’s themed TikTok account yesterday and scrolled it for over an hour. It gave me a sensation that I liked but hated, one that I could only stand a little of, but wanted more of. It was like touching a mildly electrified fence.
The account, called Rerun 80’s, just shows videos of objects from the 1980’s. that’s it. A Betamax copy of Big Trouble in Little China. Transformers. Trapper Keepers. A Fat Boys Cassette being slipped into a Panasonic Boom Box. A rotary phone. It creates nostalgia by focusing on the tactile memory of the objects that you interacted with regularly if you grew up during that time.
Childhood is a dream and the farther away you get from it the more dreamlike it becomes.
It’s not that it was new to remember my childhood. I just finished a memoir where I typed seemingly endlessly about the events that transpired from 1981 to 1992. I dreamt about them, thought about them while I was doing dishes, walking around the block, watching television. But in my writerly hands, the memories were just memories, collections of words transformed into stories. “When I was eight I moved….” “In 5th Grade, my teacher…” My job as a writer is to find words for memories, which means that memory for me is structured like a sentence — diagramed and complete — a thing that I bring from a state of ineffability and into something palpable, something I can manage and explain. In this way writing is an act of destruction. You capture a thing and freeze it. Like a 19th century scientists trapping butterflies under glass just so you can show everyone how cool they are.
But the thing about the Rerun 80’s account is that it brought me in touch with childhood memories that do not now, nor did they ever have words. They never will. They were just feelings. What a foolish thing I’ve done for myself here attempting to write about them. I cannot. I can only write the feeling of swiping through account and falling deeply into something: a reverie, a spell, a silence. I can only write about the salty lump in my throat, the way the edges of my body tingle with each post. That is the same Trapper Keeper that I had, blue with a red Lamborghini. There it is on a TikTok. I have not seen it since I was eleven years old. That is the sound of the Velcro of it tearing, the flap of it opening. There is the memory of how I tried to customize the Trapper Keeper in Mr Kosick’s class and failed, instead destroying it and getting yelled at by both my…