By Abe Villarreal

I like picking up things that feel like they've always been there. This happened recently when I ran across a new issue of National Geographic. It was the latest issue out on the newsstand. So new, the pages close back up when you try to open it with one hand. Yet, it felt as familiar as those old issues stacked up in dusty bookshelf corners.

Seeing the bright yellow border on the front cover really took me back. The pages inside were filled with amazing photographs of exotic animals you only see in the movies. Sea creatures that look like alien life forms. Scenes from galaxies far away.

It was all there as it has always been, and it made me feel good. Flipping through the pages reminded me of those other familiar things that bring a smile to my face.

Like always finding that extra battery you need when you rummage through the junk drawer in your kitchen. It's there somewhere hiding between paper clips, scissors, a few nails, and pens that barely write anymore.

Or like that house down the street that each winter puts on the same Christmas light display. Times change, light shapes and sizes become modernized, but that house keeps true to its old self. The old, bulky, cone-shaped lights go up each year. They don't all turn on anymore, but it's ok because that's what tells you that it's the same string that has gone up since you can remember.

Familiar things are needed during these times. Catching an old rerun on TV during the late-night hours. That makes me feel good. Hearing that familiar jingle on the radio on your drive to work. If you live in a small town, listening to the same voice telling you about the weather at the top of the hour is always a good feeling.

I also like walking slowly down the candy aisle during holidays because I know I'll see those chocolate-covered cherry cordials at Christmas time and Cadbury crème eggs at Easter. Seeing those things makes me feel good.

Today, we can look up anything and everything familiar on YouTube. Old, feel-good TV programs, funny commercials, holiday specials, you name it. Seeing those things makes me feel good too, but not as good as seeing them when it's the right time to see them.

I like walking into old corner stores, tienditas or bodegas, as they are also known. When you walk in there is usually a chime that goes off at the top of the door. The places are packed with one of everything you don't need but you feel like taking. Lottery tickets, gums, and candies. Soft drinks, newspapers, and sometimes hot food like burritos and hot dogs.

Walking into those places makes me feel good because they have always looked that way.

The best thing about familiar things are the human things. The voices of family members during get-togethers. You might not have heard them for a while and their tones may have changed a little, but they are familiar enough.

During potlucks, there are those people, an uncle or a cousin, that you know is always going to volunteer to bring chips or soda. You don't tell them no, even though you know there will always be enough chips and sodas. You say yes because it makes you feel good that they are the same people you've always known.

Like that yellow-bordered issue of National Geographic, picking up things that give you a smile because they are the things that have been around since before everything else changed around you, is a good thing.

Try the familiar. It will make you feel good.

Abe Villarreal writes about the traditions, people, and culture of America. He can be reached at

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