History Lessons

I come from a family of pack rats.

I don’t think I’m a hoarder–not quite, at least. What I do have is a variety of Acquired Things that don’t have homes. Right now, in my living room, there are three shopping bags of Breyer horses, gifts and hard-earned purchases from 45 years ago. The full-length closets in the room over our garage are filled with boxes of books I bought in high school, CDs bought after college, and my entire record collection, built from 1977 to (roughly) 1990.

I buy mostly Digital Everything now, but I’ve still got the old stuff, taking up space, waiting to be triaged in the Time That Will Never Come. (There’s a fantasy novel in here somewhere.)

Most of it, to be fair, is probably irretrievable. Those LPs have been in boxes through hot summers; I expect most of them are unplayable now. Many of my old mass-market paperbacks fall apart when you open them. But there are memories there: books I shared with my mother; books I read and re-read as a kid; journals with three or four entries, tiny snapshots of parts of my life I’ve otherwise forgotten. (Dear Writers: If you want to humble yourself, go back and read the stuff you wrote in high school. Oh, dear.)

I wonder, sometimes, about the internet, about all our blogs and memories requiring technology to be read. I can’t remember the last time I wrote anything substantive longhand, and I should.

Over Christmas, my mother unearthed a copy of a letter she wrote in 1965: one of those end-of-the-year, send-to-all-the-relatives letters. I have no memory of the events, of course–I was six months old when she wrote it–but I remember the people and places she talks about. Moreover, I remember a lot of the things she left out.

And I’m going to try to write some of that down.

She’s given me her permission. I’m redacting personal information about some people, and all the last names but my own. It’s a long letter, spanning several days over Christmas and New Year’s 1964/1965. I won’t cover it all in a single post.

But it seems worth it, here in The Great Future, to look at what my mother wrote, the things she wanted to show the world when she was less than half the age I am now, living in a pre-moon-landing world. What strikes me most about it all is how much the same people really are–and how social media isn’t new at all. We always want to think the best of our own lives, and social media allows us to saturate our own colors, to flatter our small worlds with slightly better lighting.

This isn’t a Twitter conceit or a Millennial trait. This is a human thing. It always has been.

I’ll be tagging the posts HistoryLessons, if you want to follow along.

 

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