Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Generations of information junkies

I'm deep cleaning the dining room today. When under stress, eating in the dining room seems to be the first to go, thus we have eaten nearly all our meals exclusively in the kitchen for the past six months or so. When you are not using a room, it is so easy to neglect it. And then you don't want to use it, because it is not a pleasant place to eat, so you tell your oldest child who is camping at home between leases, that yes, of course, you can turn the dining room into a props studio, and the spiral continues. Today was a free day, so I decided it was time to conquer the dining room. 

As I was working my way around the room with the dust cloth, I decided on a whim to open and look through the giant dictionary that was my great-grandfather's. See it down there on the bottom of the dictionary stand? (Here is a not complete tangent. The dictionary stand belonged to my grandmother. The large dictionary that is being used belonged to J.'s grandparents. Having a dictionary available is a 'thing' from both sides of the family. Our children have a heavy-dose of genetic word obsession from both sides of the family.) But back to the giant dictionary...


It is a Webster's Encyclopedic Dictionary from 1910. It truly has everything. Inside the front cover, I was reminded that my great-grandfather had glued a photograph of my grandmother (of the library stand) inside the front cover and inscribed his name on the other side.


Did he not have the most amazing handwriting?


You would think a dictionary this size would have everything, but as I was flipping through it, I discovered that he had very carefully written out on thin paper extra information that he had found and wanted to add. This is so something I would do. For example, he wanted to add information about perpetual calendars, so copied the information and taped it into the dictionary under 'calendar'.


 Note the amazing handwriting and pathological neatness. I find this so very satisfying.


I have a large bin under my bed of other things from my family which I want to go through at some point. So many letters and diaries... I love getting a glimpse into family that I wouldn't have otherwise. It also makes me think of what my children's children will have of us as a generation. Everything is electronic. Anyone with an extensive VHS or cassette tape collection knows how transient the methods are for storing things electronically. What will be there for them? I am as bad an offender as anyone. Any letters that I write.. and I'm not a letter writer... are emails. My blog is as close to a journal as I've ever gotten, but it, too, is electronic. (And as much as I keep meaning to have each year bound into a real book, time and cost have kept me from doing this.) Historians will probably despise us. I did go through a period where I wrote a short postcard to each child once a week. I couldn't keep it up and would get behind and eventually it fell by the wayside. But I see my children keep those cards as precious items and I think about starting it again. I need a better system if I do.

Thoughts? Do you write letters? Keep journals? I just wonder what we owe, if anything, to future generations about sharing personal glimpses to what life was like.

2 comments:

Carla said...

When my dad was in the nursing home, I tried to write him a letter every week - just detailing our lives and a funny note or two about his grandson. I did it because he had Parkinsons and couldn't do email anymore. I was thinking only to give him something to look forward to while I was so far away and couldn't visit. I didn't hand write them as he would have had trouble reading them, but typed them in a large font - including a picture or two if I could.

He really enjoyed them, but I think the staff there enjoyed them even more.

Just thinking about what my kids and grandkids will have from me handwritten makes me feel sad and a bit guilty.

Shecki Grtlyblesd said...

What an awesome find! I've been getting into family history lately. I need to dig out the family Bible from my grandfather and see what is written in it.

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