Just Me

Just Me
Look,I'm just sayin'

Saturday, May 20, 2017

caretakers of the past

 I have a scene in a bottle, actually three of them, that were made as gifts to my father. On the tall bottle there is a sticker depicting George Washington. On this sticker the date 1934 is written. That was the year he was given these objects. Dad would have been ten years old at that time. The name of the man that made these has been lost to time. I do know that he lived behind dads' place on Floyd street. The two smaller jars were relish jars before they became home to these nautical scenes. I remember as a young man seeing the two small jars joined by a piece of wood and a lamp coming up out of the center. At some point in history that was disassembled for some reason. I expect my father did that to make them easier to display or store. Whatever the case I have them now and value them quite highly. I can picture my father doing his homework under the glow of that lamp.
 By the time my father was ten he was an orphan. His mom passed shortly after giving birth to him and his father died from a ruptured appendix in 1932. Dad was being raised by his maternal grandparents. I'm certain the neighbors were all very much aware of this. I'm certain this neighbor felt bad for my father and gave him these gifts. I regret not having asked more about them when my father was alive but being everyday objects they were mostly ignored. Isn't that usually the case ? That Dad valued them is obvious by their existence today. He saved them his whole life. As I was writing about the other day I do think about this stuff. I wonder if anyone after my time will keep these things and cherish them as much as I do ? I have my doubts about that. My grandchildren never met my father and so have no memory of him. I'm hoping by my telling the origins of these things it will add value. I certainly wouldn't want anything bad to happen to them. I realize there is no sentimental attachment to them as far as the kids are concerned. My own boys didn't grow up with these objects around as they came into my possession after they were grown and gone.
 I have a few more things like this that I am concerned about. There is the model loom built by great uncle Fred for his sister Lucy. That is about all I know of its' history. Why he built it I have no clue. Perhaps it was a gift for a special occasion. Grandmother Lucy lay bedridden for quite some time, maybe he made it for her then. She did operate the real loom, a loom that takes up most of a room in a house. She learned from her father how to weave. Rag rugs were produced on that loom. The model even has a rag rug being made on it. I envision great grandma Lucy threading that loom and making that sample. It did take a great deal of time and patience. There are other smaller things around, like dads' baby cup and my uncles pipe cleaner. I just enjoy seeing these things around. It is my hope that they will be enjoyed beyond me. That is not meant to sound melodramatic or melancholy just a simple statement of fact. I have been entrusted with their care and it is a responsibility. Being a caretaker of the past is nothing to be taken lightly. Much can be lost by silence or indifference.
 I am aware that I write about this often and it is by design. It is my hope that my descendants will read these essays and tales and so I keep including these reminders. I've been writing going into my sixth year. That is a lot of writing to muddle through. I'm well aware that not every word I put to paper will be valued, quite the contrary. I'm hoping to get some points across just by sheer volume. Maybe I can create some interest in my " treasure " by explaining its' worth. The worth always lies in the one holding the object. The government can assign a value to our currency but not to our sentiment. Lately the government has reduced the value of certain sentiments declaring them to be hurtful, prejudicial and symbols of hate. An assessment I vehemently oppose but one passed through the legislators. It is a judgement of appeasement, not one drawn from a logical decision. The objects that I treasure tell a story of my ancestors. It really makes little difference if it was my parents, a sibling, cousin or whatever, those things hold a piece of those folks. I don't want that story erased. I don't want my story erased either. Is the story always a happy tale ? Of course it isn't. I have a postcard that my grandmother mailed to her father. It begins , dear Papa. My grandmother died a day after giving birth to my father and other than a picture of her that is all I have of hers. Yet, I know she called her dad, Papa, and that she loved him very much. I hold that postcard with a bit of sorrow, a bittersweet reminder of her. Grandmother Clara will be forever remembered by me for that postcard. That is the value of that card. I have a flag that was brought home from WW2 by an uncle. It is a Nazi swastika ! It is quite large and lies folded in a box in the attic. I certainly wouldn't display that flag but I won't discard it either. There is a brief note in that box explaining what that flag is. My uncle survived the war and brought that home as a prize. To him it was a symbol of victory, he personally took that flag down. What satisfaction that must have given him. It is a sentiment I can understand, a sentiment of accomplishment. The object is just the proof of the accomplishment, nothing more than that. My own father had a pay record taken from a fallen Japanese soldier in his " war " prizes. Why he took that record and carried it home I can't say with certainty. He never spoke of it. I'd say he was a twenty two year old man flying combat missions over Japan and felt a bit of redemption for having possessed that. In later years the sentiment faded but still he retained it. I have subsequently sent that item back to the family of that fallen soldier. I wanted them to have a piece of him, it is their right. That object held no sentiment for me.
 Each of us are caretakers of the past. It is an obligation on our part to tell the stories. I also believe it is an obligation to tell the truth of it all, just as we see it. Our ancestors were people after all, just folks like you and I. They made mistakes, some were downright unsavory characters but that isn't important. What is important is telling the story. It is my intention to tell my story as honestly as I can muster. But first I believe it necessary to tell of all the characters in the story. It really isn't all about me. I think the best I can hope for is improvement.  I'm hoping to put the pieces together in a meaningful way for others to enjoy and, dare I dream it, learn from. Some lessons you just have to hold in your hand.