Passion for history is stoked – especially when it’s personal
It’s probably just my advancing age, you know, getting to the point where there is a huge chance that more of your life lays behind you rather than before you, but it seems in the last little while the past keeps reaching out, sort of jumping up and down, waving its scrawny arms around and shouting: “Remember me?”
If you are anything like me, there are plenty of things you do want to remember, or be reminded of. But also a whole lot you’d just as soon see sink into a swamp, never more to re-surface. Like the time…no wait…I’m telling anyone about that!
Seriously though (well, halfway…), through some recent attempts by the internet to suck me completely under its control, I found myself at a website (classmates are us, or something like that) that wanted to reconnect me with friends from Kenmore West Sr. High from 19…, suffice to say: from way back when.
Despite my growing talent for forgetting the names and faces of people I met last week, I actually recognized a couple of people who were turning up at the site and I was re-routed to the class Facebook page. I found out that one of the cheerleaders and class president, Martha B, was diligently organizing a class reunion for September. It sounded like fun. On closer scrutiny though, I discovered that it was being held two days after I would depart from my visit in New Jersey in early September. The really sad thing: I would also be visiting the Buffalo area during my stay – for the first time since 1997. Just two weeks too early. It was not meant to be.
This whole affair made me pull out the Ken West yearbook from my senior year. It hadn’t been opened, I believe, since graduation day. It was a real ah-ha experience, looking back at kids I once knew, wondering where they are now, wondering who they are now.
It made me try to reconstruct who I was then. Judging by the loving comments (really personal messages written next to pictures of people, some of whom I couldn’t for the life of me recall, wishing me luck and telling me to stay the great girl I was), I seem to have been considered intelligent and I already had a smart-mouth that contributed to making gym class more bearable for my co-sufferers or, alternately, got me a dose of detention. That hasn’t changed much.
Going back to an even earlier past than my high school days, my husband and I are in the midst of clearing his mother’s house in England. The Herculean task of dismantling a life is not only a sad process; it also means excavating every nook and cranny. Everything has to go. It’s hard to throw things away but you have no choice. One category of “finds” that must be kept and treasured, however, is all the photos, especially those from her life before children. She was so pretty and athletic and the man she would marry had the muscular physique of a recently de-mobbed soldier. It’s good to be reminded of the time when she and he were strong and active, working hard to set up housekeeping and start a family in those austere post-war years.
Another ghost from the past resurrected herself the other day. My sister received a letter from a long-lost cousin of ours. The letter stirred up all sorts of questions that may well only be answered by consulting a geneticist. I wouldn’t want to elaborate on this subject here though. I’d rather save it as tantalizing material for my next great novel.
“The past is a foreign country. They do things differently there.” L.P. Hartley (killer first line of The Go-Between)