|Sandy, Mom, me, Grandma, Great-Grandma|
"Every age has a keyhole to which its eye is pasted." --Mary McCarthy, On the Contrary
My mom turned 90 this week, and as we gathered to celebrate--son/son-in-law, daughter, grandchildren, great-grandchildren--we tried to peek through the keyhole of the past to what interesting history those 90 years carried with them. We pulled out photos taken through nine decades. We laughed over fashion styles. We wondered who looked like who then and now.
A favorite picture for the four generations present was this one of four generations past. At the time the photo was taken, my sister Sandy and I were two oldest of a number of great-grandchildren. Mom is the one in the futuristic (or retro depending on your point of view) sunglasses. Doesn't she look like fun?
Fun, however, is relative and not always the best choice of words when describing a long life. There are times of great pain and loss (including that of a beloved child, Sandy), disappointment, unfulfilled dreams. But there are also long-term values and legacies to pass on--things like commitment, dedication, the lighter moments (like fancy sunglasses), love, and hope.
A peek into the history of others is often full of those things, too.
For example, I've been reading a small little book entitled, Kiss the Children For Father, Letters from a Civil War Prisoner at Fort Pickens. Lucius Merritt was a confederate civilian held political prisoner in Pensacola, Florida during the Civil War. Family members in subsequent generations were not only able to save and pass down the letters he wrote during that time, but a descendent, Merrit Nickinson, compiled them for others to read. Talk about history! This book's a treasure.
In one letter, addressed to his wife and dated November 14, 1862, he wrote: "Dear Wife, It is hard for me to pourtray (sic) my feelings--when I saw you and our children fading away in the distance on the steamer Sykes we have been parted so little during our ten years marriage-that our separation is much more painful now. But Providence orders all things for the best and we can extract from adversity the essence of good."
"...extract from adversity the essence of good..." I haven't finished Kiss the Children yet, so it remains to be seen if Lucius carried that sentiment throughout the rest of his life, but I'm going to guess he did. A pretty special legacy to pass along to future generations, wouldn't you agree?
More thoughts on the subject of history:
"Professor Johnston often said that if you didn't know history, you didn't know anything. You were a leaf that didn't know it was part of a tree." --Michael Crichton, Timeline
"History is a novel for which the people is the author." --Alfred de Vigny
"History is a symphony of echoes heard and unheard. It is a poem with events as verses."--Charles Angoff
"Hope is the other side of history." --Marcia Cavell
"History is herstory, too." --Author Unknown
Are you a history buff? Did you like history in school? Do you enjoy reading history, writing about it? Do you celebrate longevity, cherish and record the stories of those in your family who have passed through decades of history themselves?
p.s. we also threw a "card shower" for Mom. To date she has received 56 cards. Now that is fun!