Eric Mayer

Byzantine Blog

Get Email Updates
Cruel Music
Diana Rowland
Martin Edwards
Electric Grandmother
Jane Finnis
Keith Snyder
My Incredibly Unremarkable Life
Mysterious Musings
Mystery of a Shrinking Violet
The Rap Sheet
reenie's reach
Thoughts from Crow Cottage
This Writing Life
Woodstock's Blog
Email Me

Admin Password

Remember Me

1482007 Curiosities served
Share on Facebook

A History of Histories
Previous Entry :: Next Entry

Read/Post Comments (13)

Another issue of The Orphan Scrivener has been mailed out to subscribers and posted on our website. You really should click over and read Mary's essay about the old time Woolworths -- Woollies Thinking. My own contribution to the festivities follows:

A History of Histories

The past has always fascinated me. While growing up I read incessantly about future worlds imagined by science fiction but I was also intrigued by the equally exotic worlds of previous eras. Babylon was no less alien than Barsoom. Roman siege engines and Tom Swift Jr’s Atomic earth blaster were both wonders of technology. And history possessed a quality science fiction lacked -- it had actually happened.

I was interested in my own past too, almost before I had one. There’s no history closer to hand than our own.

One of my first experiences of personal history involved the child-sized roll-top desk I used to draw at long before I went to school. The top became stuck. I used a bent clothes hanger to fish down the back, into the space where the top should have rolled, and was surprised to pull out ancient artifacts. A plastic soldier. A stick of Black Jack gum so old it was petrified. A badly crumpled and torn sheet of paper bearing a drawing of my friendly chipmunk character.

Had I really lived long enough to acquire such a rich history? I thought the whole bag of soldiers had been lost in the garden trenches an entire summer before. The drugstore didn’t even sell Black Jack gum any more. As for that chipmunk drawing, it was embarrassing juvenilia now that I had moved on to machine-gun wielding squirrels. I could hardly imagine I had once been so unskilled and immature.

How these treasures had fallen into the back of the desk I had no idea. They should have been gone forever, along with the very memory of them. Howard Carter couldn’t have been more amazed when he first peered into King Tut’s tomb.

What is so compelling about history? Perhaps it gives us meaning that time would otherwise sweep away. We are forever locked in a moment that means nothing except in the context of moments which are gone and moments which have yet to arrive. We take our meaning from that which does not exist.

Most of us, in one way or another, are our own historians. We keep diaries, for instance, or family photo albums. We are not just preserving the past, though. By what we write in the diary, which snapshots we preserve, we are, like historians, interpreting our histories. And there is something satisfying, I think, of seeing that we are more than this moment.

As a child I loved reading the Alley Oop comic strip in the newspaper. Why wouldn’t I? Alley was a caveman who time traveled. I started clipping each strip out and pasting it into a scrapbook. After a year, when I looked at the beginning of the scrapbook, I saw vaguely remembered scenes and read story lines which seemed to have occurred an epoch ago, I felt like I had jumped into a time machine and traveled backwards. I guess I had created a historical record for my own enjoyment.

My friends and I created a history for the Horseshoe Club which met in our basements every couple of weeks. The club’s activities consisted of consuming chips and soda, electing new officers at every meeting, and keeping an official record of the elections. Before long we had a history. At the end of the summer we put the official club record in a plastic bag and hiked up the railroad tracks to the edge of a swamp where we buried it.

When we excavated the records the next spring, after the ice sheets had advanced and receded, we not only had a history but an historical artifact.

And what a discovery it was! The bag had split and the precious paper inside was wet, stuck together, and partly rotted. But working carefully, we managed to dry, reassemble, and tape enough together to decipher the strangely childish handwriting. We were astounded. The ancient document revealed that there had once been a secret organization called the Horseshoe club and we’d all been members! Look, I was the 2nd, 4th, 6th, and 9th president!

These days I’m not quite so blatant about making my past into history. I just write essays about it. And sometimes, doing so, I try to place the taste of Black Jack gum and fail.

Read/Post Comments (13)

Previous Entry :: Next Entry

Back to Top

Powered by JournalScape © 2001-2010 All rights reserved.
All content rights reserved by the author.