On Giants' Shoulders

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Rooted In My Memories

I was pondering the other day about the fact that all of the places I lived in while growing up are either no more, or altered to such a degree as to no longer look even close to the way that they did when I was living in them. Meanwhile my husband lives around the corner from the house he grew up in, which really hasn't changed much in over 35 years (they did build an addition just prior to his teen-aged years. It's not even just the places I lived. The churches I attended are no longer churches. One is now an Episcopal rectory, the other is now offices for a school. My grandparents' houses are also no more. One burned down in a fire (after my grandmother's death. I'm not sure why the other one seems to have been completely reconstructed, but there may have been a fire there as well. My elementary school is now vacant and the junior high torn down. The high school I attended was altered significantly after our graduation. Meanwhile, my husband's childhood church is only superficially different than it was when he was growing up, and his elementary school is still in use.

Now obviously when it comes to the churches and the schools, other people have solid memories of them as well. I have cousins who remember the grandparents' homes. The homes I grew up in though are different. There it's only me to remember. They were all gone or altered by the time I got married, so my children have no memory of them. By contrast they spent much of their growing up years at their father's parent's home. They have true memories there, what they have from my growing up is only my stories.

Memories are a funny thing. I can go back to the towns where I grew up and suddenly remember names or events that I haven't thought about in years. It's strange, however, to realize that no one else has those reference points. The trips picking flowers with my mother and my grandmother, the trips to the plum orchard, the trips in the jeep with a pig or a calf tied up in the back reside only in my memory. All of the other participants are gone. I feel this most acutely when I sit around with my husband and his siblings and they remember their growing up years with stories. Their parents are gone, but all of them are still there to fill in the pieces of a story. In a sense they can still go home again. I can't. That's the long and short of it.

Now I'm not the only person for whom that is true. I know young adults whose families have been torn apart by divorce or death, whose childhood home is likewise out of reach. I know people whose families never really settled in even a particular part of the country. All of this serves to reinforce the idea that we have on earth no permanent dwelling, that our true home is elsewhere. Still when you grew up with strong roots it sometimes feels odd to know that the physical roots and the people who gave you the roots are no longer here. The roots remain, but they remain planted within me. Hopefully I have passed much of those roots along to the next generation, but sometimes I wonder. When I have discussions where I'm told that the things I cherish are no longer true, no longer practical, are now unrealistic, I wonder whether I've passed on much at all.

This week I'm back doing the canning department at Rutland Fair. The entries are down this year, not just in my department, but all over the fair. It looks as if a whole generation failed to pass things on. Sometimes it feels like those of us who continue to do this are merely dinosaurs who have lingered on past our time. Yet, we continue to believe that there will come a day when the skills we are encouraging will be valued again. I take some comfort from the fact that knitting has made a comeback. Even at the fair there's been more knitting the last few years. Spinning has made a comeback, there are far more spinners out there than there were 40 years ago. Perhaps the other home arts are simply lagging behind. There will come a day when petrochemical prices go high enough that buying petrochemical based fabrics made into clothes in factories half a world away won't be cost effective anymore.

Of course when I'm really discouraged I remember how difficult it was for my mother to instill these particular values in me. At 16 I was determined to have all new store bought stuff when I grew up. I thought farming was a stupid way to live. I hated canning, I couldn't knit, and my sewing was barely passable. The amount of time I spent complaining about picking raspberries and about the number of times they were served a week now makes me shake my head in disbelief. Growing roots, effecting values, are not the work of a day and sometimes you have to be in the right situation to finally appreciate what you've been given.

So, like the generations before me who raised me in places I can no longer go, I will continue to encourage, pontificate, and attempt to challenge the notions of our media brainwashed culture. After all: "All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost, The old that is strong does not wither, Deep roots are not reached by the frost." So I may feel like I've wandered a bit, but the roots remain as do the memories.


At 11:03 AM, Blogger Karen E. said...

What a lovely post, Liz. Thank you.


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