Archive - Nov 25, 2012
If you look on a map of 142 Pine Meadow Road, you won't find a farmhouse there any more. It is long gone. The land was bought by the power company decades ago to build a pumped storage hydro-electric facility. I visited the area once several years ago for a family reunion. Fiona was probably about four at the time, and when we told her we were going to a family reunion, she asked, "Who died?"
Today, I read an article, How to Find Cool Stuff in the Newly-Released 1940 Census Data, or, Cyberstalking Your Grandparents. I followed the links and soon found the page about 142 Pine Meadow Road. The 1940 Census was shortly before my mother's ninth birthday and she was the youngest person living there. Her two oldest siblings were already married and living in different parts of town. Her father, eldest brother and one of her brother-in-laws were working at the tool shop; I believe that would have been Millers Falls Tools.
It would have been interesting to speak with my mother about the information in the 1940 census. Who did own the house at 142 Pine Meadow Road? Who were the neighbors? Alas, close to a month ago, the last person who was living at that house in 1940, my mother, passed away. The history became a little more remote.
Today, my middle daughter posted a cartoon with the caption, "Those who don't study history are doomed to repeat it. Yet those who do study history are doomed to stand by helplessly while everyone else repeats it." Until my senior year of college, I had always been taught that history mostly about white European men, the wars they fought, and who led them. Yes, there would be an occasional queen here and there, but history was all about who wielded what power. Art history was much the same. In my senior year, I took some great female studies courses and learned more about the forgotten parts of history, women, artisans, daily people in their daily lives.
Related to this, I stumbled across a video, American Tintype. It talked about spending time to capture and create things of beauty, a much more deliberate act than snapping a picture with a cell phone today. What can we learn from Harry Taylor, or from my mother that isn't taught in history classes? Instead of looking at what we might be doomed to repeat, what might we be doomed to forget?
I know that my mother, like all of us, had her struggles, but the parts that I chose to remember, to hold on to, were the simple parts of the life of a farm girl growing up on the banks of the Connecticut River. My mother and all her siblings are now dead. The house they grew up in is now long gone. The memories of the simple joys of that life are fading. Before it fades much further, perhaps all of us needs to spend more time deliberately creating things of beauty.