During the Civil War in America, a barn was used as a makeshift hospital. It is said you could hear the screams for miles. Thirty thousand people died within sight of that barn, and it was all a monumental mistake. The two armies never should have met at Gettysburg, but one wrong turn put them less than a mile from each other. The McMillan’s barn is gone now, but the house remains, a historical marker out front declaring its identity.
The house belonged to my family; my maternal grandmother’s maiden name is McMillan.
Knowing where we come from can be a comfort, offer a sense of grounding. My friend when I was growing up was sad to discover that her roots in Poland stop at the second World War, because the records were destroyed when first the Germans, and then the Russians, invaded.
But we have much available to us in our living history. Recipes our parents and extended family make, or even a friend’s cherished entree. Goofy poems we make up together. Arguments over deep dish or thin crust pizza, accompanied by the representative menu. All these ephemera become valuable to us in the future.
What about you, Dear Reader? How do you preserve your past and present?
– E.E. Cummings
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