History is taking place around us every moment of our existence. Each second that goes by records another second that has passed into history.
Unfortunately, we don’t see it that way. We just live our lives day to day, year to year, and one day look back and say in amazement, “Oh, my, where have the years gone?”
I’m not talking about history in the universal or worldly sense; I do not refer to the history of nations or kings.
I am talking about the history of you and me–the history of ordinary people, the history of families. More often than not, families do not take the time, as they are living their history, to record it for future generations of their own family.
It is the rare exception–and most often in the case of some prominent family line–that a focused record is kept for generations. Rare indeed.
No, for the most part, we average, every-day, all-American families just live day after day, watching our history unfold, without recording it.
That is a shame. I have had the unfortunate occasion over the past few years to bury family members, and it is normally at such an event that you realize how much history has gone with them.
There are a fortunate few who understand the importance of recording their family history, most of the time in photos, less often in video, and now possibly a slight resurgence with digital technology.
Less often, I think, are written records kept; or at least kept in such a fashion so that family members (a) know of their existence (b) can find them and (c) can make sense of them.
Some people keep journals or diaries. Some people keep old love letters (oh yeah, those are tucked back deep in the attic for fear of embarrassing the kids–or themselves).
But most family history is discovered accidentally and never really recorded, lost forever.
The reality of blended families also complicates history, adding more branches to a family tree.
I know that the advent of Web-based genealogy programs has probably improved the ability to go back and reconstruct history. But often that only provides scraps of information and raises more questions than it answers.
From time to time, I see our local library advertise a class to teach people how to keep their own family history. I wonder how many people take the classes.
The thing is, a family’s history can be every bit as dramatic and compelling as a TV mini-series. I know some of the stories of my Italian predecessors who came to America escaping tyranny, seeking freedom and a place to get work and raise a family, are the stuff about which books are written.
The thing is, history starts with you and me. Each one of us has a unique and special place in our family; each of us plays a role that only we can play. The history each of us makes in our family, in our community, in the nation, in the world is truly as important as anyone else’s.
So why not keep track of it.
It doesn’t have to be a Pulitzer Prize winner; it just needs to be written down. Or it could be recorded on a digital recorder.
I think about how much I would know if my parents, and theirs, and theirs before them, had taken a little time to write down the story of their life–who, what, when, where and why.
What a treasure trove of information I would have.
Of course, each family would need to designate a generational historian who would be responsible to maintain the library. I suppose you would be born into the line of record keepers. Each family could then have their own depository of familial information that would be handed down from generation to generation.
Today’s family historians would have it easy; they could scan everything and fit their whole family history on to one or two flash drives.
Just as the longest journey starts with the first step, so too each of our histories starts with the first sentence.
I am pledging to write at least 500 words each day about my history; in a year I will have written 182,500 words. Considering this Week-Ender you are reading is about 800 words, I should have a book done 12 months from now.
OK, here goes…
“My name is Randy Louis Gaddo; I was born on February 21 amidst the heaviest snowstorm of the year in central Wisconsin, in the Year of our Lord…”… sorry, Week-Ender, you’ll have to wait for the movie to find out the rest…
Randy Gaddo, a retired Marine who also served for 15 years in municipal parks and recreation, is now a full-time photojournalist who lives in Peachtree City, Ga.; he can be reached at (678) 350-8642 or email email@example.com.