Thursday, July 5, 2012

Ephemera From The Past


Please visit the ever entertaining Tabatha Yeatts at The Opposite of Indifference, who is hosting Poetry Friday today.  There’s all kinds of poetry sharing to be discovered!  Thanks very much Tabatha!

           I have been sifting through many boxes of things stored in our house for some time; some from my mother-in-law's things.  In one of those boxes, I found a diary written by her mother, whose son fought in World War II.  The diary is simply written, the words of a farmwoman who rose each day and cleaned, visited, baked, canned, sewed, washed and hung clothes to dry, sometimes in the basement when it was too cold out and the clothes would freeze on the line.  On Sundays, she attended church.  Those are the tasks she recorded of her life.  On the inside cover, she wrote:  Be a lamplighter.  We shall shine as the stars of the morning, something for us all to aspire to.


In the five years of this ‘daily’ book, my husband’s maternal grandmother Lora did not write one word about feelings.  There was no “I’m a little tired today, or achy or sad.” And although she did mention the challenges of weather: cold and snow, icy and slick, she still went about her work, because on the same day, she also mentions visiting a friend.  The lovely parts I discovered are bits and pieces of words cut from the newspaper or magazines that are poems and quotes and Bible references.  In this ephemera I began to form a picture of her, full of a little sentiment, a little laughter, and serious about her God.  And one of the clippings is a poem whose author is unknown.  It is sentimental, but shows something about this woman who recorded her life in the simplest of words, letting someone else tell how she was feeling.  Her diary ended right after World War II.


When day is ending, he shall come
                        some day.
Even as of old—yes—in the same
                        old way.
Naught shall be changed—the sunlight
                        still shall fall
With lengthening shadows on the
                        floor and wall.
The little tasks all finished once
                        again.
I’ll wait for him—but shall not
                        wait in vain.
For he shall come—shall place
                        upon my brow
The old sweet kiss and he shall say
                        Oh thou!
Thou who hast waited I have come
                        at last.
The hideous dream of war is past
                        --is past.
Oh, my beloved, let thy grieving
                        cease.
For once more men are brothers—
                        there is peace.
                                    author unknown



28 comments:

  1. What a sweet find! Interesting to note that there were not a lot of feelings expressed. Sometimes when you have greater worries, you don't have time to feel the feelings I suspect. And I believe they felt it was a waste of time to spend time wondering how you felt about something - or letting others know how you felt - when you just needed to do it! You know what I mean? Thanks for sharing this. I've posted "Two Rainbows and the Moon" for Poetry Friday. Thanks for that, too!

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    1. Yes, I agree, they were being more pragmatic I expect, or worried who might read the words? I'll go right over!

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  2. What an amazing treasure! Thank you for sharing it.

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  3. As Donna and Liz have said, what a treasure you have found! I was struck by the non-mention of "feelings" in these entries, just the tasks. My mother, who was a child during the Great Depression and suffered much, often speaks of this trait that she feels is now lost - this ability to focus on tasks and endure, as opposed to always fretting and dwelling on feelings. A very different perspective, and one we could learn from and emulate (to a degree) I feel!

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    1. Interesting perspective, isn't it? It is telling that she wanted to note what she did but had no comment on how the day went, just that the task was done. Thanks for telling me this, Tara. I never thought of it that way.

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  4. What an amazing treasure! My great-grandma had a journal that my mom now has. I loved how she always recorded the date and weather first. (Her husband was a farmer). Much less emotional than the journals I kept as a teen where the world revolved around me. :)

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    1. Yes, it's a recording of a life, and I imagine she had her ups and downs like anyone, but kept her counsel, as they often said to do. Thanks Katherine.

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  5. Wow, what a gem. Thank you for sharing. In the mail today I received, from the cousin of my late father, a little package. She is going through her parents' things room by room after the death of her father. She sent a 1943 Glamour Magazine that has an ad featuring my grandmother in it - I'd seen the photo before, but not the whole magazine.

    On the back is an ad for "Genuine Steerhide Huaraches - The Sandles That Made Mexico Famous" for $2.95 and "No Ration Coupon Required." !!

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    1. What a wonderful surprise, Robyn. I have also found some ration coupons from some of the folks. A different time that we can only imagine. Thanks for telling me.

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  6. What a neat find! "Be a lamplighter. We shall shine as the stars of the morning" seems like a thoughtful, reflective motto. Makes me wish we could visit with her!

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    1. Isn't it a sweet saying? I have never heard it quite like that before, like stars in the morning. I too would like to go back to know her better. We visited a bit, but very little because they were farther away. Thanks Tabatha.

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  7. What happened? Did her son come back?

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    1. Oh, sorry Ruth-yes, & he just passed away last year-my husband's Uncle Richard. He had a great life, 4 daughters and one son!

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  8. Wow, Linda, so fascinating! Perhaps it was a time of different values. My Dad's diaries were similar. He wrote in five-year diaries, which had about an inch of space (tightly lined) for each day. He too recorded the weather mainly, and what was happening with his farm tasks and the current crop status.

    I love how you formed a picture of your husband's grandmother by the trail of words she left. It makes one think... (I have seen writing prompts, where the challenge is to 'show' a character by the things in their lives--chequebooks, emails, what's in their purse or pockets..that sort of thing.)

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    1. Well, as you see, her diary is also one of those five year ones-not much space, & she recorded some weather, especially the cold & snow, but mostly tasks, who visited, who she visited, who was born, who died. You are right about the character sketch ideas, & I liked all the pieces she had tucked into the book, like the poem I shared. My words for it are 'nice and homey', calm, pleasant. Thanks for the thoughts, Violet!

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  9. Treasure seems to be the word of choice here in the comments, but that's what you've got -- a treasure!

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    1. Thanks Mary Lee. I'll keep reading and discovering.

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  10. I agree with Mary Lee. There are treasures that stay with you forever, and would turn up at the strangest moments. I love this post, Linda. Thank you for sharing this.

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    1. Thanks Myra. Amazing what turns up when one just takes the time to look.

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  11. It was a similar diary of my grandmother's from the early 40's--when her husband had just died and she was a single mother in upstate NY--that made me start a 5-year diary. The picture of my grandmother drawn in three-line entries told me so much about her, about my mother's childhood, about ME and what I'd been taught, was so striking. Preserve and share! I bet you could pull out some fine found poems from Lora's diary. Thanks, Linda.

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    1. Thank you Heidi. Just the thought that she took the time to do it tells something about her determination. I'll look again for more.

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  12. Of course I love this! I think of so many diaries like that, where we have to read between the lines. What you did find seems like quite something. And the loss, too, is something all its own. I just bought, but haven't yet read, Terry Tempest Williams' newest book. Her mother bequeathed her her diaries, but they were all empty. Yet she made a book from this. I'm sure I'll blog about it once I step away from my nineteenth c. summer long enough to read this.

    Thanks for this beautiful sharing of what's found, what may be lost, and what yet may be found, Linda.

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    1. Thank you for the reflection Jeannine. I have read several of Williams' books but this one you speak of sounds interesting. I'll look it up for sure. I have tried to keep up with your posts, which I find fascinating about what you're doing, but have been so busy lately. It's summer, supposed to be relaxing!

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  13. I'm finally getting around to the Poetry Friday posts! This one, as I'm sure you can guess, is of particular interest to me. As Heidi suggested, you can "pull out some fine found poems." Or perhaps a whole book of poems!

    Have you tried to find newspaper headlines from some of the days in Lora's diary? That might be a fun thing to do. Check if your local public library has the database, Newsbank, and specifically the "America's GenealogyBank" module.

    The cover of the diary is really something, too! Is it embossed leather? I'm so glad you shared it with us.

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    1. Diane, thank you for all of the ideas. What I haven't done is to read through all of the clippings. I have so many things from that era from both sides of the family, & I won't throw any of it out, but it takes time to go through it all. I know that you're interested in WWII & will let you know what other items I find that you might want to see, too.

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    2. And yes, it is embossed leather, a gift to her from her granddaughter.

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  14. Oh Linda, such treasure here! The Diary is beautiful too. I have always had a fascination with notebooks and diaries. As a child, I used to fill out dozens and dozens of them with random ruminations.

    It warms the heart seeing how such light and love can still touch and move others after so many years. Such power, indeed.

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Having a conversation is a good thing!