Wednesday, October 04, 2006

This summer I spent some time making excuses to dig holes in my backyard in hopes that I’d find more “garbage” buried there decades ago by former owners of my house. As we all know, people used to bury their garbage way back when. Quite frequently I find pottery shards and old bits of rusted metal, wire and such. This spring I sliced my finger open on a piece of glass from who knows when. Ouch! But mindblowing as well, right? I wonder if Mr. or Mrs. so-and-so burying their garbage in 1898 could ever have fathomed that some woman in the year 2006 would cut herself on their broken bottle.

I also spent some time doing a little more research on the former owners of my house. I’m at about 1909 and we still have Mr. Thompson living there: a barber who owned a shop downtown. I even found the building where he had his barber shop. What I’d really love to see is a photo of it. I’d also die happy if I could find a photo of my house back in the day. A blurry, background glimpse even! So far I’ve been foiled. But I’m also not sure where to look…

Very old photos of the interiors of general stores or other shops have always appealed to me. The photos would be of the shop minders, but I could spend hours looking at the things in the background and trying to figure out how they spent their day. Same goes for family photos in people’s houses. I’m looking at what’s on the kitchen counters and marveling at the old TV Set. I especially love old Christmas Day photos—after the presents have been opened. I get out the magnifying glass trying to figure out what’s under the tree. These objects have a history as much as the people do. I suppose this thinking is what causes someone to be a packrat, such as myself. haha

I love it when you’ve got something on your mind and so many relevant things start popping up in front of your eyes wherever you look. Synchronicity. Yep.

Yesterday, I found this little excerpt from an essay by Gary Saul Morson ("Prosaics: An Approach to the Humanities" from volume 57 (1988) of American Scholar

"It is often the small items in the background of old photographs that most powerfully evoke elusive memories of the past. The things barely noticed at the time and included only by chance may best preserve the feeling of life as it was lived. The furniture long ago discarded, a spot on the wall, a picture we had long ignored but that now suggests the habitual life we lived beneath it — these small items remind us of how it felt to live in a room. The intended subject of a photograph can seem much less important in comparison with its background; and perhaps that is one reason why professional photos without a background so often seem to miss the very point of photography."

Well said, well said.

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Christmas early 1960's…A miniature tin baking set in the bottom left corner (jealous!) and the tiny wooden shoes hanging on the wall in the background—I have them now and suddenly they have a history. I wasn’t born yet when this was taken. (Heidi, there's my sister, Jackie O on the right. We need a better Jackie O shot. Louise? Jo-ann?)

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Christmas nineteen seventy something.
Cheater snow molds for making igloos!


At 1:18 a.m., Anonymous AC said...

I love the way that you look at things! I think I need to slow my life down and soak up the details. I think your house research is so cool and I really hope you find a photo of it someday...but I hope that the search drags on for awhile so you can discover other fun stuff in the meantime.

That pic from the early 60's could so be straight from a TV show like "Father Knows Best!"

At 2:21 p.m., Anonymous Louise said...

I love those old Christmas photos. And my mom looks a lot like Jackie O. Once when I was a kid and didn't know who Jackie O was, I came across a magazine article about her and I thought "Wow, what's mom doing in a magazine". The thing was the photo was a causal shot of Jackie on the street in a sweater coat or something, which made seem more believable as my mom then if she'd been all dolled up.


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