by Fyn -
Almost 200 years old, but what next? 4-7-2021
Annals of History
An antique chest - its treasures
hundreds of black and white photos.
Images preserved. Identities lost.
Some, civil war veterans, we know,
brothers of those who stayed behind
fighting to feed rather than bleed
over a stranger's needs.
An attempt to climb the ancestors'
trees yields little beyond fourth generation
back. Little before the ancestral home
was built. Letters, of course, predate
the Civil War, that war taking sons
from the farm, taking the suns
from their lives.
His great-grandmother, born 1830,
grew to be the sole school marm in her
one-room schoolhouse down Hannaford way.
Every day, she rang the bell, summoning
children to learn, alerting farmers to winds or fire.
It fell, carelessly, when the old school
was torn down to make way for condominiums.
Rescued, retrieved. Saved from the scrap heap
to grace the entry to the farm.
Grandmother carried on the tradition,
guiding her students round the cusp of new century.
Saw the sons die once again as a Great War
ravaged across the ocean in another world.
Sons of those who made it home, returned
to fight yet again, always leaving one behind
to keep the farm going, to keep the cows milked.
Great-grandma's then grandmother's handbell,
sits on a bookshelf at the end of the hall.
The photos, in that trunk in the dining room.
They will all return to the family home, one day--
even though no family lives there anymore.
The small dairy farms producing milk for 'most two hundred years
couldn't compete with the new modern farms.
New owners are keenly interested in the history of the farm.
They have promised to shepherd the artifacts, pictures, minutia
into the next century. Hopefully beyond. Once,
tall black walnut trees shaded grazing cows. !830's
storm winds tore up the trees, the ground. Waste
not; want not. Became black walnut bedstead,
vanity dresser, and rocker. I sleep in an odd-sized
190-year-old bed-- somewhere between
present-day full and queen. Fit for a king!
Treasures abound. 1920s wedding gown will grace
our granddaughter one day. It was her great-grandmother's.
Not many would fit an eighteen-inch waist. Antique hand-flail
used to separate wheat from chaff as recently as fifty years ago.
Tools my husband still treasures and uses. A rocking horse
carries the fifth generation of riders. His sister's mid recanning
two ladderback chairs. Same chairs, new-made for
the table when the house was first built.
Seems the teachers don't have time these days
to teach the history of long ago. But it isn't all that
long ago, indeed, even less, if taught at all.
It links the what was to the what is. Ashes spread
to the winds leave no tombstones behind.
History is being rewritten to appease the modern
sensibilities, scratching out entire lives.
Farmers who sketched out a living, etching their mark
on who we are are is being plowed under
to the what-should-have-beens.
We are forgetting it all encompasses the who we are.
Future lives build on the shadows of the ancestors:
knowledge is reborn in the reworking of the old ways.
Not in trying to make them disappear, not in trying
to make shared histories go away.
We are losing ourselves in the process rather
than learning and moving forward with a higher purpose.
Two thousand years of development;
of computers and microchips,
of vaccines and medical marvels,
of space travel and shrinking worlds,
yet the annals of history will one day show
we've learned nothing. Nothing at all.