When I was eighteen I met my future husband in a group I traveled the country with. I kept a journal. The genealogist in me cannot believe I am saying this, but I have read this thing- and it has to be destroyed. I think I may hate that girl. At least she had enough sense to marry the guy she constantly talks about being in love with. And I mean CONSTANTLY. Outside of that, I pretty much disagree with every stupid thing she has to say.
This happened once before, when as a high school senior I received a letter I had written to myself when I was in the eighth grade. It was six pages on how awesome John Lennon was. Now, the eighteen year old me still loved John Lennon (and I always will love John Lennon), but I wrote so stupidly about it that I had to throw it away.
I stand by that decision. Sometimes the idea of something is better than knowing the full reality of it.
And so, I think I will be burning those journals.
Sometimes I wonder what I will think about these blog entries or my Facebook statuses twenty years from now. Facebook. What a goldmine for future genealogists. The documented account is the final word on any matter. And by final word, I mean for all time. You want to know about history? Look for photos, film, written accounts- everything else is long gone. In this way we choose, sometimes with regret, how future generations will see us. Assuming they even choose to look for us.
When I was a little girl, I really liked Little House on the Prairie. I believed I was Laura Ingalls reincarnated. It’s probably not true.
But what about the rest of her family? What if they disagreed with things she said about them, or the picture she painted of their lives? Maybe they complained about it all the time, but we will never know. Laura wins, because she wrote it down.
Of course, for most of us there is no one at all writing our story. But there could be. Maybe the world won’t care, but there will always be a few future genealogists who care. I know, because I am one of them.
I love history. I love connecting to the past. I can spend hours watching old films of people I don’t know, or flipping through vintage photos. I absolutely adore antique shopping. Even if I buy nothing at all, I enjoy walking through an old building filled with pieces from the past, listening to music from before my time. It’s all time travel to me. I like to fill my house with other people’s memories- old theater seats, Victrolas, books, records, photos, wall art….various kitchen items. Lucky for me, I married a man who shares my taste in historical decor.
I have several pictures and old letters kept by my grandparents and great grandparents. I imagine when they were written, the author never thought I would be reading them. I am sure they might even be embarrassed.
My grandfather kept letters from a girl who wrote to him while he served in World War II. Her name was Lenore. I tracked her down and sent her copies of those letters, almost seventy years later. Surely she never imagined his granddaughter would one day read those letters. And I have saved them, so that who she was in 1942 will be preserved in both of our families. Maybe forever.
Makes you consider what is out there about you, doesn’t it? This is why I am burning those journals.
I think of all the things I have uncovered about my family history, perhaps closest to my heart is finding my great-grandfather, Howard. He died of Tuberculosis in 1929, at the age of twenty-nine. I knew nothing about him. But now I know almost everything. I have photos, newspaper articles, WWI papers….so much. His memory is alive and well after years of being forgotten. Future generations will know his story. His pictures are on my wall, books he owned as a child over one hundred years ago are on my shelf.
I want future generations to know Teghan’s story, too. What will autism be in the future? When people look back to this time in history, what will they think about our stories? I know there will be a time when everything changes in the world of autism. I think our stories will be important.
But I am not talking about this blog. It may contribute, but I write about autism on here for a whole other reason. I had to search hard to find voices I could relate to online, and when I found them they offered encouragement. I wanted to add to that. I wanted to find more people who understood what we were going through, and I wanted to give anyone with a story like ours another place to see that they were not alone.
As a separate project, I want to ensure Teghan’s memory will survive. Even if only for genealogists. Maybe they will hang her picture on their wall, and tell their children about her story. The way I do with my own family history. They will talk about what autism used to be. Trust me, that is way more interesting than knowing how much I loved my boyfriend in January of 1995.
I know firsthand that if I document it, someone in the future will find the information valuable and spend time thinking about her.
What a wonderful thought.