Sunday Afternoon Rocking

A Hundred Years...and What Matters?

"To Grandmama. 1901. Cole and Della, age 20 and 18 years". The picture of the young couple, she so clear faced and smiling, dark eyes dancing... and he with his dark handsome youthful look captivated me. But I could not place the names, and it took several months before I learned the connection, and why the small picture was in a box of old family photos. The discovery was bittersweet. I had hoped to learn this young couple, heads lovingly bent together, grew out of the youth forever captured by a camera. I had hoped to learn they had a house full of children, that they had lived to smile just as sweetly in a photograph fifty years later. Instead I learned she lived but two years after the photograph was made, he ten. 1901. A hundred years ago, and yet if only the hairstyles and clothing were different...this could be a young couple of today beginning life with the hope of youth. 2001. Not so long ago...not so different...and they little imagined that a hundred years from the day that photograph was taken, it would cause the pattern of thinking to begin that stitched together 1901 and 2001...

2001. 1901. A hundred years have passed, and although I certainly did not live all of the hundred, they do not seem so long to me...I can touch them. I can remember well the grandfather who knew 1901 as an adult. If I have never known any other transportation than an automobile, I knew well the generation that grew to adulthood with a horse and wagon. If I have made my own home other than a few years in no house that did not have electricity and indoor plumbing, I knew well a generation that lived over half a lifetime with neither. If I never remember a day in my life that I was not able to see an airplane in the sky, or know world-wide media communication, I knew well the generation that first gazed with wonder on such.

A hundred years in a family and what is different? A hundred years and we have bid goodbye to as many close kindred. A hundred years and my grandparents' grandchildren, great grandchildren, great great grandchildren are born. A hundred years and a world is peopled by an entirely different population. A hundred years and we live drastically different from all of the generations that preceded us. 1901. 2001.

It is not the differences that connect us. but the similarities. A hundred years and the legacy left to us by those living in 1901 have little to do with the possessions of a hundred years ago. A hundred years and the legacy is just as relevant in 2001 as in 1901....for it rests not in a shoemaker's tool, a crosscut saw, wooden spools of thread...

A hundred years and there is indeed a material legacy...the button box, the yellowed photographs, the tattered quilts and papers and letters. There are odd bits of furniture and a few farm tools. But those things are not the true legacy. None are things a present generation could really find useful, yet none are things any one of the descendents would sell. None are legacies that will found a dynasty of material wealth, and none are things a descendent considers in such terms. The richness is far too great to be labeled with a price tag, and far too great to be converted to monetary terms. The richness lies in the intangible. The legacy lies in that which cannot be touched or sold, bought or traded. The legacy lies not in the irrelevancy of pieces and scraps remaining from a household of 1901...but in the relevancy. The legacy lies in the stories, the values, the traditions. The scraps of fabric, buttons, papers...they are only tangible invitations to retell and remember the intangible legacy.

2001. 2101. My birth was such that I doubt I will be the link a descendent of 2101 may be able to think of and remember well, may be able to say about: "I can touch the past". But my children may well be. May I remember, and may they, that the material possessions we accumulate, the accolades, none of this will matter. A hundred years will pass and the legacy left to those of another century by those of us living in 2001will have little to do with possessions. Some possessions there may be that survive, that adorn homes, that are cherished...but they will be only invitations.

Let the stories that unfold to the invited be those of value, of tradition...of courage, of hope, of faith, of inspiration. The size of my home will not help a child of a hundred years from this one. Other than as a curiosity, my salary will make no difference to a descendent. The balance in my checkbook will be of little consolation to the woes that will unfold for a generation a hundred years from now. Not one possession that is in my home will make one whit of difference to an aching heart scores of years from now. A hundred years from now and what will matter? What in my life might truly make a difference for those of another world unimaginable by myself? Nothing. Nothing but the stories.

just a thought,

Copyright ©2000JanPhilpot


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