Sunday Afternoon Rocking

Leaving a "Mark"

In more than a few books lying about my house is inscribed: "Judson Dennis, his book". Jud, my great uncle, died in the first World War. He left his mark in a far more noble way than this, but to see his handwriting in his books and letters has made him infinitely more "real" to me. I think sometimes I know him, as well as I know many folks who lived in my own time. In more than a few books, are inscribed in childish script the same sort of statement in regard to Hazel and Helen. Those two little girls, my aunts, are now 89 and 90 years old. They left a mark I delight to find, and it is pleasant to imagine them as tiny girls struggling to form the letters attesting to ownership of those books.

Somewhere, lying about the once busy railroad tracks in Tennessee, and maybe other places as well, there must be the remnants of more than a few railroad ties, all of them marked, if one but carefully looks, with the impression "TMD". And I have the very hammer that made the impression. My grandfather, for the sake of raising a family, supplemented his meager farming income by making railroad ties, exactly to railroad specification. And for practical purposes of proving their origins for the sake of payment to be rendered, he marked them with his initials. I am not sure it ever crossed his mind that he was also "making his mark" in a way that might well survive his own years on earth.

Well I remember the day my own dad poured the concrete step for a storage outbuilding, and our family made quite a production of taking a stick and inscribing our initials and date it was poured. I followed through with the same tradition, and on the same property, my now grown children's tiny handprints will last for as long as a garage floor is there. We "made our mark", and I venture to imagine one of my children coming to this place one day to knock on a stranger's door and ask that they might show their grandchildren "our marks" made long ago.

Fun it is, to find the "marks" those who peopled our past made in their time. A heart stopping thing it is to locate a will or a deed of a hundred years and more ago and see the tangible evidence of he whom you have only known in terms of dates, when you gaze on an actual signature. As "close" as you can get to that ancestor, you see the mark he actually made with his own hands, touch the paper he touched, wonder at the formation of the letters and what it might reveal about a personality you long to know more about. Somehow, that ancestor's "mark" makes all the more real the legends you have heard, the stories you have imagined in your mind, gives life to the dates and facts you have accumulated. And your heart is gladdened that they left "a mark", not only for the "genealogical proof", but because suddenly they are "more real".

So nondescript these "marks" seem, nothing notable about them. Simply "marks". Marks to bear ownership, marks to prove, marks for the sake of practicality, marks made in an impulsive spirit of fun. And yet, because they are simplistic in their meaning, because they are so "every day" in their reason for being, they are all the more precious. They are proof that people were as we are, that they had the same inclinations, that now and then it was important "to leave a mark".

They have indeed "left their mark" and in more ways than a simple signature or set of initials. We bear the accumulated "marks" of our ancestors that spawned us, that set the perameters of our worlds, that lent their ideas to those that shaped and formed our own. We suffer some of those "marks", learn from some of those "marks", grow beyond some of those "marks", and in many cases, rejoice "those marks" were made.

We grow into a time, many of us, when "making a mark" is an important thing. We dream of a good living, we dream perhaps of achieving a semblance of fame. And we keep growing. We grow into the time when that sort of "mark" is not so important anymore, and we feel it important to "make a mark" in yet another way. There are things we want our children and our grandchildren to know, to feel, to learn. We wish to leave the mark of our experience upon them, that they will not repeat the mistakes we made. And sadly, we realize that all too often they have no wish to assume any mark of experience but their own. We wish to leave the mark of our past, and the pasts of our ancestors upon them, that they might "remember" what we remember. And sadly, we realize all too often that they have not grown into the season of it. And we wonder "how to make our mark".

"Judson Dennis, his book" is written on the flyleaf, and not another thing about him. But from what I have been told, from the letters he left behind, from the documents attesting to the life he foretold he would give for his country, I know what his book had to say. TMD, was how my grandfather marked the railroad ties, but from what I witnessed, what he lived in the life I knew him, what I have been told, I know what his book had to say. Long ago, I left initials on a doorstep of freshly poured concrete, and nothing more. But I suspect, I have left a mark, and my children will know, when they grow into the season of remembering, of reading all I have prepared for them, what my life had to say. Every day we live, we leave "a mark", and I think perhaps the most important thing we can do is leave one our descendants may grow beyond, may learn from the mistakes of, may even rejoice at.but never one they will suffer because of.

Just a thought,

Copyright ©2001janPhilpot



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