We’ve been helping Abbott gather information for a multi-media autiobiography project for school; finding photos and video clips and memorable dates and events. One section of the project is about the baby years - first words, first steps, that sort of thing. This morning I pulled dusty stacks of containers down from a high shelf in Abbott's closet, in search of a wall calendar I used to record happenings in his first year of life. In my search, I came across his baby book and briefly flipped through it, my index finger tracing his tiny inked footprints and the ultrasound photo I’d taped inside. I found a section of emails I’d printed out and inserted; responses to our announcement of pregnancy. I felt a wave of longing for our relationships with those friends, family members and colleagues who sent the messages as they were then; different now, necessarily, due to time and change in our – and their – circumstances. I found the calendar and gave it to Abbott. He was mesmerized as he read through the entries about his baby self: “first signs of laughter,” “first sweet potatoes – you LOVED them – cried for more between bites,” “went to Muir woods,” “using long strings of syllables – ‘ba’ & ‘ga’ sounds,” “Giants game - rained out,” “Said ‘bus.’ Also can say ‘bye,’ ‘all done,’ ‘cat,’ ‘mama,’ ‘dada.’” The rhythm and content of our days.
A little square in which to record something about the day was satisfying. Today, Abbott smiled, he grew. We ate peaches – he, for the first time. Today was more than the Sisyphean tasks of laundry and dishes.
My maternal great-grandmother, Leta Milam Kenney, kept detailed financial records and maintained monthly calendars from the 1920s until the day of her death in 1951. She penciled in notes about the weather, the cost of things she bought, and other day-to-day happenings. I have copies of some, but not all of them, and I have some of the originals. A few excerpts:
1922: March 12 – Othor (her oldest child) bought a radio from Sears-Roebuck with headphones and a horn speaker for $75. Anyone who ordered a pound of ‘Hello, World’ coffee had their names announced on the radio, so he ordered a pound.
1929: October 28 – Jim (her husband; my great-grandfather) bought a cream separator. December 5 – sold some turkeys. December 12 – Jim was on the jury, a murder trial.
1934: February 1 – Jim killed hogs. February 6 – renewed Bowie Co. News. March 5 - killed hogs again. April 15 – renewed Dallas News. August 17 - a mule died.
1937: August 10 – Had cantaloupes & watermelons from the garden.
1938: March 4 – Tree planting day to help stop wind erosion on the farms; a government program. (Leta’s) glasses cost $27.50.
1942: January 21 – 3rd bad sand storm.
1944: January 7 - the worst blizzard in 52 years. Jim sold 9 cows for $340.
1946: September 11 – ducks went south. October 9 – watched stars fall, 9pm.
That what happened today mattered, however mundane, is one of life’s main hungers.