Wednesday, June 15, 2011

What Were They Like?


That word is magic. Real magic. Always has been.

The whisper of people’s lives in the cracks of a ceramic pitcher, in the details of a curling photo, in the handwriting of a love-soaked letter.

I love it all.

Every nuance of a fingerprint someone left while ladling soup for an ailing child, peering through a telescope at a meteor shower, scratching a peculiar message in the timbers of an attic.

I have something—right here, right now—for you to read that you’ve never read before. Believe me. It’s true. And it’s fascinating.

It’s an excerpt from a journal someone wrote in 1906. I don’t know her. She’s not a relation of mine. I came across this record of someone’s life from over a hundred years ago and I enjoyed getting to know this woman. Why? Because I find people fascinating! And I love learning about things I never knew before.

So here are a couple of pages from her journal.

Thursday, October 11, 1906
Nice day
I worked & took
men’s dinner
to them & picked
potatoes in afternoon.
Came home &
got supper.

Friday, October 12, 1906
To night is the
dance at Coburns.
Will & Elmer & Alfred
went to Hornell.
Will got me a nice
White Waist. We
went to the party.
Alfred got cross.

I love to imagine her doing things, puzzle out the things I don’t know, wonder about her.

She worked hard, making dinner for the men. Were there a lot of men? Were they hired help, or perhaps her husband and a brother-in-law? She worked in the potatoes, and then came home and made dinner! 
And her husband bought her a white shirt to wear to the dance. How kind of him! What was her skirt like? Did she wish she could go pick it out herself, but had to stay and care for things?
What was the party like? What food did they eat? How many people were there? What music did they play?
And here’s the burning question – Why did Alfred get cross?!

I can hear it. I can see it. Like a movie playing in my mind.

Do you ever find yourself wondering who might’ve been where you’re walking? What they were like? How they lived?

They’re like pleasant ghosts, and they’re everywhere if you just look. 
Pause for a moment, ponder, let the soul-waves of people once there lap over you. 
Do you see?


Chantele Sedgwick said...

Can I just tell you how beautiful you write? :) I do wonder about those things. It's interesting to think about those that settled here. How they got everything to work. What their houses looked like. What they did everyday. It's fascinating.

Michelle L. Brown said...

Brenda, this is a fascinating and beautifully written post! Our old Victorian was built in 1876, and I often wonder about the lives, births and deaths that happened here. It seems like half of our little town has lived in this house at one time or another. Every time I turn an original doorknob, I think about the hands that made meals here and how hard they must have worked to build such a large place...

On a funny note, my 5 yo that's sitting next to me just looked at the photo and asked, "Is that you and Dad?" I was also asked by a kid this morning if our house was built during Bible times! I won't reveal the age of that asker. We obviously need to brush up on ancient history around here! Wonderful post, especially the line about souls lapping over ours, simply beautiful!

Julie Flanders said...

What a beautiful post!! I loved everything about it, you write so well! Loved reading the journal too, I find this sort of thing fascinating.

"Do you ever find yourself wondering who might’ve been where you’re walking? What they were like? How they lived?"

I do this all the time! :)

Katie Dodge said...

I wonder all the time! While going through my Grandma's things the other day we found post cards from 1908 that were written to her mother. I'll have to bring them to critique to show you. I thought of you when I found them. :)

Katie Dodge said...

ps- I tagged you. Go to my blog for details.

Brenda Sills said...


@Chantele -Thanks for being fascinated along with me and for saying such a wonderfully nice thing about my writing! That meant SO much!!! Yay for you!

@Michelle -I WANT YOUR HOUSE! I would love it like crazy! I've always wanted a house like that. I laughed and laughed when I read what your 5 yr. old said! Kids are awesome aren't they?! And that's so funny that someone asked if your house was built in Bible times! I love it! And you said such sweet, amazing things to me- Wow, that meant so much to me, I can't even tell you! Thank you!!!

@Julie -Oh my word! What kind things you said - I can't tell you how much that means to me! How wonderful that you find these things fascinating too and wonder about people who once lived! Thank you!!!

@Katie -I CAN'T WAIT to see those postcards! I go CRAZY for stuff like that! - I have a much-loved collection of ephemera! Thank you!!!

Michelle L. Brown said...

P.S. I tagged you on my blog, too. But you don't have to answer twice!

Brenda Sills said...

MICHELLE - Thanks for the tag! You're so awesome to think of me! You're so awesome period!