By Pam Pacelli-Cooper
President, Verissima Productions
I am returning to this blog after 18 months. As I was thinking about what to write, I came upon a short online essay by Christopher Cavin, a Zen monk and therapist who practices in Salt Lake City, the beating heart of genealogy in the United States.
Here’s what he wrote:
I know a truth, for I go to Estate Sales
Estate Sales: a Tour of your Future.
I loved you so much, you were so beautiful, and so brilliant, when we were young, and are even more so now.
A good man, with his religious books, his tools, his newer computer equipment and antique recording equipment…A good woman, with her important sayings framed on the walls, her sewing room filled with irons and yarn, her kitchen stocked with the correct implements, no doubt appropriately fussed over.
…And that drama, all those mini-dramas, all those intimate moments, all those supposed and real crises, washed aside but living imperfectly in the memories of those who, always from the periphery, witnessed them.
I wander through, heavy heart…And over the morning, his books, her sewing room, his tools and records, her china and cookery, are spread again throughout the village like a blanket…
…as the shoppers come and go.
As personal historians, we are dedicated to preserving and making sense of those books, those tools, those memories. What is the relationship we have with the knowledge that is contained in all these items? What can we do to help ensure that the lives of the people the items represent will live on after the items themselves have been scattered far beyond their places of origin? If we keep the image of the Estate Sale in our minds, how can it deepen the work we do?
If the traces of a life can be changed or destroyed in a moment — washed away in the floods of Katrina, buried in the silt of Sandy, left forever untold after a sudden death– what is our role?
How can we personal historians give meaning to our creations? What are the gifts a personal history can bring to the larger world…gifts that reach beyond the personal satisfaction of a story well told, or the pride of recounting family accomplishments?
This is one of the topics I plan to explore in 2015. I will be posting new Blogs every two weeks. Once a month, I will blog about larger topics like this one. The second monthly blog will trace the creation of a specific personal history for Abbott Leonard Cohen, a resident of Memphis, TN, born in 1882. You’ll be able to see how we take outdated forms of media (cassette tapes, 8 mm film) and long-scattered snippets of information to create a coherent story of his life.
I welcome your thoughts, questions, and suggestions about what you read in these blogs, and wish you all a fruitful 2015.