Thursday, May 16, 2013

These is my hashtags

Recently, I have developed a newfound appreciation for the book ‘These is my Words’ by Nancy Turner. If you haven’t read it, and I highly recommend you do, it’s the fictional story of Sarah Prine, a woman living in the Arizona territories in the late 1800’s. If you’re into things like Indian raids, nervous breakdowns, and amputation without anesthetic, and who among us is not, you’ll eat it up.

The book is written in the form of Sarah’s diary, the first entry dated when she was 17 and barely literate, and spans about 20 years.  By the time it ends, she has been married a time or two, birthed and buried babies, and finally learned how to put together an intelligible sentence. Then of course there is that dashing Captain Jack, swoon, but before I go spoiling the plot I will get to my point.

What I’ve come to appreciate recently about the book is that when it begins, and Sarah is an unattached teenage girl, the diary entries are frequent, and they are lengthy. She writes every day. Multiple times a day. Pages and pages. We get rich details of her daily life, challenges, dreams, joys.  

As time goes on however, and Sarah assumes the responsibilities of a wife and mother, the entries become increasingly brief and infrequent.

She will write once a week, then once a month, and soon only a few times a year, sometimes dropping in simply to mention that the Maldonado children have the measles, or that she is proud of the dress she sewed for her daughter, and of her son, who can now hammer nails into the wall, and “talk Mexican like he was a native.”

Then, another year will go by, and we will hear nothing except that, “A new decade will be upon us soon, and our family will greet it with another baby.”

My favorite excerpt from her journal, is this one:

“My life feels like a book left out on the porch, and the wind blows the pages faster and faster, turning always toward a new chapter faster than I can stop and read it” 

Yes Sarah! Katie Erb “likes” this.

My own book may be free from the threat of poisonous snakes, or tasked with churning butter and fighting off bandits with a shotgun, but the wind blows my pages still, at a rate of speed that never ceases to amaze me.

Like Sarah, the more deeply entrenched in family life I’ve become, the more brief and infrequent the chapters I write. I imagine the posterity of our generation digging up our memoirs, and finding lengthy blog posts that gave way to Facebook status updates and eventually, Instagrams. From these is my words, to these is my hashtags. 

The book helped put into perspective for me, the value of any effort we put into documenting the lives of our families - no matter how brief, infrequent, or inconsistent. Even a picture or two a year, accompanied by a few thoughts here and there, can add up to over the course of a lifetime to tell a remarkable story.

I think sometimes we're paralyzed by the idea of all or nothing - Either we keep an organized, current, consistent record of our lives and our children, or we don't bother keeping one at all. I think I would do well to take a page from Sarah's book and start embracing the concept of brevity. (Nevermind the fact that my post about brevity has ended up being eleven paragraphs long.)

When the pages of my life are blowing quickly in the wind, and I want to remember them as best I can, I'm going to upload for my posterity whatever is on my memory card, with nothing more than a word or two.

Like this. Here a few highlights from our last six months.

“My life is so full of wonderful things right now...Mama told me to make a special point to remember the best times of my life. There are so many hard things to live through, and latching on to the good things will give you strength to endure, she says. So I must remember this day."

-Sarah Prine, These is my Words.























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