January 4th, 1935…
“We stripped tobacco that morning. We ironed that afternoon. Daddy and the boys fixed up for the hog killing.”
April 20th, 1935…
“I didn’t do much of anything today. Only cleaned the house.”
July 15th, 1935…
“Remember today was the first day of school. We sure had us a fine time. Was 23 there. I came back and helped in the tobacco field. Winnie came from Earnest over here. Ruth came over here this afternoon.”
These are just a handful of entries from a girl, about 15 years old, living in Trammel, Kentucky. That girl was my grandmother.
My father passed away when I was very young. My grandmother, his mother, passed away a few years after him when I was in high school. She was my very last tie to my father’s side of the family with my father being an only child and his father passing away before I was born. I am sure there might be extended family members back in Kentucky where she was from, but they are mere strangers as I have never met them. I cannot help but wish that I could go back and sit down and talk about my history with them. Being a young girl, it never crossed my mind as you can imagine.
The other day I was cleaning some things out and came across my grandmother’s journal and arithmetic book from her grade school years. I dusted them off and started reading. Day after day, much repetition about what her daily activities were. Anything from working in the tobacco field to quilting with her sisters. There truly is nothing exciting in them. So where is the value?
Perhaps it’s a longing to know more of my history from my father’s side. Or perhaps it’s a glimpse into what life was like for a young girl in the 1930′s. A bit interesting as it seems “washing” was a big enough deal to write about when they did it every few days or so.
To me, however, they are a piece of who I am. Maybe a small and insignificant piece, but any piece is of worth I suppose. Because it’s who I am. It’s from a woman who was very much a part of my life as a child and holds a special place in my heart.
As I kept reading, I thought about the way she diligently documented daily. Kind of in the same fashion as I do but with photographs. There are times that I pull my camera out and photograph something in daily life that I’m sure is of no value to anyone else nor does it matter. But perhaps there will be a girl, years down the road, that comes across a photograph of her grandmother and smiles because it gives her a glimpse as to what life looked like for us at this time. Perhaps she sees her father playing with his brother in the picture. And she’ll see the toys on the floor that he played with and she’ll see her aunt probably doing cartwheels in the background. And I hope she smiles at the sight of it. The sight of what life looked like and was like. The same way I smile as I look through these small and fraying books.
It’s history. Although very simple, it’s my history. And documenting and creating a tangible piece of it is such an important thing. For each and every one of us.