As a child I went to many historical sites. I grew up in one of the Civil War Border States so there were battlefields and museums all over the place. I thought that all children had the same opportunity and was surprised to find it not so. In fact, once I moved out of state I was surprised how few people actually cared.
There is more to history than the great battles and the monuments. There are more antique pieces in homes than there are in museums. Preserving history isn’t just for archeologists, anthropologists or historians. It’s about us, too.
Family Stories: History starts at home. Sitting around listening to the adults talk about things that happened when they were young fascinated me. These descriptions weren’t written in any textbook I’ve ever read, but they do make the bigger picture more understandable.
Reading about the Great Depression was more realistic because of the stories told by my grandparents about how they survived it. Learning about WWII was more real because of real victory gardens and tales of how sugar was carefully used during the year in order to make Christmas candy. Family history is as important as what’s in the books.
Family Skills: Some of this isn’t in the history books and some is. We might read about plowing, but have you ever seen the kind of plow they used? It makes a big difference in understanding the amount of work involved. We read about Betsy Ross and the first U.S. flag. That cloth was very likely not from a factory. It was probably combed, carded and spun by hand. Once it was spun, the threads were put into a loom and woven. It wasn’t something quickly thrown together; it took time and effort to make it.
Ask your family members if they have any skills. If they can, ask them to teach you. I value what I was taught and wish I had learned more. If I find someone who can teach me, I learn from them. I read books about the skills so that I can both have respect for them but also preserve it by passing it on to the next generation.
Why should I care? There’s that first line; I don’t want to be doomed to repeat some of the mistakes made. There is also feeling of continuance. My grandparents learned from their parents or other relatives. They taught my parents and other relatives. I want my children to have the knowledge and pass it along to grandchildren born or yet to be. It means a lot…and some of it could come in handy someday.
Our history is more than memorized dates and the outcome of great battles. It’s about the smallest thing, like a plant used for making cloth to the big things like cargo jets. It’s about life and the living. Find a way to let history be living so we can preserve all that happened before us.