Saturday, June 24, 2006

Living in the Past

June 24

My daughter and I have honest-to-God conversations on the phone. We tell each other stories and life situations; we advise, cajole, comfort and gossip for hours at a time. It’s gotten to the point where she’ll open by saying, “Mom. I want to go first this time,” and I accept the ground rules. (What else could I do? I may get to go first next time.)

The last time I was talking with her, it had been my turn for quite a while. I talked about how sad it was that the little house across the street will probably be torn down and replaced by a big house, typical of the “new” Fairhope. I talked about the difficulties in assuring that the Marietta Johnson School will retain its mission of almost 100 years. I talked about how much work it is to inform people, through my books and my blog, of their own heritage. In Meet Me at the Butterfly Tree, Bob Bell and I fairly wallow in Fairhope's halcyon days, presenting, if I do say so, a rather attractive picture of it. See my webpage, Finding Fairhope, linked here, for details.

Back to the story at hand. I am talking to Alison, a hip, 43-year-old single mom, about the difficulties of reaching an audience for my historical rambles.

“Mom,” she said, interrupting the exhausting tirade.

“What? You have another call?”

“No. I’ve just got to say something.”

I waited.

“You’re living in the past.”

Of course she’s right. I acknowledge that I spend a great deal of time fretting about how much nicer the past was, what a shame it is that “the new people” don’t know about it, how it’s my duty to inform and enlighten people younger than I about what came before. I accept that this is a sign of aging, and that I’m probably just more comfortable in my miasma of memories than in trying to forge new relationships or lighten old baggage. I think living in the past is not a 100 per cent bad thing.

Do I sound defensive? Do I sound crochety? Do I sound like Gabby Hayes, griping to the young whippersnappers around the chuck wagon about how they don’t know as much as they should? More importantly, dear reader, do you know who Gabby Hayes was?

Well, I’m not going to tell you. I will say this, he is not reported to be the author of the plays of Shakespeare. I’m reading a new book that explains that the Shakespeare plays were written by Christopher Marlowe. I’m not buying it lock, stock, and bodkin, mind you, but History Play, by Rodney Bolt, is an interesting read. Whether it sheds any new light on the de Vere controversy remains to be seen. I relate my reading matter because, although it deals with events in the past, it shows that I am part of a contemporary dialogue. At least, I think it shows that. Sort of.

We can't help carrying our pasts about with us. I have friends who claim to have short memories, who can't recall names or faces unless they stretch their minds with great effort, which they choose not to do. Perhaps they're lucky. But I see my memory as something of a blessing.

I picture my future as one like Grandma Moses, a blossoming in old age, writing novels set in the Fairhope of the past, little anecdotes interwoven in a village founded on the economic principle of Henry George's Single Tax theory, peopled with eccentrics, intellectuals, and, as I say in Meet Me at the Butterfly Tree, ordinary people seeking an extraordinary life. I'll be that little old lady over on Bayview Street, the one who refused to sell her house back in ought-eight for a million dollars, writing away her memories, selling her past in small increments, tottering to book-signings and book fairs and C-Span2, where she holds forth about the old lost days in a village that used to be.

6 comments:

tangerine said...

Did you really refuse to sell your house for a million dollars? Wow!

Finding Fair Hope said...

Uh, no, darlin'. That was what you call projection. Ought-eight means 2008, which hasn't happened yet. It's part of my plans for the future, to refuse an offer on this house at least once before I toddle to the assisted living place. Sorry if I confused anybody.

mellowdrama said...

I have to disagree somewhat with both you and your daughter, FFH. Much as living in the past might serve you, I think it's more like the past is your shtick. I remember all the way back to the furniture moving days when we first met. I'd said something, probably arcane, and you responded with "Yes. Kind of like The Dude." While I tried to hide it from you, this took me out of gear for a moment when I realized you'd just made a reference to Jeff Bridges' character in The Big Lebowski. Not what I'd expected from a "little old lady selling furniture". And with that I began discovering the heady mix of clear process and valid memory that is your mind. I'd still rather see a (current or not) movie with you than anyone below the Mason-Dixon line. (Not that I don't like seeing movies with the twenty-somethings too: "How'd you like it?" "Oh, it was cool." And I believe I have on occasion even drug out my latest, hippest musical finds as small payment for one of your delightful dinners. Yes, you can live in the past, FFH, when and as you choose. What a luxury. Thank you for being so gracious as to share it with us.

BTW:Would you consider a million two?

Finding Fair Hope said...

Hey, mellow! Tell that to Brian, a new reader. All kinds of possibilities. Wonder if he likes movies...

Benedict S. said...

Do you mean George "Gabby" Hayes, Hoppies sidekick, along with "Lucky"? And what was "Lucky's" real name. I remember his first name, "Russell," but maybe that was his last.

Hey, if the past gives you more pleasure than the present, that's the place to live. But then the time we spend "living in the past" is actually present time, and if filling it with fond memories makes your day, then you've spent your time well.

But then . . . daughter probably got a good feeling out of being able to trot out her biases on you. She enjoyed it, too, I bet.

Finding Fair Hope said...

Russell Hayden. Oh, I was crazy about Russell Hayden. In those days I also worshipped "Bobby Blake" who played Little Beaver in Red Ryder...oh, who knew what was in store for him? I wonder what Smiley Burnett ("Frog")'s real name was.