Going in Circles

Nov 5, 2011 | 2 comments

Territory Road, Oysterville, 1920s

      For the past week, I have been reading old correspondence – I mean really old from as far back as the 1890s.  They are family letters that I am sorting for delivery to the Washington State Historical Society which houses the Espy Family Archive.  As always, I am struck by the similarities of life ‘then’ and now.  The differences I expect, but I find the similarities fascinating, even eerie.
     Yesterday I ‘spent’ in Oysterville in 1937 listening in, as it were, to conversations between my grandmother (who was here) and my uncle Willard (who had a part-time job in Washington D.C.)   The effects of The Great Depression were still much in evidence.  There were few jobs, money was scarce to non-existent, and people were having a hard time.
     There is something wrong with a system that makes the need of money block the road to health, comfort and the pursuit of creative work my grandmother wrote in April of that year.  As I read those words, I wondered what the opposite of déjà vu is, for I was immediately fast-forwarded to the here and now and the dozens of similar remarks we have all made recently.
     In another letter she wrote:  I can understand Edwin’s [Willard’s older brother] reaction to Congress, as I experienced the same disgust when attending our state legislature.  I don’t know just what I expected, but the mediocre caliber of the average representative amazed me.  It was a body of badly behaved boys – gum-chewing and peanut-cracking.  I remarked to Pa that I hoped the national group made up for this lack in the state.  He did not reassure me.
     I don’t know how my grandmother would characterize our politicians of today.  Probably not as “gum-chewing and peanut-cracking” but, perhaps, as “badly behaved boys” with their endless blaming and finger-pointing and lack of accomplishment.  I doubt that she would have judged the situation improved.
     I am reminded of the passage from Ecclesiastes:  “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.”
     It does, indeed, seem that we are going in circles.

2 Comments

  1. Stephanie Frieze

    “Or the more things change, the more they stay the same.” I hope you’re scanning your letters and putting them on a flash drive.

    Reply
    • sydney

      Don’t I wish. Unfortunately, there are thousands of letters. I only have time to read a fraction of them and scanning them would take me the rest of my life. I’m mostly reading those that I think may contain useful information for the book I’m now working on. Eventually, WSHS will digitize all of them and the collection will be readily available to everyone — though it might not happen in my lifetime!

      Reply

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