I’ve been obsessed with history recently. I take the Metro North train from Connecticut to NYC as often as I can and along the tracks there a ton of little towns with abandoned train stations and other factories and buildings. I find myself thinking about what they used to be like when they were new. What kinds of people lived in these areas? Who worked at the factories? Who frequented the stations? Commuters to the city? When did these structures fall out of repair? And why?
And then there’s this website. It’s one thing to look at random old photos or see old buildings, but there’s a personal element involved here. It’s easy to forget that your parents had lives before they had you. It makes me think of this picture I once saw of my maternal grandparents (I wish I had it so I could include it here… but I don’t). They look like they are in their 20s, maybe 30s (and it was probably sometime in the 1930s). They are dressed to the nines, linked arm in arm, and walking down the street with big open grins on their faces. They look awesome and I feel pretty awesome knowing I’m related to them. Looking at that picture makes me wish I had known them better… or at least knew where they were headed looking so fancy.
This personal history fascination reached a peak last weekend when I attended my grandmother’s funeral in Auburn, NY – my father’s hometown. I don’t know much about my dad’s childhood but here I was… in the place where it all went down. These were the streets my dad walked as a kid. This was the restaurant he worked at. This is the high school he went to. This is his history.
After the funeral, we went to the family restaurant and this is when we heard some great stories about the “old days”… the phone pole built behind the restaurant to get reception for Yankees games… the nuns who looked the other way when kids would sneak into the back lot to get fed by the ladies at the restaurant… my uncle getting caught hiding beer in his gym bag… my dad getting scolded for leaving change on top of the cash register when the restaurant was busy (“I didn’t hear the cha-ching”). I could have listened to these stories all night.
My curiosity was, indeed, piqued… but I was a bit sad. Obviously I can’t go back in time and see these things. I just wish I didn’t start hearing these stories now… I guess sometimes you need to be in the place of nostalgia in order for the nostalgic stories to flow.
The buildings, the photos, the stories… it all makes me feel so small in this world… in a good way. It’s a solid reminder that this world is a massive place. Every corner has a story. Every person has a past. So… I want to seek out these stories… I want to go to amazing places and find the amazing in ordinary places. I want to walk down the street with a big open grin on my face. I want to make my own fascinating history.
Photo credits: me… all me… with my iPhone… I think I used the Hipstamatic app
Blog title song: “The Way We Were” by Barbra Streisand