Living History

One of the things that I greatly value that my parents taught me is a love for history. My Dad never took us vacationing to amusement parks. Instead, we always went to historical places such as Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan, or Fort Necessity in Pennsylvania. As we toured historical places, my Mom would tell us to imagine living as those people did:  “Imagine having to cook your meals over a fire like this,” she’d say. “Imagine having to shear sheep, spin the wool into yarn, weave it into cloth, and then sew your clothes. Imagine reading by candlelight. Imagine traveling across the plains in a covered wagon. Imagine living during the days of the Revolutionary or Civil Wars.” Imagine, imagine, imagine. My parents taught me that history isn’t just a bunch of facts to be memorized for a school test. History is actually about the stories of people who lived through it.

My parents didn’t just teach me about the past. They also taught me that today’s current events are tomorrow’s history. Every day we are living history. I remember watching the TV broadcast of President Nixon’s resignation in 1974. I thought it was boring, but my Mom insisted we sit and watch it because “This is history.” I am glad she did that because I can now look back and say, “I watched Nixon resign.”

Through the years, I have been aware that I am living through events that will become history. I have lived through big events such as Nixon’s resignation, the first moon landing, the Challenger explosion, President Reagan getting shot (I saved a newspaper from that day), 9/11, and fears over Y2K.

I have also lived through small personal events: I remember that our neighbor had the first color TV in our neighborhood. She invited us over and we all watched Lassie Come Home in color for the first time! I woke up at my neighbor’s house the next morning because I fell asleep watching the TV.

I remember that my Dad had the first home computer of anyone I knew. He couldn’t just download a new program, he had to type in pages and pages of code from a magazine. One typo would cause the program to not run correctly. We spent hours trying to find that one little mistake. My Dad also ran a “bulletin board,” which was a precursor to websites. In order to access a computer bulletin board, a person put the handset of their phone into a “modem” and called our phone number. We had only one phone line so we could either have the bulletin board running OR make/receive personal calls–not both.

File:Magnavox-Color-Screen-Overlays.jpg
Magnavox TV Screen Overlays

I remember the first game system we had, which was called a Magnavox Odyssey. It was so simple that each game came with a plastic overlay to put on the TV screen. To play Pong we’d put a tennis court overlay on the TV, and we had a haunted house overlay which I think was used for Pac Man.

I remember how crazy people got about Cabbage Patch Dolls. JJ laughed at me a few years ago when I got up early to watch the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. I told him that I was watching it because “This is history.”

The Covid-19 virus is history in the making. It’s not just that “in 2020 the world experienced a pandemic.” It’s about the stories of people who are currently living through it. It is part of history that the quarantined Italians are singing from their balconies to lift their spirits and a wedding was celebrated from balconies in Israel. I’m very interested in hearing my friends’ stories of what they are experiencing in their part of the country or world because it’s part of history. My stories of how EJ and I are experiencing it and YOUR stories are also part of history. If you can, write your stories down because all of our stories will become part of the historical record of this event. Someday people may be as interested in reading our stories as they are in reading the stories of Laura Ingalls Wilder.

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