Friday, August 31, 2012

A breath of the past

Recently I was going through a box of old items I had left behind in my parents’ basement when I moved away, and discovered something very interesting.

A mason jar, with paper pasted around it so that the inside was hidden, and emblazed with the words, “Do not open until 2010”.  It was a time capsule I had put together when I was about fourteen, with little ‘treasures’ and a letter to myself at the far off age of twenty-four.  Apparently, I was a weak-willed teenager, since there were also another couple letters stuck inside from my sixteen and eighteen year-old selves as well.  But in the intervening time since then, the time capsule had completely slipped my mind, and now, at the ripe old age of twenty-six, it seemed fair to open the thing for good and see what sort of creature I was in days of yore.

The original letter was rolled up, fastened with a Victorian sticker, and held inside a glass cigar tube (the closest thing to a glass vial I could find at the time… such a thing seemed romantic and necessary).  The whole thing was written on screamingly pink Lisa Frank stationary and has bits of glitter still sticking to it.

“Dear older me,
Here I am, not quite fourteen, and you?  You the twenty-three year old me, what are you like?  Do you have a good job or a good husband?  Oh, I hope it’s the latter.  I wrote to Sarah today (childhood BFF who moved across the country).  I hope you are still friends with her (does facebook count? No?).  I love going to band, let’s hope you enjoy the clarinet still.  Have you mastered all the woodwinds yet, not forgetting the French horn? (hahaha!  No.  Haven't touched a clarinet since I started college.  It's all about the piano and guitar now.)  You must still like sewing, I (you) must be really good at it now!  J and R (my brother and sister) just had a crash on their bikes.  J wasn’t looking where he was going.  I hope he has gained some sense by this time.  I’m not sure how to write to me.  I need to do more sewing for Samantha.  I have a lovely outfit all planned out to make for her, it is a caterpillar dress.  Did I ever make it?  I wish I could see what you, the older myself, is like.  Misty (my cat) had better be alive still.  I love him so.  Well, I must say goodbye.  This touch of former you.
With airy kisses,
Your old self”

At least I got one thing right… I am really good at sewing now!  At the time I never would have guessed that it would become my profession.

It’s also clear from the ‘good job or good husband’ sentence that my worldview was heavily skewed by the Victorian novels which were (perforce) my main source of entertainment.  I had no idea how the 21st century actually functioned and that it was not only possible, but socially permissible, to have both.  It was ingrained into me that adult life without a husband was a bleak and desolate existence, and that once married it wouldn’t be practical or desirable to be out in the work place.

However, having parents who idolized the Puritans and the 17th century made the Victorian era look positively liberal in comparison.  To my thirteen-year-old self, the suffrage movement was pretty radical, and the late 19th century mentality was a huge step forward from the Puritans.  Anne Shirley and Jo March were my ultimate heroes, and actually shaped my personality far more than all the Bible reading which was daily drilling into us all.

As one can see, in spite of the high level of biblical indoctrination I received since infancy, the letter is completely devoid of any mention of ‘the Lord’ or ‘God’s will’ or any of the evangelical catch phrases I was constantly surrounded by.  What a rebellious teenager…

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