About me · Reflection

The photo album

For years now, I’ve wondered what happened to a particular little blue photo album that I once had.  It was filled with pictures that I took from sixth grade through ninth grade, which (in my memory) were my happiest years of school.  Pictures of school trips to Camp Livingston and to Chicago.  Pictures of my friends as we goofed off around school.  Pictures from our last family trip (ever) to St. Louis and Hannibal, Missouri.  That photo album was filled with such wonderful memories but I figured it was lost in the piles and stacks and stuffed closets of my parents’ messy house.

So imagine my surprise today when my mom hands me a box of stuff she found in my old bedroom closet that included that photo album.  As I opened it up and flipped through the pictures, I wasn’t filled with the warm recollection of childhood like I had anticipated after years of wishing that I could find that album.  Instead, I was hit with unexpected pain as memories came rushing back.  I saw picture after picture of the boy who led me on in high school but would never date me because I wasn’t good enough.  There were so many pictures of the girls who were my best friends through age 16 but then started to pull away because I was too odd, my interests didn’t mesh with theirs, and I didn’t have the money like they did to go to the mall and to the movies every weekend.  I saw pictures of a girl who started horrible rumors about me and made my high school life hell for a while.  I saw friends who walked away, the boy who always said no, and people who aren’t part of my life anymore and haven’t been for a very long time.

I’m envious of people who are still friends with the people they grew up with.  Part of this is my fault, I know.  I didn’t reach out and try to maintain those friendships after we graduated.  But by senior year, I felt so isolated, so different, that I didn’t think any of them would miss me.  None of them did.  Now I’m stuck with this photo album that I so desperately wanted to find, never thinking about what emotions it would evoke in me once it was in my hands again.

I know that those events were years ago and that I should just let all of it go.  My brain knows this.  The thing is, those were my formative years – the years that helped shaped me into who I am today.  And they aren’t good memories.  I know why I have no self-esteem, why I always expect to never matter as much to my friends as they do to me, and why there isn’t enough money in the world to bribe me to move back to my hometown.

I don’t know what to do with this album now.  I can’t throw it away, regardless of the way it makes me feel.  Perhaps I’ll just bury it in the back of my own closet for 20 years and then maybe, once 40 years have passed since those pictures were taken, I’ll finally be able to tune into the happy emotions I once associated with that time of my life.

1940s stuff · About me · History

It’s no wonder that I have so few friends.

Co-worker, who approaches me as I stand at the copier with earbuds in my ears and my iPod in my hand:  What song are you listening to?

Me, as I take out an earbud:  Huh?

Co-worker: What song are you listening to?

Me: Oh! It’s not music.  It’s CBS’ complete broadcast day from D-Day, June 6, 1944!  The Germans were releasing information about the invasion but it wasn’t confirmed for a few hours. Right now, General Eisenhower is speaking to the people of occupied Europe.

Co-worker: Oh…well… hope that works out okay.

Me: It does!

Co-worker: ……

1940s stuff · History · Reflection · Writing

The history that surrounds you

The thing I love about history is that it’s everywhere.  Growing up, I was convinced that I lived in the single most boring spot in America: southern Indiana.  My parents were quick to correct me of this gross inaccuracy and then proceeded to haul me all over the state over the next few years, pointing out that I was, in fact, from a very interesting area.  There was the house just down the road, built of Indiana limestone and with nicks in the rocks from an American Indian raid in the early 1800s.  As a child in Madison, I was regaled with stories of Civil War hospitals, escaped slaves, and clandestine stops on the Underground Railroad.  I saw the site of the Battle of Corydon,where General Morgan attacked during Morgan’s Raid in 1863.  I’ve stood at the first state capital building in Corydon, before Indianapolis snatched up the title in 1825. We visited (and eventually became volunteers) at the site where Abraham Lincoln and his family lived from 1816 to 1830 in what is now Lincoln City, Indiana.  I’ve stood at the grave of his mother in Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial and at his sister’s grave just across the road in Lincoln State Park.

As I grew older, I became fascinated with World War II history and as it turns out, there was plenty of that around, too.  The most visible site was the old Indiana Army Ammunition Plant, which stretched for miles along Highway 62 between Charlestown and Jeffersonville.  The place looked abandoned, forgotten, like everybody just packed up one day and never came back. The old buildings, with their cracked windows and crumbling glass, used to send chills down my spine.   Even still, I was wide-eyed at the history of the place.  Opened in 1940, it was a major producer of munitions during World War II and employed over 27k people.

Once I became a college student majoring in history, I learned even more.  The great Falls of the Ohio (in Clarksville) was a captivating place because it was where Lewis and Clark, with their Corps of Discovery, set off to explore the west in 1803.  Then there were places such as Rose Island, which was on a piece of land where Fourteen Mile Creek empties into the Ohio River.  An amusement park reminiscent of Coney Island, it was a great attraction for residents on both sides of the Ohio River in the 1920s and 1930s.  Steamboats from Louisville and Madison would drop patrons off daily for a ride on the Ferris wheel, a trip around the wooden coaster, a swim in the pool, or a spin around the roller rink.  The Great Flood of 1937 destroyed this park and it was never rebuilt.

Now that I’m writing a war-era novel and I’ve decided to set it in my old stomping grounds, I’m indebted to my parents and professors for making the rolling hills of southern Indiana come alive with history.  What seems like nothing more than abandoned buildings, decrepit homes, and forgotten railroad tracks are, in fact, fascinating places.  There’s a story to be told behind every door and I hope, through my novel, to bring some of those stories to life again.