Authenticity

I think I am correct in believing that we all have some degree of fascination with time travel. Because of its impossibility the phenomenon provides fertile ground for the imagination. Photographers, in particular, have had great fun with the idea. If you can see beyond the countless then-and-now comparisons of mostly movie icons, a simple web search can reveal a number of fascinating approaches to depicting the changes wrought by time and circumstance. I was at my mother’s, over the weekend, and had a welcome opportunity to drive along the south shore of Massachusetts to visit our long-ago summer home. In anticipation of this my sister scoured her archive of family photos and found a print of the place that had been taken sometime in the early 70s. The current owners of the Beach House are the daughter and son-in-law of the folks who purchased the place from my parents. They happened to be home when we pulled up and were pleased to see the old photo and invited me to look around. Except for a dormer to the south and some replacement windows, the place was the same in both footprint and outline. The flood of memory which ensued was remarkable. Swims at the beach – at a time when parents could allow their kids to roam out of sight. The ice cream truck – and the Pavlovian response we all had to its chimes. Fishing, cleaning fish, and fish fries – when we ate fried foods with abandon and without guilt. The penny candy store – where individual bits of candy really did cost a penny. Trips to the public library on rainy days. Miss Millin who lived in the dilapidated hotel across the street – the local kids thought the place was haunted and that Miss Millin was pretty scary herself. Sparklers on the 4th of July. Poison ivy and butterflies. Memories can be pleasant things though we often fail to pay them their due attention. In one of his many enlightening and highly entertaining essays Stephen Jay Gould once pondered the value of authenticity of place. His point was that objects, when divorced of context are … simply … objects. He wrote, London Bridge dismantled and reassembled in America becomes a mere curiosity. I agree and would add that seeing, smelling, and feeling a place affects memory such that recollections may be more easily dredged from the deep recesses within which they may be stored. However bittersweet recollection may be if, by happenstance, you should have the opportunity to experience authenticity of place do not pass it by.

8 thoughts on “Authenticity

  1. Neil Armstrong walked on the moon on July 20, my birthday. Love the blog. From your newest blog member.

    • Thanks for the comment and for becoming my newest blog follower. Now … on to business. Sorry to burst your bubble after all of these years. The Apollo 11 landing module (LEM) touched down on to the surface of the Moon at 20:17:39 UTC (Universal Coordinated Time) on July 20, 1969. Neil Armstrong stepped onto the surface of the Moon a few hours later at 2:56 UTC July 21, 1969.

  2. Lovely post … though having never left my hometown, I feel I wallow in ‘authenticity of place’. I wonder how it will feel to be disconnected in a new place, for the length of time it takes to put down a few roots 🙂 Hugs to you all and can’t wait for Thanksgiving …

  3. Also, memories are so interesting and mysterious. I have read that the more times you “access” a particular memory, the more altered it becomes. I like to imagine that there are some memories that I purposefully do not access in order to preserve them in their perfection.

    • I do not doubt that we edit memory … as a matter-of-fact, I’m sure that we do. Isn’t the mind an interesting thing? Thanks for taking the time to reflect. By the way … cool video of Ms. Inclusive Fitness … Joanna smiled broadly. D

  4. Lovely reflections and photo. Also, I know this is under the wrong post, but I saw a short segment on CNN about the pink pumpkins the other day. I heard it here first!

  5. You have put into words, and photos, my exact memories of Hull. I too remember the rainy day trips to the library. I had my own library card and knew just where to find my Little House on the Prairie books. Also have vivid memories of Dad cleaning the buckets of flounder in the driveway, rinsing the guts down the sewer with the garden hose! Remember how hot it was upstairs at night? And all the hours spent riding our bikes? It was an idyllic time and your post brought it all back. Thanks! 🙂

    • I’m glad the post had its intended effect. It was interesting that Terry also had a significant store of recollection. From the depth of his remembrances I would guess that the place played an important role in his early life as well. Another of the memories that I did not include in the post was that of watching Neil Armstrong take that first step onto the moon on July 21, 1969. D

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