A lot is being said and written this week in the U.S. media about the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. While there are some reviews of factual accounts, many of the pieces have to do with memories of how this event disrupted people’s lives. Anyone old enough to actually remember November 22, 1963, is probably looking back and saying, “I was doing (this) when I heard the news about the president being shot.”
I find those accounts fascinating, partly because of the interplay between the truly historic and the mundane. The accounts always set a context of everyday life, which was then interrupted by a single statement. To be perfectly honest, I’m more interested in the context than in the historical event, because it gives a picture of a moment in time – life as people were living it in November, 1963. The accounts tell us what people were doing – sitting in a high school class, taking children to the park, working – the things that make up the fabric of life, yet are often invisible in the flow of history.
About a year ago, I read A Midwife’s Tale by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, and it really brought home to me how valuable a resource this midwife’s diary is. Through her daily entries about the weather and her work, we get a sense not only of her individual life, but also of the lives of most people in that time and place. Since reading that book, I’ve thought about how little we really know about the day-to-day lives of the people who came before us, because so few of them recorded it.
I’m hoping that EMZ-Piney Publishing will help fill that void, even if only in a very small way. I’d like to use EMZ-Piney as a resource to capture personal and family histories before they disappear into the oblivion of the past. How that will happen, I’m not entirely sure at this point. But I know I need to start. Maybe memories of November 22, 1963, is a good opening.