Letters and diaries enrich our history. In particular, the private musings of public figures have sometimes revealed keen insights into events and personalities. But even the hurried scribblings of inconsequential individuals -- (like thee or me) who lived through major historical events -- can be helpful to historians in understanding how common people felt and thought and dealt with their times.
Of course, nowadays, letters are pretty much obsolete. If anyone still keeps a blotter copy of their handwritten letters sent by post or messenger, please leave a comment; proof of the existence of such a person today might be akin to discovering a Tasmanian Tiger or passenger pigeon in the wild.
I don't know whether people keep diaries anymore. This blog is as close as I come now. But I did keep a diary once, for awhile, starting in 1990 and lasting, intermittently, for about four years.
This morning it occurred to me to look at what the Curmudgeon-in-formation had to say 22 years ago.
Most of it was raving about my job. I've said here before that Dilbert's pointy-haired boss and one of my old bosses had a lot in common. But that's entirely unfair to Dilbert's pointy-haired boss.
But I also found a story, this morning, about a school Christmas activity, back when Older Daughter was only 6. I've pulled that story from my old diary this morning, changing and deleting names and specific identifications as necessary, but otherwise editing as little as possible. The diary entry doesn't mention Christmas at all -- but, given the time of year, there was surely a Christmas tie-in.
Step with me now, into the Wayback Machine, and set the controls for December 1990....
Thursday morning started badly. I was supposed to walk Older Daughter to church. She had volunteered to sing for the first grade Mass that morning and was required, by official note home from school, to be in the church by no later than 8:05 a.m. or be barred from participation.
I had a 9:00 a.m. deposition downtown and I was therefore blessed with a little extra time that morning -- time enough to take Older Daughter to school, certainly. I could walk her to the church, nod courteously to all the other good fathers and mothers dropping off their respective offspring for choir duty, and continue on the two further blocks to the train station, good father merit badge for the day well earned.
I was ready in plenty of time. Older Daughter was not.
In fact, it was already 8:00 and Long Suffering Spouse and I were screaming our respective lungs out at her: Finish getting dressed, eat something, go to the bathroom (she honestly has to be reminded about this, as her bladder does not apparently wake up for at least an hour after the rest of her). Finally, we had gotten to the stage where we could yell at her about putting on her coat.
It was too late to walk. Not if we were bound by this seemingly inflexible 8:05 deadline.
So we drove.
Now there's no place, on a school morning, to park by the church. The parking lot doubles as the school playground. If there are places you can park, I don't know about them. So I thought I would drive Older Daughter to the church, drop her off, and continue back home. I still had plenty of time to do that and walk to the train.
But I neglected to consult my child about my plans. And I didn't calculate the angle of the Sun.
As soon as I turned the corner onto the street heading toward church, I knew I was in serious trouble. The Sun was just high enough in the sky, and my windshield just dirty enough, to make seeing anything like cars or people, especially short people, such as children, virtually impossible. I was close to panic.
Somehow, though, I got Older Daughter to the church entrance without injuring anyone. The dashboard clock still read 8:04. I opened the door and wished her a good day and then she began to cry. "I can't go in by myself," she said. So around the block we went, parking this time on a sidestreet (only slightly illegally) and marching the roughly two blocks from there, behind the school to the church. We were considerably later than 8:05.
Amazingly, though, there were only two other people in the church who appeared part of Older Daughter's class. There was one other little girl and her mother. Even the music teacher was not there. Thus, I suppose, it was just as well that I went in with her. I know if I had been Older Daughter, in that situation, dropped off and walking in alone, only to find myself virtually alone, or maybe completely alone (the other girl's mom did say they'd only been waiting a few minutes) I might have panicked.
Anyway, the music teacher breezed in a few minutes later and I was finally able to leave. I got home by 8:20. Long Suffering Spouse was at the door, also close to panic. (Panic plays a major role in our lives, apparently.) She thought the car had broken down again.
But I was only ten minutes late for the deposition.