Friday, December 11, 2009

What is History, Exactly?

Me in late 1966 or early 1967. I have just turned 12.

I put up a picture of me, myself and I because, well, I just got it in my email. My brother had it, and I never knew it existed. I have just one other picture of me from that era, the era of Expo67, the year my colonial grandmother came to visit. I wrote about that tumultuous time in a play You can see that I was tall, even then. Well, that fact figures big time in my story.

The play is called Looking for Mrs. Peel because the Avengers television show was big then, and my grandmother had been a spy in WWII. And the play is about youth vs. age. It was a youthful time, back then. For the first time in history? there were more people under 25 than over 25 in North America.

The 60's were a pivotal era as well, but not as extreme as the 1910 era or, well, right now.

Expo and 1967 is now history, itself, and yet, it doesn't feel like the past to me.

In 1967, Edith and Flo were still much alive, living in Westmount, or just retired back to Richmond.

They often visited my husband's home in Hudson, with Wesley, Flo's kind and good husband.

The 1910 era wasn't history to them either. They'd lived through it as well as two world wars!

I have letters from a soldier 'boyfriend' to Flo from the Belgian Front. He was Herb Tucker, a family friend. He lived, after escaping a bloody battle with only a broken finger, but his brother, Percy died just before armistice. I have all the information in the letters.

History was never a favorite topic of mine. It seemed to be all about treaties and war. (My husband, who is related to General Douglas MacArthur is the authority on war in my family.)

Then I realized EVERYTHING is history, including food, fashion, and how we live and work and feel.

When I first discovered the Tighsolas letters in 2005 and started reading them, I didn't think of them as history, per se. They were an interesting peek into people's personal lives, people I recognized, my husband's people.

I recognized these people even though I had never met them because they shared traits with people I did know, my husband's mom and sisters and brothers, their descendants.

On top of that, I identified with Margaret, Edith and Flo, myself, which probably accounts for why my husband married me.

As I wrote in an earlier blog, I read the letters with good handwriting first. Flo and Marion's. The letters I read were out of order, but I realized, upon finishing them all, that they told the story of Flora's year at Macdonald, at McGill Normal School.

Funny, I had no idea back then, what a normal school was... it's a teaching school. Or what model school was, (middle school). I knew very little period, about the era, except perhaps what had been happening in the artistic circles of England and France...and I had studied a bit about D.W. Griffith at university. Oh, and I'd seen tonnes of Edwardian Era movies and television series, like The Go-Between or Upstairs Downstairs and read many books from the era (it probably was my favorite era, come to think of it).

So, no surprise, after reading all these letters from the 1910 era, I sensed that something 'big' was going on in the background. And I was right! The modern world was being world, the world I grew up in and still live in, even if we've pretty well reached the end of this modern era, right now, today, in 2009.

That's why it is so fitting that I am writing Flo in the City, about a girl coming of age in the 1908-1913 era, based on the letters of because, coincidentally, 100 years later, the world is going through another great social shift.