prairie days are here again

when i was in fourth grade, our class went on a field trip called prairie days. we visited an old one-room school house in the middle of nowhere, iowa and spent the whole day learning about life on the frontier (when iowa was “west” and not “middle” america). we were supposed to dress in period clothes, bring a lunch comprised of things children might have eaten in the “olden days” and played games at recess that were popular back then. my mother went all out and actually made me a pioneer dress, purple with little yellow flowers, rick-rack trim and a red felt heart on the bodice.

i loved that dress. i loved sitting at the old wooden desk and learning about kids that, although their circumstances were much different, turned out to be much like me. i thought that this was possibly the best day of my life. as the years have flown by, it still ranks in my top five.

i’m not sure if that’s where my love affair with history began. but after that day, we were definitely in a committed relationship. the origins of things fascinate me; the etymology of words, the first time someone used an item that is now common place, the forgotten lives of amazing people that accomplished extraordinary feats.

i wore that dress until it fell apart.

as part of my job, i get to run errands that no one else wants to. i don’t mind this so much, as it gets me out of the office and gives me a break from answering the damn phone.

yesterday i was to stop off at the wisconsin state historical society to pick up an archive file on my way to work. i only wish i could have spent more time. one of the things i love most is historic architecture, and this building was chock-full of cornices, archways, mosaic floors, crown molding, plaster ceilings and ornate balustrades. it gave me shivers hearing the click of my shoes traversing the floor, wondering how many others walked in this same spot, what their lives were, their hopes and doubts. it all sounds so horribly cliché, but that’s the kind of gal i am; a certified hallmark commercial weeper.

then last night i was watching pbs while doing laundry, and i happened upon a documentary about a.p. carter, who formed the musical act the carter family during depression-era america, and i was enthralled enough to let my laundry languish in the washer until the program was done (damn you and bless you, pbs, for not having commercials). i won’t go into detail (half the fun is finding this stuff out for yourself), but i was astounded that i never knew who these people were. the founders of country music, basically; maybelle carter was the mother of june carter who married johnny cash. keep on the sunny side and will the circle be unbroken were just two of the carter family’s many recordings.

now, call me a sucker for coincidence, but the night before i had been going through some old photos, finding some prairie days shots, and then the impromptu trip to the historical society followed by the story of an intriguing genius gone astray has me thinking about what’s come before.

no real point to this, just astounded by the many worlds left unvisited. in these days of internet and cable and pda’s and cell phones and whatnot, information is supposedly much easier to get at. but who actually takes the time to look for this stuff anymore (besides grad students writing their thesis)?  all our technology seems to push us forward, when it might behoove us to take a glance back every once in a while, to chart our course and remind ourselves where we’ve come from.

so, i guess a real point after all. take some time, soon, do it, find something out that you didn’t know before, use your brain and delve.

i had forgotten about that little red-headed girl in the purple dress, eyes alight with curiosity, looking forwards and back with equal amounts of awe. it was nice to meet her again.

that’s all. class dismissed.

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