Forgetting to Remember

A simple 3x4 table can hold a timeline you'll come back to

I once did a better job of measuring out my life, not in coffee spoons or marks on the cave walls. For several years, I made a point to give forgettable events their own few words of remembrance on a simple 3×4 calendar grid in my word processor.

I’d forgotten this until I was cleaning out the attic of my hard drive this week, viewing files as images. This green font was so familiar for the 3-4 years during which I was faithful to record the coming and going of family, the occasional meaningful essay or radio piece, the sorrows and joys and accomplishments on the small Goose Creek scale of things.

The last such “table of life” I found was from 2006. This week, I started a new one for this year, but can’t fill in many details of the first eight months, and know there are things I wish I had made note of. I’ll do better to mark my wanderings, to better know how I got to the present by following the bread crumbs from the past.

If you’re not doing something like this, think about it. It might someday be a precious archive of your life that will help your children’s children follow their own trail back the way they’ve come.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Interesting, although I’m not quite sure anyone would be interesting in following my trail, now or ever, but nonetheless a very inviting concept.

  2. I have a different set of records that tells quite a story too. I have a collection of check book registers, passbook savings, and loan payment books going back to 1975.

    I was thmbing through them today to view my history of Real Estate taxes since 1976. This was because of the ongoing fiasco in the Montgomery County. I’m more pissed off now than before I started crunching numbers

    There is plenty of other information in there too. Insurance payments, doctor and dentist payments, home improvement costs, money gifts to others, money gifts to me deposited, money taken out for trips or tools.

    It’s quite a way back machine. I tend to keep records of many things. Having been mainly self employed will do that to a person. I could also tell you how much tobacco and alcohol I’ve consumed since 1993 to present, how much for groceries, how many cups of blueberries I harvested, etc.

    Yes, I clearly have issues, but I know exactly what I’ve done.