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Friday, January 3, 2020

SAECULUM--HOW LONG WILL WE BE REMEMBERED?--by Cheryl Pierson

I learned a new word the other day, thanks to a dear friend of mine, Sharon Cunningham. She posted on Facebook about the word, “saeculum”—which was one that I’d never heard of. I didn’t even know there was an actual word for this “event” or “circumstance.”

Saeculum means the period of time from when an event occurred until all people who had an actual memory of the event have died. The example she used was World War I. The saeculum for that war is over.

It can also be applied to people. (Something else I never thought about.) A person’s saeculum doesn’t end until all people who have a clear memory of knowing that person are gone. So even though a person has died, their saeculum will live for another two or three generations!

Isn’t this amazing? And comforting, somehow. Yes, eventually our saeculum will be over, but what amazes me, and comforts me at the same time, is knowing there is a word—an actual TERM—for the idea of this memory of an event or person.

When you think about it, knowing that someone has created a word to define this period of time is important, because it defines it and gives it meaning—not just some nebulous “I remember Mama” type idea that is passed down. It means, I DO REMEMBER MAMA. I remember how Mama used to sing, I remember how Mama used to cook, how her palm felt on my forehead in the night when she came to check on me. I remember “that” look when she was upset with me, and I remember how she cried when she learned her dad, my grandfather, had died.
Valentine's Day 1965, Mom, my sister Karen, me, and my oldest sister, Annette
Nov. 1960--my sisters, Karen and Annette cutting up in the living room
Sept. 1966--my mom and dad together
 Dec. 1965--my mom wearing the hula skirt my sister Annette brought me from Hawaii for Christmas
April 1960--my grandmother (mom's mother), a not-quite-3-year-old me, and my sister Annette
January 1960--Mom's 38th birthday




I remember Mama the way I knew her. And when we talk to other members of the family who knew and remembered her, we learn many other facets about her personality and things about her as a person we would never have known otherwise. It’s this way with every person we know!
  
But let’s take it one step further: I remember family. My own, of course—two sisters, Mama and Daddy. But what about extended family? Sometimes we tend to just “move on” in our lives and not dwell on memories of long ago because somehow, they don’t seem important to us. But now that there is a word that defines us in relationship to those memories, doesn’t it seem a little more important that we remember those long-ago times? Soon, there will be no one to remember, and the saeculum for our entire family will be gone.

A group of my cousins at a family reunion

Oddly enough, I remember what I thought AS A CHILD at family get-togethers—the excitement of seeing my cousins, of taking a trip to visit everyone, of staying up late and having a bit more freedom since I had grandparents at both ends of the small town where both sides of my family had many members living—and I felt special because of that. I was the ONLY ONE of my cousins who had THAT! So we always had somewhere to walk to when they were with me—to one grandparents’ house or the other.

As an adult, I think back on those simpler times and wonder what else was going on in the “adult world”—sisters, brothers, in-laws all gathering with their children and meal preparation for so many people—my mother was the oldest of eleven children!

My mother, El Wanda Stallings Moss, and my aunt (my dad's sister) JoAnne Moss Jackson

Two unforgettable women!

Everyone tried to come home to Bryan County during Christmas and/or Thanksgiving. Such an exciting time, but for the adults…tiring and maybe stressful? If so, I don’t remember ever seeing that side of anyone.   



My mom and dad as newlyweds in 1944--El Wanda Stallings Moss and Frederic Marion Moss--around 22 years old

So, maybe that’s why I think writing is so important. My mom always said she wanted to write down her life story, but “life” kept getting in the way and it never happened. When she ended up with Alzheimer’s, the time for writing down anything was over. Though the written word doesn’t add to a person’s saeculum, it does at least two things for those left behind: It helps preserve the stories and memories the deceased person has talked about before they passed, and it gives future generations a glimpse into their ancestors’ lives, thoughts, beliefs, and dreams.

This is my great-grandmother, "Mammy" (Emma Christi Anna Ligon Stallings)--my mother's dad's mother. I never knew her, but I felt like I did from the stories Mom told me about her. She was born not long after the Civil War ended, and regaled my mother with stories of her growing up years. I wish I had listened better when Mom tried to tell me about her!

We die, and eventually are forgotten by the world. Events happen that were, at the time,  life-changing, world- altering, such as wars, rampant disease, and tragedies of other kinds. These, though horrific at the time, will eventually be relegated to the tomes of the historical past…and forgotten…by many. There is nothing to stop it. All saeculums will be over for individual people and for events. And they will all become history.

What we can leave behind for others is our pictures, the written word of who we are and what we believe, and if we have a particular talent or craft, pieces of that—carvings, quilts, beautiful artwork or writings, creations of so many kinds.
A painting my mom did many years ago of an old barn in a snowstorm. Sorry it's so small! Couldn't make it bigger without making it blurry.

Our saeculum is fragile, and fleeting. So for 2020, my one and only resolution is to try to keep some kind of journal for my children, or for anyone who might be interested in the future. I want to write about my childhood, just the regular every-day things we did, the heat of the Oklahoma summer nights, the fireflies that lit up those nights until we knew we had to go home or get in trouble! The way the house creaked, and how the attic fan sounded like a freight train as it brought in that blessed cooler air during those same hot summer nights. So many memories of “nothing special”—just the business of living.  I want to write about the way life was then—because it will never be that way again, for better or worse.
My best friend, Jane Carroll, and me, on a fall day in the sandbox. I was about 8, and Jane was a year older. We moved in just down the street from one another during the same week of 1963! Jane is gone now, but I still love her and miss her.

Will anyone give a hoot? Maybe not. But I will know I’ve done what I could do if anyone DOES care. I’m not sure Laura Ingalls Wilder thought anyone would care about her stories—but look at what a glimpse into the past they have provided for so many generations! I’m no Laura Ingalls Wilder. My journals won’t begin to make the impression on the world that hers did. But you never know who might read them and think, “I wish I had known her!” (Even after my saeculum is over!)

Me, at age three.

Do you have anything you would like to leave to future generations to remember you by? This fascinates me!





22 comments:

  1. Thanks so much for sharing this and that amazing word, "saeculum"!
    I agree about family stories and memories being important. I love keeping them.
    2 about my dad, Gordon. He was an electrical engineer and a laconic man. My mum was the story-teller but every now and then dad would come up with a zinger.
    One was when mum was lamenting about her hands. Her hands had been very elegant but as a result of typoing on an old imperal typewriter and rheumatism, her fingers becmae crooked. Dad listened when she said about having "ugly hands" and said "caring hands, hands to hold a baby".
    Those are the kinds of family stories I wish to keep in my saeculum.
    Happy 2020

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    1. That is SO BEAUTIFUL. I'm so glad you told that story about your dad and mom. I think we all, as we get older, think about "the old days" and how much better we looked or how we were more competent at some things, etc. I believe that is one of the most loving things your dad could have ever said to your mom and I'm sure it meant the world to her--and of course, it was also something you never forgot, either. I think we all need to write these things down--I'm not going to be like my mom and wait until it's too late. This weekend, I'm going to start! Thanks for stopping by, Lindsay!

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  2. Who says your stories won't be a popular as Laura's, they just might be. What I find interesting is I had a similar conversation last night with another writer before the Improv session started. We spoke about how our stories are important not only to ourselves but those who may read them. She keeps a journal. I don't, at least not as dedicatedly as she. But we both agreed it was important to put our memories and thoughts down. The memoir I've been talking about probably will get started soon, in between the other writing.

    I applaud you and wish you wonderful memories as you tell the story. Doris

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    1. Doris, I think that's why it's also important to talk with other people who remember the same people/times/events that we do so that they can "jog" our memories about things. Sometimes when I talk to my sister or one of my aunts they'll say, "Do you remember that time..." and it might be something I've completely forgotten about, but THEN I remember, and I might think of something else that they'd forgotten. It's important. And how nice of you to say my stories might be as popular as Laura's--but I don't think that's likely! LOL Oh, here's something that is interesting that Laura would probably get a kick out of. When I was little, my mom told me on more than one occasion, "You need to slow down with your eating, Cheryl. You're eating like a thresher hand." I never asked what that was for a long time. One day, when I DID ask, Mom explained about how the threshers traveled around and worked and part of their pay was to get three good meals that day. She remembered having to help fix those meals as a little girl, and carry water and tea out to the fields for them in Mason jars, and so on. So, fast forward to the Laura Ingalls Wilder book where she mentions the threshers. I WAS THRILLED! I had an inkling of what she was talking about since Mom had explained it all to me. Just goes to show how important all these things are the tie together like that!

      We both need to get busy on our journaling/memoirs!

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  3. I have many beloved snippets of memory that pop up in my mind and I should write them down because when I'm gone, so are those memories of my parents and grandparents. My husband, too, says he should write things down. As we get older, the past becomes more important than any possession. I regret that I never sat down with my mom and grandmother more to talk of the past. Perhaps because of the war, the memories brought pain,to be avoided. My mom's cousin researched the family history, went back to the old country and researched church records. I'm not sure if he wrote it in German or Hungarian, and he's been gone now over two years. Therefore I must start a document about things I remember, try to record them chronologically as much as possible, and keep adding on as a memory occurs to me. I see now that my sons are showing an interest of our history. No more procrastinating on my part....so, thank you, Cheryl, for writing this article about a term I'd never heard before. I love your pictures and stories.

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    1. Elizabeth, my mom loved to talk about the past. She was the oldest of 11 kids in the Oklahoma Dustbowl. Times were HARD. But she spoke of how much they all looked out for each other, and loved each other, and how her parents always made sure the girls got a doll for Christmas (a tradition she carried on with her three daughters). She told us so many stories, but young people are so caught up in their own lives they don't think of what their elders are trying to teach them or share with them! That's the shame of it all--youth really IS wasted on the young! LOL I have an aunt, one of my mom's younger sisters, who has done a lot of genealogy research and has been so good to share with me. I'm going to join Ancestry . com as a Christmas gift to myself and not procrastinate any longer about it. I am also going to write down the things Mama told me as best I can remember them, and ask my aunt to help out, as best SHE can remember. She was much younger, and has even another perspective on some things--so that's really nice, too. So glad you stopped by Elizabeth!

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  4. Cheryl, thank you for this beautiful post, and for spreading the cocept of saeculum far and wide.

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    1. I owe it all to you, my dear friend. If you hadn't posted about it, I would never have known. Thanks so much. I'm still thinking about this concept. It might not seem like a big deal to some people, but to me it's fascinating and HUGE. Love you!

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  5. I took my vow seriously not to procrastinate and set up a new document and have typed section headers and have filled two pages. I love how one can paste in something to keep it in a category, etc. This will really work and no hunting for a notebook plus I can read type faster and don't have to retype it. Computer makes this so much easier to insert something, unlike a journal which can become a mess with all the insertions. But I have to stop to make supper and I've been reminding myself I have a blog to write for Monday and not leave it to the last minute.

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    1. That's great, Elizabeth! I'm so glad you are getting right on it. I have to do mine in a notebook, the old fashioned way--I just think better with pen and paper in hand. LOL BEST OF LUCK!

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  6. A wonderful post, Cheryl. I never thought of remembrances that way.

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    1. Kristy, I have not been able to stop thinking about this since Sharon talked about this on her post. Another thing that came to me was the fact that I DO remember my great grandmother (my mom's mother's mother) who was also born not long after the Civil War ended. Isn't it amazing to think that, as a child, I was held by the hands that had seen so much of life by then? Her parents could have told stories of living through the Civil War. Odd to think that was only a few generations ago--so few that I "almost" had a link with it.

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  7. I came to the computer this morning to write a talk about loneliness and connection. Your ideas are perfect. One thing comes to mind, a 2-page memory of my mother's life I read at her funeral, "For the Grandchildren." I introduced my mom as a young women they never knew to her grandkids and great grandkids. I learned that it's never too late to connect the generations. Great job on this.

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    1. Anne, I never knew my mother as a young woman, either. She was much older (for those times!) when she had me at 35. My sisters were 10 and 12 when I came along--so I was quite the surprise baby. LOL By the time I really could look back and remember her, most of my memories were probably from the age of 6 or 7 on up. So she was in her 40's by then. I enjoy looking back on pictures of her when she was younger and imagining the hopes and dreams she must have had. She was born in 1922 in a very small southeastern Oklahoma town--so poor, in the Dustbowl days, and then of course, The Great Depression, but she always kept a positive outlook on life! I'm glad this post was of some inspiration to you for what you needed to write. Isn't it great when we come across an idea that keeps us thinking? This one sure has done that for me.

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  8. Cheryl,

    What a wonderful word, saeculum. It reminds me of the Dia de Muertos celebration/tradition of keeping the ofrenda -- the collection of objects on an altar-type location that are a reminder of what a deceased relative held dear or liked in life.

    I'm fortunate with having an audio recording of my dad (died in 2013) telling stories of his childhood during the get-together after an uncle's funeral. Not only do I have his voice as a remembrance of him, I have some of his stories.

    I've jotted disjointed notes here and there about family stories as my mom tells them now, and I have notes of family stories I've heard over the years.

    I don't keep a journal. I have, however, kept a daily weather journal since 2004-ish. On each day, I record the high and low and the general weather condition (rain, snow, cloudy, sunny, etc), and I make a note of any pertinent happenings that day. (someone broke a leg or got married or died or visited, etc).

    Have you seen the animated movie "Coco"? It's a good story that reminds us how important it is to pass on our family stories so our history isn't forgotten.

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    1. Kay, somewhere I have a recording of my dad and granddad talking. I don't know where it is, but when spring cleaning comes around I intend to find it and go have it digitized. I know it will bring tears, but a mixture of sadness and joy and wonder. My kids never knew my granddad. So that will be a precious gift to all of us! I have done the same with jotted notes. Now to find them all and put them together in a coherent way--is there enough time left in my life to do it? LOL I think that's cool about your weather journal! I have to force myself to get into the habit of doing that every day--I used to keep a diary when I was a young girl and on into my teens.

      No, I have not seen Coco, but will try to find it. I love stuff like that! Thanks for stopping by--I know you're busy!

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  9. Cheryl,

    I have to add that your picture of your cousins gave me a chuckle, because the house I grew up in had the same wall paneling. No living room was fashionable, apparently, if it didn't have that faux wood paneling. lol

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    1. YES! LOL I remember Mom talking about a house they'd looked at to buy and though Dad really liked it she couldn't get past "that old paneling..." LOL

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  10. Every year for Christmas Pop gave my sister and me a diary. At first, I just wrote what all kids write-the boy I was interested in or how much my parents annoyed me. As time went by I started to draw pictures of what I felt. I got elaborate with some of them using colored pencils, stamps, and using the outline of cookie cutters to create the images.

    I buy big artists notebooks with metal spiral spines so I could paste things like concert tickets, special cards, and such into the notebook. I try to include general information about the world or events in my journals. When those I love who keep me in their hearts and memories have crossed over, I hope my journals will bring to life for descendants who never knew me something of myself and the times in which I live for them.

    My grandfather's trunk contains objects, letters, and pictures which have been passed down through the generations, but he never wrote the stories that go with any of those things. We need those stories because they connect us with those before us and help us know who we are.

    I love the new word you learned,"saeculum" and what it means. It's a kind of immortality. Thank you so much for sharing your family stories with us.
    All the best to you in the New Year, Cheryl.

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    1. Sarah, that is a great idea--kind of like I used to do with my scrapbooking picture albums when those were all the rage. I miss doing that--it was the only "artistic" thing I did. I just need about 50 hours in every day. I have some things that were my mom's, and her parents', etc. Many of those things, I have no clue as to what the meaning is. BUT, Mama was really good about writing on the backs of pictures and including notes with things so we'd know who actually did that piece of knitting, or who painted that certain picture, etc. Still, through the years, some of that has been lost. That's something else I would love to do. Sit down with all the objects and make a list and describe them and write what we do know about them.

      Isn't "saeculum" a wonderful, unique way to think of things? I love it!

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  11. I love this post. I'd never heard this word before, and it's a great one. What a concept. I do remember as a young child I loved old folks. I think many children do. One man was in his 80s (but seemed so much more ancient to me). He was born in the 1880s, and he told me about his great-aunt talking about the time she danced with Napoleon Bonaparte. She had said he was a "repulsive man who danced on his stomach" (whatever that means? He must have had a belly on him). I still find it remarkable that I am here in the 21st century and have looked into the eyes of someone who met people right back to the beginning of the 19th century, and probably some born in the 18th. The past isn't so distant when you think of it that way.

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    1. Isn't that the truth, Christine? It gives me chills when I think of how truly NEAR it really is. We write about it as if it's "ancient" but when we can think of the people we've come into contact with that lived "back then" or were one generation away from it, it's truly amazing. I'm so glad you came by. I am blown away to think about you being in contact with someone who had a relative that danced with Napoleon. That is just so amazing, isn't it, when you ponder it.

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