Today is July 1st, the first day of the battles in Gettysburg over 150 years ago. I had the opportunity to be in Gettysburg and tour the battlegrounds 7 years ago today. I was pregnant with my first child, married for less than a year, and had brought with me my first ever knitting project on the trip. It was miserable and hot and humid. My knowledge of the battle was very little, but my understanding of the gravity of such a monumental record of history was great. I realize that there are a lot of monumental battles that occurred during the entirety of the Civil War. However, I was able to tour the grounds where so many died, and are commemorated on the day that the battle began and place myself in the conditions of heat and humidity minus the wool coats and carnage. I was able to buy historic bullets that I have so safely tucked away in a box of fragile and important things I still have not found them since moving. I usually have them on display right next to my side of the bed on the bookcase. That might seem odd, but my collection of them were carefully picked out because it shows how significant advances in weaponry made huges changes in who won wars throughout history. And I am a history geek. I have read Killer Angels by Michael Shaara, a book that scans the entirety of the battle and made me feel like I was right there alongside these men. I have a lot of thought and time invested in Gettysburg.
During our trip to Gettysburg, we went sightseeing to some of the most historic places from Pennsylvania to Virginia. Some of these places I have had the privilege to see twice, once as a 13 year old and then again as a 23 year old. While traveling I had the sense to write down what I saw and mail myself postcards back home. I came across these postcards just last month in a bag full of other keepsakes from this trip. I realized instantly upon finding and reading these postcards that they are indeed some of my most treasured family artifacts that I created for my family tree.
If you are going on a family vacation, I cannot stress to you how wonderful it will feel five years from now, that you sent yourself a record of what mattered most to you during that trip. You might be surprised that it wasn’t the trip at all. That it was a snapshot in how you felt in that moment of your life. That it is a time capsule that you created for yourself, in a world where we believe all these digital records will withstand the test of time, which they won’t.
Realize you don’t even need to be somewhere exciting to do this. You can be home. But having that stamped recognition of what you felt important to write down and say may become one of yours, or your children’s most prized possessions. Because when we are gone, have left this earth and have left our children behind, our physical possessions don’t matter. But records and letters and thoughts and feelings and memories, those matter. Those are the things we want to cling onto when our children grow, to reimagine them small, or when our loved ones are gone, when we want nothing more than to reimagine them sitting at the kitchen table talking to us about their day. To talk about something important or about nothing important at all, but about anything. These are the things that we need, these are the things that our children need. They need these physical things to remember and see that they mattered so much that we wrote them down to become memory and we loved them. This is what matters most for ourselves, to write to yourself and to remind yourself what matters, to remind yourself that your thoughts and dreams matter. To not lose sight of what you love most or aspire for most.
This Summer I encourage you to do something a little different. Send yourself a postcard, or maybe even a letter. Don’t stress about keeping a journal. Give yourself a few sentences to have remembered for when you or a loved one might need it in the future.