I Think They’re Still There

I feel such an urge to go back to that beach I visited last month. I keep thinking that this time the women will be wearing long full skirts that sweep the boardwalk and hats that make the Duchess of Cambridge’s lids look like so many Girl Scout beanies.

I spoke yesterday about the doomed couple who were my grandparents: they courted on Revere Beach and also just up the way in Winthrop.

I have pictures of them in these places. And the descriptions of the outings in their diaries, And the excited letters that passed back and forth as they planned these outings and the outings sure took some planning: both of them hailed from western Massachusetts where they met, but then he, Michael, came to Boston to become a lawyer while she, Carrie, stayed behind to take a job teaching in one of those famous one-room school houses of the era. (You should see the pictures of that raggedy band of thin-faced children, the millworkers’ offspring, first generation Irish-Americans just as Carrie and Michael were first generation Irish-Americans.)

Sometimes I feel as if I could build the whole village of Hinsdale, where Carrie grew up; as if I could draw pictures of her living room and then furnish it.

I can do this and I know this because of the writing they did. They left a record. People just did that back then. What a loss if we moderns, we citizens of the last 30 years, turn out to leave nothing behind but a screen that glows for a while and then goes dark as all screens must.

In comparison paper is such a stable medium. Study these images of a day by the water’s edge 100 years ago. Dont’ you suppose the people pictured are still there… somewhere? I will go again soon and look some more.

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