Thursday, January 19, 2012

Beginning at the Beginning

At the beginning...

Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream? Edgar Allen Poe

I have recently signed on at the local Senior Center to work with middle grade students on a history project - my history!

Sponsored by a health initiative and overseen by a youth program coordinator and a teacher from the local middle school, the project pairs a willing senior citizen with an inquisitive student. Together we will talk about the past, sort through hundreds of old photos and artifacts, ask and answer a myriad of questions and finally produce a written and pictorial scrapbook of the senior's life. All this in 9 weeks!

Last week we had an informational meeting and met the students through a lively interview process much like speed-dating. The students spent five or six minutes hopping from table to table, interviewing each participating senior. Finally they met in a huddle and then fanned out, grinning, each one choosing an adult they felt they'd enjoy working with. My young person is a very friendly, very lively 13 year old girl with long dark hair and a smile that flashes like sunshine on water.

We agreed that the best place to start was with the timeline that begins with my birth date and ends with the present day. I've done my part this week by sorting through the dozens of photo albums and endless photo storage boxes for pictures that represent the highlights of my life - babyhood, childhood playmates, first day of school, high school graduation, college days, marriage, children, etc. I will have to repeat the college days three times as I dutifully went off for a year immediately after high school, interrupted my studies to marry and raise a family, build a log cabin and homestead in northern Vermont, travel to Europe, and move house five times. I finally returned to school for a bachelor's degree in creative arts and then a masters degree in writing when in my fifties.

When I told my children about this project one of my daughter's queried, "Are you old enough to do that?"

That made me chuckle. The ad recruiting seniors specified 60+. That's me all right, though some days I feel more + than not. At any rate, I think it will be fun to look over my life in the company of a teenager. She is already aghast that I didn't have a TV in my house until I was older than she is now, that I spent most of my time alone and out of doors in the neighboring woods and fields ("With wild animals and bugs and everything?") and wouldn't care if I never went shopping again ("I've never met anyone who didn't like shopping!").

Tomorrow we will go through my first batch of photos. I will talk, she will take notes, and we'll walk the nostalgia path together, me with my head in the past and she with hers in the future. Where we meet in the present will become a special place for both of us. I'll fill you all in as we progress...

At 3 years old

11 comments:

Reya Mellicker said...

This is fabulous! Thank you for including us in this project.

Love the pics! Can't wait to see/read more.

Life IS a dream within a dream, you know. Oh yeah.

Brian Miller said...

that sounds like such a cool project...and i know they will get much out of it they would never get in a history class in school...

Molly said...

Wow! You have some creative thinkers running things up there! What a wonderful idea. Will be interested to hear all about the project. That first picture is so you....and yes! I've seen enough here to know I'm right! You may be 60+ but she's still the one in charge.....

Star said...

That does sound interesting. I'll be returning to hear more about it soon. Love your long dressing gown!

Barbara Shallue said...

Oh what a wonderful project and such an awesome experience for those kids! Lucky girl to get you! I'm sure it will influence and inspire her the rest of her life. Have fun! I can't wait to here how it goes.

Pauline said...

Reya - we had our second meeting yesterday and spent an hour pouring over my childhood photos. It will be hard to distill all my memories into a small scrapbook so I am starting my own memoir book to flesh it out.

Brian - the connections between seniors and teens is a kind of magic

Molly - it is a wonderful idea! The woman in charge of the youth program is a wonder.

Star - my Memere made this for me and wanted me to model it. I HATED having my photograph taken but how I loved that robe. The buttons had tiny, raised animals on them.

Barbara - that's a happy thought. She gave me a hug yesterday, exclaiming, "This is such fun!"

Anne said...

The picture is adorable. What a cute kid you were.

The project sounds interesting, though I wonder how you will handle the bad stuff that I should think everyone has. Few of us have lived lives that could be viewed as completely inspiring. I don't think mine would stand the scrutiny of a 13 year old. And yet one would want to be honest.

Pauline said...

Anne - an interesting thought. I feel I can mention my divorce and the difficulties in raising four kids pretty much on my own without dwelling on details of the awfulness. And the early deaths of my parents will be mentioned as well as my sorrow over them, but since all of my history up to now is being compressed into a few pages, I can't imagine anything will come off as either too giddy or too serious. Thank goodness it's not an autobiography - just a short memoir with highlights :)

Laura said...

What a wonderful project...a beautiful way to connect generation to generation.

Hilary said...

What a great project.. I'm sure you will both learn a lot through it. Best question ever.. "Are you old enough to do that?" That daughter of yours deserves a hug! :)

Judith said...

That three-year-old you is regal.
Self-possession, poise, introspection --
and very very beautiful.
I vote for you for Queen of England!