Photos re-create family history like nothing else can do.
Before the Henry R. Longenecker family built their home near Rheems, Pennsylvania, they lived in a small house on the corner across from Bossler Mennonite Church. In the winter of 1922, someone (perhaps grandpa Henry) took a photograph of my grandma Fannie Longenecker, looking pleased sitting with her two children on a sled. My father Ray, age six, smiled at the camera. His sister, Aunt Ruthie, blinked at the shutter shot, maybe closing her eyes at the glare of the glistening snow. She was three years old.
At three, she was probably not reading and certainly not writing in a diary, but thirteen years later at age 16, she recorded her thoughts about the value of making New Year’s resolutions—or not.
You’ve seen this diary before in a previous post, which you can view here.
New Year’s Resolutions Ruthie’s diary, 1935-1938
January 1, 1935 (age 16) The opportunities before me are great entering a New Year. I hope I’m able to meet them full hearted and come out this year with a whiter page than ever before.
January 1, 1936 (age 17, probably returning to college at EMS, Eastern Mennonite School) “Left home 3:30 P.M. with heavy heart. Arrived 10:06 P.M. I made no resolutions, dear Diary, for I didn’t want the responsibility.”
January 1, 1937 (age 18) “I make no rash promises.”
January 1, 1938 (age 19) “It’s no use making resolutions ‘cause you always break them. I just thought of a few things that would be profitable. Rec’d my check this morning. [Apparently from office at EMS (Eastern Mennonite School) for helping secretary hectograph materials]
Hectograph: According to Dictionary.com: a process for making copies of a letter, memorandum, etc., from a prepared gelatin surface to which the original writing has been transferred.
January 1, 1939 (age 20) “On the dot of Jan 1, 39, I was awakened by all the clanging & noise E-town could make. Just now I finished writing ups since Dec 26, so it’s best I make no resolutions.”
* * *
American poet Mary Oliver ponders the question of purpose in one’s life. In her memorable “A Summer’s Day,” she asks in her oft-quoted last lines, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
My adaptation: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious year?”
13 . . . but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before. . . .”
Have you made New Year’s resolutions for 2022?
What is your opinion of New Year’s resolutions? Is it different from Aunt Ruthie’s?
How would you answer Mary Oliver’s question?