When do I officially become a museum piece? I saw a Six-Million-Dollar Man lunchbox in an antique store. Surely, I’m not that old. An antique store isn’t a museum. Right?
I once visited a museum with my Grandma in the eastern Montana county where she grew up. She lived there most of her life. A museum about local history. About her history.
Pictures hung on the wall of the high school graduating classes over the years. There she was. Class of 1930.
A room displayed wedding items from the 1930’s—dresses, photographs, and artifacts. Grandma pointed to a picture of a wedding couple, all decked out in their wedding clothes. She said, “That gal was my roommate. I didn’t like the fella she married.”
Talk about a paradigm shift. These were real people, with real stories, and roommates who didn’t like their husband.
Then we came to the telephone switchboard from the days when a person had to connect every call. A job frequently available to women. Grandma had worked a switchboard exactly like the one on display.
The old-time washing machine with the big tub and the ringer at the top was like the one she used to own. All the clothes had to be washed in the is cumbersome contraption. Then ironed. No wash-and-wear. As a single mom in the 1940’s she shared chores with her neighbor. She hated washing, but didn’t mind ironing. Her neighbor was the opposite. So, Mondays the neighbor washed while Grandma kept an eye on all the kids and prepared meals. Tuesdays, Grandma ironed and the neighbor babysat.
Next stop, a display of all the cattle brands in Eastern Montana. In her middle-aged years, Grandma lived on a ranch with her husband. She pointed out their brand. If I remember right, they called it the Lazy Heart H. Their last name started with H.
I’m researching for a novella set in the 1930’s, which brings back memories of my grandma and her stories. Growing up, I had the chance to spend summers with her on the farm. As an adult, I took my kids to see her.
A few months before she passed away I took her on a road trip and asked all the things I should have asked years before.
“How did you come to live in rural Montana?”
“My dad’s brother homesteaded here. He convinced my parents it was a good place to live. My dad operated a grain elevator in town.”
I’m glad someone thought to put pieces of her past in a museum. I was privileged to walk through the story with her.
I’ve begun to see relics from my past in a museum.
The Smithsonian History Museum has Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street on display. Not just a likeness. The actual Bert and Ernie.
I think the Smithsonian is gathering contemporary items to preserve them for the time when they become antiques. Surely, they are not relics now.
Just as I am not a relic, neither was my Grandma.
My grandchildren will probably see the Six-Million-Dollar Man lunchbox and Bert and Ernie when they visit a museum. I can tell them how my sister had the same lunch box and how we watched Sesame Street on one of the three channels on our T.V.
Until then, I’ll live large and create museum worthy memories.