Archive for the ‘Memory’ Tag
Working on “My Father’s House” feels like writing another Ph.D. dissertation with all the research that goes into it daily. When I started, I thought it would be easy. After all, I’m a member of the family, so I should have the facts at hand.
The truth is, I came along eleven years after my brother Harvey and eight years after my sister Thelma, so I guess I can excuse myself for being unaware of lots to things.
By 1940, the year my brother graduated from Upsala, you’d think I’d have established some firm memories. The truth is, I’m living proof that memory is a fragile process of constant creation and revision. So, like a good Ph.D. candidate, I search out the facts wherever I can find them. What I’m posting here is an exciting discovery that came in yesterday from Lisa Huntsha (see citation below)
I guess there’s no good reason why any of my blog readers should find this interesting, but it does give a taste of the 1940s, just before life for people like my brother was shaken by the attack on Pearl Harbor.
And I would love to imagine that somewhere my big brother is watching and pleased with what I’m doing.
So here’s what they said about him in the yearbook, followed by an article in the school paper.
UPSALA COLLEGE, EAST ORANGE, NEW JERSEY
C. HARVEY GUSTAFSON
187 Stafford Avenue, Forestville, Conn.
BACHELOR OF ARTS
Major: English Minor: German
Student Council 2, 3, 4, Treasurer 3, Vice-President 4; Class President 1, 3; Gazelle l; Upsalite l, 2, Christian Brotherhood 1.2; Footlight Club 1, 2, 3, 4, President 4; Symposium 3, 4, President 4; English Literary Society 3, 4, Secretary 4; Alpha Psi Omega3. 4; Blue Key 2, 3, 4; Glee Club I. 2; Gold U 3; President of Theta Epsilon 3, Zeus 4; Who’s Who in American Universities and Colleges.
Many of us will remember Harvey as the collegian who always twirled his keys on a chain – somehow we were fascinated by his never once slipping or letting the keys fall. When we consider all the offices he held. although we can’t help admiring his capability and energy, we wonder how much dignity that hair cut lent to his offices. His record leads us to believe that he’ll make good in the world, and what we know of his personality confirms such an opinion. Goodluck. Harvey, in everything!
AND FROM THE UPSALA GAZETTE, MAY 16, 1940
Harvey “Gus” Gustafson is one of the most active men on the campus. He needs no introductory description; everyone knows him and he knows everyone else. For three years he was president of his class and the seat he now holds on the council has been his since his freshman year. He is Zeus of the Theta Epsilon fraternity, president of the Footlight Club, a member of Alpha Psi Omega, English Lit., Symposium, and many other student organizations. His activities speak for themselves; he is really a Big Gun.
With thanks to Lisa Huntsha, Archivist/Librarian
Swenson Swedish Immigration Research Center
639 38th Street | Augustana College | Rock Island, IL
In past years I’ve managed to do something relatively elaborate to wish my friends a happy holiday. This year not so much, but my joy in your friendship is none-the-less nurturing, exciting and powerful.
As I think you know, my big event of the year was turning my lovely little Acura RSX into a flattened pile of metal and stuff that looked in the end like an aluminum can crushed under foot in preparation for the recycling bin. That was on April 15, when I was on my way home looking forward to two unscheduled days to dig into some of my ongoing projects.
Most of those projects are still active in my head, but I’m way behind in carrying them out. I did get to follow through on plans to take part in a forum on forgiveness at the Shepherd of the Hill Presbyterian Church on April 28. With the help of my son who got my computer to me at Auburn Manor where I was rehabbing, I was able to create handouts illustrating my new approach to presenting forgiveness issues, emphasizing that justice and mercy are two sides of the same coin. Auburn manor made it easy for me to work within the recovery schedule, and some very generous folks from the church managed to get me there and back to present from a wheelchair. Quite dramatic, really.
One of my projects now is to write about my crash, what I’ve learned from it, and the impact it’s had on my life. I have started working on it, discovering that I have to go back to check records to remind me where I was when. Memory, never a simple file folder in the brain, is more vague than I thought it would be. But you will probably be exposed to it eventually.
Work also proceeds on “My Father’s House.” Right now it’s mostly doing research about Bristol, Connecticut and life and times around 1910. Totally stalled, however, is the creation of questions for groups to use in discussing “Figs and Pomegranates and Special Cheeses.” I’m hopeful they will eventually encourage more adoption of “Figs … . “ Then there’s my blog, and my facebook page, so badly ignored as they fall to the bottom of the priorities list.
I’ve been out of the three-month sentence to the torso brace since July 17. Whew! What a relief. But regaining my energy is still an ongoing process, along with getting accustomed to my shorter stature after losing two inches to my L1 compression fracture. And what a shock when I realized how it had changed my body structure! Yes, I worked hard at keeping good posture, but my clothes needed a lot of adjusting. The local tailor was wonderful at working around the brace to alter clothes to fit for our July 28 departure on a planned three-week cruise to the Shetland Islands, Iceland, and Norway.
The flight on the way over did hurt. I walked the aisles a lot, but three weeks of rest, walking, and fun worked wonders. The trip home was very comfortable. I still need to lie on my back occasionally when pain starts to build up – especially after working at my computer, and walking is amazingly helpful. But my chiropractor/nutritionist tells me things will keep on getting better. Certainly I have no basis for complaining when I think of what might have happened if my Acura, its seat belts, and air bags hadn’t taken such good, protective care of me.
I loved all the places we visited on the cruise. I intended to share a few photos on my blog, but I haven’t made it past the point of beginning to learn how to post movies. Just beginning to learn how – still haven’t done it.
As for photos, I haven’t yet downloaded the few I took on our restful and fun four-night Thanksgiving stay at Cove Point in Beavers Falls, outside Duluth. Because then, of course, came the preparation for Christmas. I am no longer responsible for “creating” the celebration, but, given my propensity to purchase gifts through the year while traveling, it does fall to me to wrap them all and get them to their destinations.
All these words just to explain why I haven’t been writing on my blog and facebook! And I thought I was going to write just a brief paragraph.
Finally,to the point. Two points, actually. (1) Rejoice! The winter solstice arrives in a few hours and we will begin to have more daylight. (2) Rejoice! Things may be pretty awful, but we always have this annual time to at least imagine what love and peace will look like when we decide to practice them. Oh, and (3) Thank you for enriching my life with the creative things you do in the blogosphere.
REVIEW OF “ATONEMENT,” BY IAN McEWEN
Yesterday, having talked about the creativity of memory, and also the question of guilt, I said I’d review Ian McEwen’s “Atonement.” Then I remembered I had already done so on amazon.com. So today’s entry is easy. All I have to do is copy what I wrote there.
Since mine is one of 1115 reviews, I doubt it’s been of much influence. But here it is for you as I promised, with special emphasis on the trouble created by the creative imagination of a bright teenage girl. I hope you won’t read this entry to suggest that we outgrow our ability to construct inaccurate memories as we grow older. Just think of a recent conversation you’ve had with someone who was at the same event as you and insists you’re not remembering accurately. So who’s right?
Now here’s what I wrote.
“Many reviews have preceded mine, together providing a good outline of the story. So I’ll choose to focus on my reaction to the major theme,
But first, I find I disagree with at least one other reviewer who found the beginning to be gripping. For me, it felt like the beginning of a Russian novel where I was provided with too many names without sufficient context to really grasp their roles. No doubt that reflects more about me than the work itself. I kept reading, though, because my daughter had recommended it, and I found myself richly rewarded.
As the title suggests, the theme is a life of atonement for a catastrophic offense for which 13-year old Briony is responsible. Naïve, appropriately ego-centric for her age, she allows her unusually creative imagination to construe witnessed events she doesn’t have the sophistication to understand into a dramatic and coherent story that ultimately sends once beloved, almost-family-member, Robbie to prison for a crime he didn’t commit. In fact, I suspect no crime occurred. Given the character of her cousin Lola, I believe her capable of manipulating Briony into covering up for the inappropriate consensual encounter in which she was really involved.
The author does an amazing job of entering and revealing the complex character of a bright young teenage girl. In fact – true confession – I assumed the author was a woman until I reached the end of the book. The other characters are not so richly developed, with the exception, perhaps, of Robbie who manages ultimately to create a productive and satisfying life, aided by the love of Briony’s sister Cecilia and the atoning act of Briony herself.
I can’t resist expressing some anger with the offense committed by the police, and the rest of the family, who were quick to allow their social class bias to convict Robbie with insufficient evidence. I leave it to you to decide whether there was sufficient atonement on their part.
Yes, I do recommend this novel as a powerful read. And now that I’m smarter about the author, I’ll commit myself to follow through on his other works.”