I know, this is a food blog – but every now and again, I am not in the mood for sharing a recipe so much as I feel the desire to invite you in for a visit and to chat a while. I don’t know about you, but looking toward the new year makes me think about the past.
Growing up, Dad inspired his children to learn about the world around us, beyond ourselves. Many a weekend was spent piled in the family station wagon, traveling the back roads of California, exploring all the little mining towns and soaking in the rich history of this state in a hands on way. History wasn’t something we read about in a school book, it was something we could hold in our hands. The past is very much a part of who I am as a person. I have a deep love for all things old. Just as I feel connected to our history, the good and the bad.
When I was in high school, hanging out with a few friends in “Old Sacramento” was a one of my favorite things to do. Back then, the river front was just a chunk of rundown real estate two-blocks deep and about fifteen-blocks long. The buildings may have been abandoned and boarded up, but not locked so tight as to prevent entry. It was easy to slip into an abandoned warehouse, old hotel or water-front store. What we knew as decaying buildings along the river was actually an abandoned part of town built on top of older abandoned part of town. Way back when, the Sacramento and American rivers flooded this area almost every winter. The winter of 1861-62 was the worst, with rains that began on Christmas Eve and continued for nearly thee weeks. Everything within five miles of the river was under water. The residents of Sacramento raised the downtown area as much as 15 feet, leaving tunnels beneath their new streets that hid the city’s watery past.
By exploring the abandoned buildings along the waterfront, we gained access to the buried past. It was an amazing adventure. You could step back in time, and let the imagination run wild. Back then, the musty smells and damp surrounds only fueled the mind. There were times when I could hear the voices of the past.
Today, that same part of town is a big tourist attraction filled with T-Shirt Shops, candy stores and over-priced restaurants. The building fronts have been restored to their prior glory, and the ghosts have long since gone. Poor tortured souls of the past, not even the tunnels could provide refuge. Giving guided tours along the underground passageways is big business today. Guess that’s progress.
There is another part of the past that makes me sad. We like to go to street fairs featuring antiques and collectible. So often, tucked in among the crystal and silver, are boxes of old photographs and personal mementos. Looking through the photographs stirs emotions deep within. Who are these people? What became of them? More importantly, what became of their families? Their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren? Shouldn’t someone cherish the wedding photos or turn of the century images of young men marching off to war? Why are these ghostly images of the past piled in crates for strangers to sort through? I have boxes in my attic with tattered photo albums of people who I have never met, but they mean something to me. Those photos are my personal connection to yesterday. It breaks my heart to see our roots abandoned, cast aside and forgotten. Is that progress as well?
As one year fades into the past and another begins, let us count our blessings. May we never forget where we came from. The past is a guide to the future. Learn from it.