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Artifacts and the passage of time

My colleague and I were talking about great outings for toddlers, when I asked if he’d ever taken his young son to the Canada Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa. He paused slightly before explaining that he didn’t quite enjoy pointing out all of the “artifacts” on display: “Daddy used to use this … and this was the phone Daddy used to have … oh, and here is the television I used to watch …” and so on. That got me chortling.

An artifact from the Museum of Science and Technology's collection. Look familiar?

I have to say, I’ve had the same disorienting experience myself. Just this summer, we were looking in “antique” stores while we were vacationing in Maine only to find a rotary dial phone. “Oh, I thought. This is an antique?” But sure enough, my daughter was fascinated by it … she’d never seen one before!

And it got me thinking … if I feel so stunned by the passage of time in my own life at age 39, I wonder how my grandmother must feel today on her 87th birthday? The things she’s lived through make my experience with such trinkets as telephones pale in comparison. Just consider that:

  • Her first memories as a child must have included the hardships of the The Great Depression, which preceded World War II. (What must she think of today’s young children and their $200 Nintendo DS games so casually tossed in school bags?)

Unemployed men vying for a job during The Great Depression.

  • As a 15-year-old girl when World War II began, she’s lived through bombs dropping through her neighbourhood. The heart-stopping fear of running to cower in shelters. (I wonder if she thinks my generation should be more grateful for their freedom and safety?) 
  • She met a handsome young Canadian soldier as the war came to a close and made the long, courageous trek by boat to a country that was completely foreign to her. It was not the hop-on-a-plane journey that international travel is now. It was a choice to start a whole new life. (Those, like me, who complain of so little leg-room on flights must seem like silly nincompoops.)
  • That it was considered inconceivable for her, as a woman, to work outside of the home or drive a car. The role of housewife was demanded of many women in her time, whether she liked it or not. (Does she ever wonder how her life would have been different had she been born a generation later?) 

While I don’t actually know what she thinks of all these enormous changes — but I will be certain to ask her now — I can tell you this: she seems to have been able to gracefully adapt. And really, how extraordinary it is for someone to be so adaptable … to live through so much change and still keep the ability to adapt. This is a woman who emails, plays computer games and skypes with me when I’m overseas. 

When I grow up, I want to be just like my Gram. 

Happy 87th Birthday Gram! Love from your Julie-oolie

photo credits: Canada Science and Technology Museum and Modern American Poetry’s A Photo Essay of the Great Depression

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  1. You made me think of this with this post :)

    It’s incredible how fast things change – maybe one day people won’t be able to imagine sitting on planes for 6-24 hours though since they will be teleporting everwhere 😉

    • coffee with julie says:

      OMG – floppy disks! I had completely forgotten about those! Thanks for sharing that video Lara, classic.

  2. Thank you for this on two levels: 1) for making me laugh…I always feel old too when I try to explain to my kids that when I was young (not that long ago!) we had neither cell phones nor the internet; and 2) my hubsnad’s grandmother (also a war bride from the UK) and mine (still lives in the UK) are very similar ages to your grandmother, and it’s true – they all lived through so many hardships. And me, I whine when my wireless doesn’t work. Kinda puts it in perspective.

    • coffee with julie says:

      It really is hard to believe that we lived without internet, isn’t it? Or even computers for that matter! I didn’t get my first computer until I was in my late 20s.

  3. Julie: what a beautiful tribute to your grandmother. She sounds like a remarkable woman in the way she accepted and embraced the enormous advances in all spheres that she encountered in her life.

    I would like to wish her a very happy birthday.

  4. Fantastic post Jules – it easy to take for granted what 87 years mean exactly in terms of change and progression. Your post made me think a lot about that – I also can’t believe they have a walkman in the museum! I used those – and I’m under 30! Who knows, maybe we’ll see those winding pencil sharpeners in the museum soon.

    • coffee with julie says:

      It is almost too much for the mind to comprehend how much change and what huge historic events Gram has lived through. As for the walkman … you probably had a hand-me-down from me! Your first one was probably a “Disc-man” :)

      • No! It definitely wasn’t a Disc-man – give me some credit! :)

        Actually I remember my first disc man and their advent. I bought it with money I scrounged in junior high, haha.

        But, ya my first walkman was probably a hand me down – also I’m pretty sure the Fisher Price record player was too!

  5. this put a big smile on my face! great post jules!!

  6. She sounds like a grand lady.

    I do hope such grace comes with years and wasn’t just a generational thing. I’m still holding out for mom.

  7. I feel old too! I used a walkman until I bought an Mp3 player… 4 years ago? I used to travel with tapes!

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