Monday, May 07, 2007

Special Meanings of the Commonplace

I'm currently in Rocklin, a community north of Sacramento that began as a way station for prospectors making their way to San Francisco (no gold was ever found here). It then became a major source of granite for foundations, graveside memorials, etc. (hence the name, Rocklin).

When you take history down to the level of the individual, even the most mundane sites become intriguing. Quite a while ago in this blog, I attempted to map out my travels in my old home town - literally my "stomping ground," as the saying goes. Commonplace landmarks take on special meaning: the lamp-post where we waited for the school bus, the intersection where an informal bike race began between the neighborhood kids, or the curbside where I set up my lemonade stand. Overlay with that the memories of the generations and residents that followed, and each of those locations take on multiple meanings, each special to the individuals involved, but unknown to anyone else.

In any old western town, buildings and landmarks with histories that go back well over one hundred years likely have special meanings to many, many generations of residents, most long gone.

Schools in particular hold simulaneous memories from countless generations. A particular tree, a particular locker,a corner of the lunch area, or the PE field. To passerby, any school is bland and generic - to those who attended, the special meanings of the commonplace are everywhere: the place where you and your friends met during lunch; the place where you had that fight, the fence you used to climb; or the classroom you hated. To those who preceded you, and those who followed, the meanings are different, but just as vivid: where you met at lunch may have been a place they knew to avoid; where you had that fight might have been the site of a school prank; the fence you used to climb might have been totally unknown to another generation as a means of escape; and the classroom you hated might have once been the classroom where someone else's life changed forever.

Live in a house or apartment where others have lived before, and you're living in the faint echoes of their own lives.


Mrs. Blossom Podolnik said...

>Live in a house or apartment where others have lived before, and you're living in the faint echoes of their own lives.<

I loved this post. As a resident of Rocklin I was especially thrilled to see the city's name in print. We purchased a resale home here a few years ago and for a variety of reasons I suspect that another family lived here before the one we purchased it from. Though we know enough about the sellers to form a profile, I find myself very curious about those before. You made a very interesting point.

greg said...

This was almost a complete, well-thought out blog. I give it an A-.

Larry gold said...

Wow this is GREAT !
You should write a life memroies book !