In Other Words
It’s a typical practice around the new year to examine the year we are leaving behind. Sometimes it’s worthwhile to examine any personal gains or losses, or to assess a resolution made at this time last year. Sometimes, it’s interesting to wonder what, if anything, from this year was truly memorable. Did anything happen that will live in your mind, or the mind of the country, for years to come?
Earlier this year, I wrote a column about the coincidental fact that both the Oreo cookie and the Girl Scouts of America turned 100 in the same month. Since that time I couldn’t help but notice whenever I came across another mention of a noteworthy anniversary. To my surprise, there were plenty, both of products and events. Not only was 1912 the founding year of the Oreo and Girl Scouts, but also of L.L. Bean and Paramount pictures, all products and institutions that are still impacting modern life. One hundred years ago, along with the opening of the great Fenway Park in Boston, the Beverly Hills hotel opened its doors for the first time. On a darker side, 1912 was the year the Titanic sank and also marked the largest volcanic eruption in the 20th century with the eruption of the volcano Novarupta in Alaska, producing 30 times more ash than the eruption of Mount St. Helens.
Centennial anniversaries aren’t the only ones to be marked this year. One hundred and fifty years ago the Morrill Act was signed into law, creating the land grant college system which was an important milestone in creating affordable higher education for young Americans. One hundred and fifty years ago, our countrymen fought against each other at the Battle of Antietam, yet we were also optimistic enough to pass the Homestead Act, which was very significant in shaping much of our country.
There were a number of 50th anniversaries this year, as well. Close to home, this year marked a half-century for the Space Needle, as well as the country-wide networks of KOA campgrounds. Not to be forgotten is the little orange goldfish cracker, which children everywhere, my daughter included, have been enjoying for the last 50 years.
As I gathered this list, it made me wonder what made people in our past so industrious. I’ve spent time in other cultures where an innocuous church across the street can be 500 years old. In times like that, I’ve felt that America is a baby. But here is proof that things we create in America can last. And while maybe neither the Oreo or the Space Needle have such a concrete tie to history that a centuries-old church does, we can still celebrate the spirit of our industrious ancestors who came to this country looking to make things that would last for generations.
In our modern world of immediate satisfaction and viral communication, it might be assumed that everything might last forever. But among all the chaos, will there be anything worthwhile? Are we short-changing our creative selves by investing so much time into immediate gratification?
One hundred years isn’t as long as it sounds. One hundred years ago my great-grandmother had just arrived in this country, looking for a better life. One hundred years from now, maybe my great-grandchildren will look back on 2012 and be amazed that I was around for such a year, as I have often felt about my great-grandmother. If we had a crystal ball, would we be surprised by the things that are remembered 100 years from now? Will it only be remembered as a year where too many innocent lives were unfairly taken from us, or will there be something else — anything, please — that will last?
Thinking about these things that have lasted for so long makes me feel just how enduring some things can be, and also how short the years really are. Our time here may be short, but here is proof that the time we do have can be enduring. Here’s to another memorable year.