It’s December, and the records are piling up like snowdrifts in my office. As one who digitizes records for me, my family, and for Kindex, I’ve experienced the cyclical nature of scanning. Like laundry, scanning is never really done. With new records being created or found every day, the waves of scanning will continue. For December in particular, the wave of scanning is more like a tsunami (the photo above representing some of my ongoing scanning projects).
November and December are times of gratitude and gift-giving. Such times generate a need for both a remembrance of our past and view toward a future where nothing will be lost. It is with these emotions that records find a way to my door. How it happens is a phenomenon worthy of another post on the interplay of dumb luck and divine intervention. Like the cars that stretch for miles in the closing scene of the movie Field of Dreams, the records find their way here.
The other day I was musing about all the records I’ve scanned, and while I’m determined to learn exactly how many records I’ve digitized, my top-of-the-head estimate is at least 60,000. I say this not to boast, but rather as a consolation for the times I wonder if all my efforts will make a difference—to Kindex, to my family, and to history. Surely on one of those 60,000 pages is the face of one otherwise doomed to be lost, the words of an ancestor that will be read for the first time. Surely this hope is enough to get me through this next batch, and then the next one.
Maybe when I die my children can create a baseball card of sorts, with a nod to my final numbers. I know, they are just papers. But to me, they have life. The rustlings are the breath of my ancestors; the ink and paper were in their hands. They bent over them, writing by lamplight. They laughed and wept, holding them. They carried them in their pockets, and hid them in their secret places. Like Norman McLean in A River Runs Through It, I am likewise haunted by the words of the past:
“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters.”