I visited a rustic bed and breakfast recently—an old cabin in the woods, really, that had been refurbished and renovated with modern furnishings and appliances to suit modern tastes and sensibilities. The idea was to make the old, new—to give guests the feeling of stepping back in time—so that we could cast off the cares of work and busyness—but without the loss of modern luxuries. Inside it was warm and cozy. Old magazines were scattered about on carefully distressed wooden end tables, and here is where I found a copy of the September 1959 issue of Life magazine resting safely inside a plastic sleeve amongst other plastic-covered classic issues.
I had to chuckle at the iconography of Life, literally and figuratively captured in that idyllic space. Tucked ever so carefully in its plastic sleeve, it presented to me in words and pictures America as it was in 1959. The cover image of “The Astronauts” caught my eye. As I eased the stiff periodical from its plastic penitentiary then gently turned its crinkly pages I was transported to another place and time where advertisers beckoned me with “new” electric appliances and bid me to marvel at wood paneling! (“Go ahead, touch the wood. Weldwood paneling is so beautiful you can’t help running a hand over it.”)
I was transfixed, indeed, by the stories that tracked the training and selection of the first astronaut to be chosen for America’s “man in space” mission and as I stood in that old cabin made new again, I thought about how this old story was made new again last year as Margot Shetterly’s research into NASA’s use of black female mathematicians to fill a labor shortage during World War II unearthed an untold story. Because of her those hidden figures are “hidden no more” and other hidden figures have come to light since then.
Tomorrow I will tell you a “hidden figure” story, but today is Monday Mayhem!
Today I want to talk about the old made new.
Besides that, today we have exactly ONE WEEK! We are literally careening towards Christmas, ready or not!
So, let me bring it home…
As I think about the holidays, I think about that old cabin in the woods—where I stood marveling at the old and the new, marveling at the attempts we so often make to package the old and make it new to suit our sensibilities and make ourselves comfortable. That’s really what Life in America has been all about, hasn’t it? Packaging.
And so, as we careen towards Christmas, and I think about the astronaut story that I read juxtaposed with the Hidden Figures story that was recently revealed, I marvel at all the other packages that will be so carefully wrapped this season and tucked gently under the tree as we paste on plastic smiles for the pictures and pretend that there are no hidden figures to be concerned about.
I don’t mean to sound like the Grinch who stole Christmas, I would just like for us to think about the power that hidden figures represent: reality. What is there whether we like it or not–whether it’s pretty or not? Whether it’s the same color as us, same gender as us, same religion as us, same belief as us–or not? Whatever the reality is—in our family, in our office, in our neighborhood—in ourselves—we may wish to push it aside for the sake of optics, but what made Hidden Figures so awesome to me is that the real power came when everyone recognized their need for the Other and stopped fighting against what they feared.
As you head out to catch those last-minute Christmas sales, just remember that the best gifts may not be available in stores.
Happy shopping & Happy Monday!
photo credits: pixabay.com