What Remains


The Portuguese, or at least some of them, or PARTICULARLY my mom have a tendency to burn most of the belongings/correspondence/papers of the deceased.

This is something that would shock Americans and in fact it is probably a measure of my acculturation that I was somewhere between shocked and upset when mom burned paternal grandma’s decades of correspondence.

You see, grandma was the family’s node point, keeping in touch with relatives and friends from 80 years before, and their outflung progeny.  Also as part of her correspondence would be 30+ years of daily letters to/from grandad where he worked all over the world froM Brazil to Venezuela to South Africa. During the period of early 30s to mid 50s.  Just the casual historical mentions in that would be…

OTOH I get mom’s habit is more normal for Portugal than the tendency to save and study everything.

This might be because, as Robert puts it, Portugal is an iceberg in time.  The amount of history and the amount of Portugal buried below the waterline in time greatly exceeds the present.

The same way family tombs with a vast chamber where you lower the new coffin atop the old ones, and the ones at the bottom likely become dust, burning most of what we get from the dead might be the sane thing to prevent the past taking over and choking out present and future.

Heck, a lot of us do this in our own lives.  I’m in the middle of a process of doing that with my clothes, since the weight is FINALLY coming off.  So, formerly cherished and go to garments, that are dropping off my butt or sagging on my chest are being given away.  (some will be retrofitted, but honestly, I prefer to donate so that someone having an issue with their weight can find something nice.)  This is more of a wrench than you think, considering that sometimes those garments were the one bright spot, the one thing I knew looked good on me, in an otherwise blah time.

I do the same with a lot of other things, form knickknacks to dishware, from books to music. Things that were important to myself at some time but no longer used, I try to donate so that someone else can enjoy them.  Sometimes they are things that I used for purposes I no longer need to fulfill.

For instance, there was the collection of fondue pots.  We used to have a new year’s party at our house when the kids were little, and serve fondue.  Then we moved, and stopped having the party. So the fondue pots got eventually donated.

OTOH I shocked the woman who came to pack my house, because I keep a box (just one) of kids clothes, most of them toddlers’ but from six months to about five years.  You see, one of the things is a lambskin winter coat where the hood has EARS. And the back says douce come un agneau.  My best friend from elementary school, who married a Frenchman, gave us that for Robert at a time when we literally couldn’t afford a winter coat for him.  And he looked adorable in it, as did his brother later on.  They looked like teddy bears with human faces.  And it was warm.  Then there’s the dragon outfit I made for Robert when he was five. The knit coat and hat mom bought Marshall. Etc.

The packing lady was like “But your sons are grown!”  And sure, they are. But hopefully there will be grandkids who’ll wear the coat and look adorable. And anyway, those are pieces of their childhood and important TO ME.  Do I mind if the kids throw it all out when I die? No. They’re important TO ME. The kids might find them funny or not.  It doesn’t matter.

I’m trying to minimize, however, the amount of cr*p the kids have to deal with when we die.  Which means sometime in the next year there will be a great purge, mostly of art stuff.  (Since I now do most of it on the computer.)

Yes, this was brought about by the fire at Notre Dame.

It seems that they saved a lot more than not. And I’m confident the French will do well by the source of revenue.  And of course, it’s part of the patrimony of mankind.  I mean, mom was in tears about it.

But in a post-Christian Europe, how long will those marks of the past be acceptable and tolerated, much less cherished?  What comes after? And how many things form other civilizations have we already discarded or lost that would be relevant to us.

This is one of the things that fascinates me about lost civilizations (for the purpose of this post as advanced as ancient Greece, Rome, or even Gobleki Tepe)?

It disturbs me, like the idea of grandma’s lost letters.  What there, what true patrimony of mankind is lost forever, beneath the Earth or burned or otherwise obliterated.  What would it tell us about our ancestors and ourselves?

No way of knowing, except in dreams.

It is important, the way Notre Dame is important. Because it gives us the range of bigger than ourselves things humans can accomplish. A measure of human dreams.

And yet much of it, maybe most of it, is burned, lost in the past we can’t retrieve without a time machine (makes story note.)

And only those of us who dream in words can bring it forth for the rest of the world.

Which is why we must.

196 thoughts on “What Remains

  1. My parents’ retirement house burned to the ground in the Paradise Mountain fire – just as my parents had inherited all the assorted stuff from both sides of the family (as they were either only children, or only surviving child.) All gone in half an hour – letters from WWII and Korea (from Uncle Jimmy and Dad), Mom’s wedding dress, the Victorian lace and lawn family christening dress, a whole raft of china and crystal, the wedding silver, a huge box of family photos … all of it, save some small things that Mom managed to stuff into the car with their pets, her jewelry and papers, and some other stuff that the firemen grabbed off the walls as the fire was exploding the glass windows inward.
    The one thing that I think I missed the most, and that no one would have ever thought to rescue as they were in a box in the garage – the Christmas stockings with our names knitted into the top that my maternal grandmother had made for us all. (All but for my youngest brother — she was off knitting, by then.)
    All of it, gone in half an hour. But as someone commented on the blogpost that I wrote at the time — they were only things. Lovely and meaningful things – but only things. And as my youngest brother remarked afterwards — it will minimize the family squabbling over it all, when Mom passes.
    I couldn’t bear to watch the video of Notre Dame burning, and the spire falling. It was a magnificent church from the outside, although the inside was kind of grim and dim. I’d be into serious mourning, though – if it had been Chartres. Chartres is splendid beyond all imagining on the inside.

    1. You have my sympathy. I have family and friends in that area (thankfully the fire didn’t quite make it to their houses); grew up not far from there. It’s a crime against humanity and nature what the government of California has done with their intentional neglect of fire prevention measures, not to mention almost letting the Oroville Dam break (not too far from that same area).

  2. The fact that there were people singing hymns, in the crowds bearing witness to Notre Dame, makes me think that perhaps Europe isn’t as Post-Christian as many think.

    1. They THINK they’re post Christian. There might be nuggets there beneath the “it’s not cool to believe” BUT most importantly, Emily, they’re childless…. which makes speculation of what they believe a little meaningless.

    2. Have you seen the photograph from inside?

      The Cross, glowing golden, above the Pieta.

      The people singing. The fire-fighter chaplain who went in after the Body, and then the relics.

      Yes, I think that this fire may, indeed, be symbolic of Christianity in Europe.

          1. It’s also Passover season, when G-d brought the Israelites (Jews) out of Egypt. I think these miracles may be G-d talking to us. Horrible things happening are like someone shouting to get your attention.

              1. It’s just that a lot of us leave the phone off the hook, or hit the mute button, or put our paws over our ears singing “La, la, la I can’t hear You!”

                So then He laces up His size [infinite] sneakers and gives us a firm nudge in the right direction – via our rumps. 😉

                1. I may have just been prodded.

                  I’ve been entertaining a mad ‘change the world’ plan this past half year, which technically goes against my professional ideology (do good at the small things, let the world sort itself out), but really feeds parts of my psychology. Been investigating the prospects for that plan, and for the alternative plan.

                  Also have been in a psychological hole, particularly these past couple days, and a bit confused as to how to sort myself out, and get back to moving on the plans. I had let myself get away from praying. Prayed today. Several times, for peace of mind, and for guidance. Got moving on getting things sorted. Still no joy on the main plan.

                  The alternative? Looks very viable, for the next stage. Still no clue about a key later stage.

                  I got very far into my life without doing a lot of prayer. Perhaps have gone down a very wrong path. I think I need to be doing a lot more praying in the future.

                  1. The most important part of prayer is listening. For far too many their prayers are a message stuffed into a bottle, thrown into a sea of mystery, addressed to “whom it may concern”.

                    Paradox #602 is related:
                    To know God, you must know the Word.
                    To know the Word, you must know God.
                    “Do you know who I AM”?

                    Too many have Palm Sunday theology. They treat god as a friend with a truck. The one you call only when you need the truck, or a loan, or something. There is not intimacy. They, like the crowd on palm sunday, only say save us. But they do not understand how God saves us, or how He offers us Himself as a gift.

                    1. I certainly don’t treat God as a friend with a truck. For one thing, I already have a truck. For another, I talk with God every day. He usually doesn’t have much to say, and often seems like He’s mumbling (my bad hearing actually.) But once in a while He says something that comes through loud and clear.

                    2. My observation from my years spent as a missionary was that most of us humans, to one degree or another, want God close enough to grant wishes, but far enough away to not bother telling us to straighten up and be better people. The smart humans are those of us that admit to ourselves that we’re that way and do our best to fight that tendency. I once heard it said that if I’m not being pricked by my conscience a little bit while in church, that should tip me off that I’m not paying close enough attention. I like that.

                    3. “I bitch. He laughs. Look, it works.”

                      I forget who it was who said that God would not abandon us as long as we continued to amuse Him.

                    4. J. Golden Kimball (1853-1938) was an Apostle for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He was known for being unable to stop swearing (he’d been a muleskinner in his youth) and for his dry wit. If I recall correctly, he once told a congregation (paraphrasing), “I’ve been taught that the Lord has a sense of humor. Some of you people here certainly prove that.”

                2. (Nods) You know that “Footprints” poem/story/whatever?

                  There are also parts on the sand where there’s a set of footprints and a groove, and the guy asks Jesus what that’s all about.
                  Jesus tells him: “Those are the parts where I dragged you kicking and screaming.”

                  1. Haven’t read that part. The portion I’ve read are the single set of footprints where times were troubling, challenging, regardless of the cause, where the voice is implying they were abandoned by their faith. Jesus (or God, depending on slant) replies “That is when I carried, you.”

                    I like the new addition too.

                1. My grasp of the meal is a bit loose, but I remember bitter herbs, and the bread is unleavened because there was no time to let it rise, and of course there’s the blood of the lamb in the story…..

            1. 40 days after the second day of Passover was is the Giving of the Torah to Israel, G-d spoke to all of Israel.

          1. It’s a good thing. Better to have the people of a country alive and aware than have them as zombies.

            OT: Does anyone know the date that Charles Krauthammer died? I saw a vid by him on YouTube.

  3. ” I shocked the woman who came to pack my house, because I keep a box (just one) of kids clothes, most of them toddlers’ but from six months to about five years.”

    My son is almost 8 years old. We still have a handful of his stuff from when he was younger. A hat and a red hoodie he used to wear all the time when he was 2-3. Another raccoon hoodie he wore when he was about 5. The funny thing is that these things aren’t special to him because he no longer remembers them, but they are still special to us.

      1. There’s a few things I’ll keep from Jaenelle’s babyhood (Already growing! So quickly tooo~~~) and I saw this lovely idea of making a quilt out of some of the baby clothes to keep, perhaps for the child to get when he or she is grown, or use as a quilt over the childhood and taken with when adult.

        I’ll keep the little fox costume I got Jaenelle. ^_^ And a few other pieces that are simply too cute to hand-me-down.

        And I would humbly like to ask for prayers; she’s to have some corrective surgery tomorrow. I am praying that it will fix her throat problems and that she will be able to drink from bottle/eat.

        1. Prayers extended. I hope everything goes well with the surgery.

          My cousin has what sounds like now something similar; way less serious. Wasn’t even discovered until she was in college. It drove my mom nuts that she’d only eat peanut butter, cheese, or other soft foods, and liquids. She couldn’t swallow properly. I’m just enough older than her to not remember how her infant years were. I remember the “fights” she’d have with mom when she stayed with us while her younger sister was born, and all the younger sister’s struggles (spnia biffida) through her toddler, and younger years (until they moved to Arizona.)

          Mom felt horrible when cousin was finally diagnosed. Mom felt she was spoiled because of Aunt & Uncle difficulty having viable pregnancies; well yes, true she was spoiled. Just not the full picture. How was anyone to know? This was in the ’60s, FWIW.

          1. Surgery went well! Thank you for the prayers. Just got home. The folding bed in her room for the parent Torquemada would’ve liked to use as a tool to break backs. (Guess how I know! Go on, guess! ~_~) Little one was crying only when painkillers were off, but was back to more her normal self early evening. Doc saw her early this morning, she still had noisy breathing, but it was improved from what it was before, and right now it’s barely there (so I need to put on her the other monitors to make sure she’s breathing or I’ll never sleep! O_O) She spent most of yesterday and today smiling and excitedly cooing and kicking whenever she saw the nurses at the short stay unit (her basically trying to get them to pick her up for cuddles and make friends.) Not a common thing for them to see, I’m told. She did the same thing for the docs who took her to the theatre, cooing and smiling and laughing as they went away.

            There were two babies also being treated for hip dysplasia same day as Jaenelle. I saw one of them come out of the theatre in that full body cast screaming her cute little head off. I saw that same baby before she’d gone in and she’d been smiling. Didn’t know her name but offered up prayers for her road to healing.

            Oldest son is babysitting right now because I’m so wrecked from that bed (and waking up every single time she kicked/rubbed off the O2-saturation monitor and set the alarms off) I need rest.

            And maybe another hot bath. Ow.

            1. ” The folding bed in her room for the parent Torquemada would’ve liked to use as a tool to break backs. (Guess how I know! Go on, guess! ~_~)”

              Hmmm. I wonder … Haven’t seen the Pediatric ward, but have been in the ortho ward (hubby has had both hips replaced). One of the best things they did in the new major Hospital for the southern Willamette Valley was ALL private rooms, and all rooms have a wide bench seat/day bed for a relative to stay to sleep on. I didn’t (apparently I snore(d)). Besides hubby was 60+, not < 1.

              When our son had to have surgery on his eye, because of an hardball, when he was 12, dad stayed with him at the old hospital (I loss the coin toss both nights, darn it, plus apparently dad staying was "different" than mommy … 12 year old boys!), and dad complained about the folding cot the next two nights.

              Glad the surgery went well. Hope the results are as desired.

              1. Yeah. Having a relative to care for the patient helps a lot, especially for kids. Do they have to penalize the family for this though? (Yeah, my back is still killing me.)

                All private rooms? Lucky! We got a private room because Jaenelle’s still considered MRSA-positive (even though she had previous tests that were listed as no, so there was some discussion about whether or not it was a false positive) but they’re being ‘better safe than sorry) so we got a private room (but Jaenelle couldn’t leave it while we were there.)

                I just really hate the whole ‘healthier option = sugar free, lower salt’ food thing they have going. It’s BAD for people like me who need sugar.

                  1. When I was in the hospital the nurses were switching arms to check blood pressure and making sure that my blood pressure wasn’t going to lead to my fainting.

                    I didn’t get enough salt. (Though the real culprit was, I suspect, dehydration.)

                    1. yeah. That’s what put me in the hospital two and a half years ago. My discharge instructions were “eat more salt. your blood pressure should be a little high.”

    1. My mother still has a box of baby clothes from my older brother and I. Including my first (and only) dress… because the doctors and nurses had convinced my mother that she was having a girl. They had to scramble for boy clothes to take me home in. LOL!

      1. Younger son. His cloth diapers sent from Portugal had tiny pink butterflies.
        I think I donated the little pink dress that was sent along with them, though, when I lost girl 13 years ago and knew it wouldn’t happen anymore.

        1. I had a little daughter half way between my 11 yo and my 14 yo. She passed at 3 mo. I still cry like a big blubbering baby about it sometimes.

          Sometimes, as a writer (or wanna-be writer in my case) it still amazes me that I can’t find the words to express my sorrow at your loss. Just know you are not alone.

  4. Two burglaries (50+ years apart) did in most of the maternal family history. Hurricane Katrina got the paternal side (family archivist’s house flooded to the ceiling.)

    I was thinking about the rebuilding of the Frauenkirche in Dresden. As you say, how much longer will there be congregations to support and defend the church? And how long until the rest of the world’s believers are asked to ransom them, er, pay for upkeep, security, and restorations?

    Nodre Dame will be restored. But her congregations? Much harder to say…

    1. Notre Dame, Autocorrupt, Notre Dame. *uncharitable thought about having too many languages in Autocorrupt settings*

        1. Ah, I missed the part about multilingual autocorrupt settings. That opens amazing new horizons of technology-enhanced language misapplication.

          But as such, why was Notre wrong? The world wonders.

            1. Or, to borrow a line from a Three Mile Island cartoon with a dog as speaker, “I blame human error. Then, I blame everything on human error.”

              (But in the case of TMI, the dog was right – the automatic systems worked).

    2. I suspect that low birthrates are a self-correcting problem, and that we’re still seeing the impacts of the widespread availability of cheap, relatively reliable, contraception.

      1. Dunno. There’s a been a concerted Marxist and particularly Gramscian effort for decades to destroy the family and replace it with the State. Well, that’s *one* way of making the State wither away. No people, No state.

        Making contraception cheap and relatively reliable is one part of what I’ve begun to call chemical warfare on human biology. As long as people elevate their own immediate convenience over looking to the future of their society, the won’t fight it. Unfortunately we humans are all too good at choosing immediate convenience over long-term welfare.

        1. I remember when we thought intelligent species blew themselves up with nukes and that explained the Fermi Paradox.

          Maybe they just quit having babies and die off when their science invents contraception.

            1. One author had the majority of ETs that didn’t “blow themselves up”, get lost in Virtual Reality. 😀

                1. Doubt it. Mind you, will be a population crash followed by a — distinct alteration in the distribution of personality traits.

          1. I once had (note tense) a coworker who went about “contraseptics” – I can only wonder if he had a Strange Encounter with sepsis or something. But I don’t wonder very much. If he did.. no real loss. I presume he/it was human… but I also presume the average.. no, even the BELOW average.. human to be above that … thing’s…. level. (And mind you, right NOW, I am NOT feeling very charitable to at least one alleged human [NOT the ‘contraspetic’ fool]… coworker. Pardon, co-“worker”.. if I get to do this thing’s review, floor wiping is the BEST result. I want this twit fired. Out of a large cannon, into a mighty hard and thick wall. And then we’ll consider truly nasty things. Like hemorrhagic fevers – for starters. Yeah, I’m in a Mood. And not In the Mood which is a great Glenn Miller tune.)

  5. The packing lady was like “But your sons are grown!” And sure, they are. But hopefully there will be grandkids who’ll wear the coat and look adorable.

    The Chief visited my parents, while it was snowing.

    I made sure to pack the little jean work-jacket that I wore when I was little. In ten years, you’ll be stuck looking for outside hints to tell which kid it is that wore it– it wasn’t new when I wore it, and he is unlikely to be the last to wear it.

  6. Being the family archivist for this generation, I took all the letters, news articles, photographs, even small needlework and challenge coins of my parents and grand parents and scanned them all into files, burned them to dozens of CD copies and distributed them to everyone in the family.

    And there’s still so much we don’t know and have forgotten or lost over the years.

    1. Mom has outlived both of her younger sisters. The immediate family is broken because reasons, but there are a few links. However, most of the artifacts of earlier days were already shared. Mom and my youngest aunt got several pictures copied and made history books. I have one; don’t know who else does.

      My dad took a bunch of photos on slides from 1957 to 1970, when he passed away. Most of these went away, but most years had a highlight cassette for the slide projector. I got those a few years ago and scanned them and made DVDs and sent copies.

      Response from family: crickets. OTOH, I have the slides and the scans. One of these days, I’ll try some of those links and see if there are any takers. Never had kids of my own, so if they don’t go there, it’s end of the line. Such is life.

      1. My sister took all of mom’s folks pictures and movie reels. She is slowly having them converted to digital. Helps that they’ve had access to professional grade auto scanners for free through their former employer. She also has mom & dad pictures because she digitized them so there could be as many pictures at his memorial as family and friends wanted to take home. She burned CD’s for each of us girls.

        I’ve already converted all our early small video tapes to digital. Scanned in all National Jamboree 2001 (2005 was digital), Philmont trip 2003. Need to get off my tush and go through slides and photos and sort out all the kid’s childhood pictures, and all the baby critters we’ve raised, and spoiled, and get those digitized. Nice thing about digital is you can maintain as many backups as required to keep them safe.

        Pictures are not only important. But knowing why the picture, name and ages, and year, are critical, otherwise eventually it is meaningless.

        1. When I finished Dad’s pictures, I gave the scanner a workout with my own slides and negatives. At the time, I was on Windows, with a universal scanner application (VueScan), since the original stuff from Epson was way out of date. This gave me badly needed color correction. I used Ektachrome a lot, and Dad did a little–it ages poorly. Most of Dad’s stuff was on Kodachrome II. Slow, but gorgeous.

          There were some notes on my father’s slides, so I did a spreadsheet. Did much the same for my own pictures. Alas, somebody extracted the slides from an Easter trip to Paradise (Michigan’s Upper Peninsula) before I got to them; we did a boat trip up the river to Taquamenon Falls, immediately after the ice broke up on the river.

        2. “Pictures are not only important. But knowing why the picture, name and ages, and year, are critical, otherwise eventually it is meaningless.”

          Yep. That’s why each file has all the names of the people in the picture, date taken, where and what was going on. That took way longer than just scanning them.

      2. Never had kids of my own, so if they don’t go there, it’s end of the line.

        Have you checked out FamilySearch?

        I believe it’s the old go-to-the-Mormons-to-get-genealogy thing, but some brilliant brilliant (BRILLIANT!!!) person put it on line. (with limits on what you can put in for living people, even)

        I don’t know how much material they accept, or how fast your upload would be– but an online archive is likely to survive.

        1. One niece did genealogy for part of the family; maternal side is pretty well documented. Contrary to G’ma’s tales, the family did not greet the Sioux as they arrived in the great plains. 🙂 OTOH, lacemakers in Dorsetshire(?) and before that Brittany came in the works.

          Dad’s side is more of a mystery. Let’s just say that a fair amount of family drama came from there, generally resolved by breaking off contact. There’s a lot of information I’m lacking, and, er, some of the familial links are spooky.

        2. Familysearch is free, and a good starting point. Ofttimes the genealogies are less than accurate. With guesswork substituted for documentation.

          1. For our family, at least one census document is guesswork rather than documentation. If we didn’t know the folks in that area, we would assume they’d confused families….

            1. Sometimes a name gets passed down from generation to generation. When the generations are short it’s not always obvious who was who. A friend lost his driver’s license through stupidity; he simply used his grandfather’s license, since at that time the holder’s age wasn’t printed on it. Another friend… he, his brothers, and several of his cousins all have the same first name (Robert) and middle initial. Alas, he won’t be passing that down; all three of his children are female, and his wife drew the line at naming one of them “Roberta.”

              Then there are populations where there simply aren’t that many unique names. Ask for “Jacob Yoder” in an Amish community, and you’ll probably have plenty to pick from…

    2. Going through dozens of VHS tapes I had in storage trying to find the couple that actually have things we want to preserve. Managed to find the tape of my brothers Carrier Quals as a naval aviator before my current VCR decided to show its age. Still looking for the time my father gave a local news station a tour of ‘Hanger 18’ at Wright-Patterson back in the 80’s. He was building supervisor for 18F and 18E at the time. Was very tongue in cheek, and was done on April 1st. I also think there might be a tape of an interview my mother gave to an Australian broadcaster back in the early 2000’s, about the Sat-Com project she was managing at the time. I kept putting it off and now finding a replacement VCR is being a bit of a pain, friend gave me two old ones he had, just need to check to see if they still work.

  7. I dated a German woman for a short time who’s grandfather, in Germany, died. She went over with her mother and a few others, and came back with a box full of her grandfathers personal effects. Turns out, her grandfather was a plastic surgeon at the very top of his field in Germany at the start of WWII. Being such a high profile person, in order to be allowed to practice medicine, or indeed to not be suspected of sedition, he had to join the Nazi party.

    Because he was such a talented plastic surgeon, he did well and in the box were all sorts of metals and awards, some of which were signed by Hitler himself. It was an odd feeling holding a piece of paper and knowing it was once passed through the hands of someone like that. Like touching a piece of history…. an icky piece of history, but still history. I caught myself wondering, being that these things were pieces of history, did they belong in a museum? Or… would it be better to drop them into something like a septic tank where the worst of stuff goes to get broken down and permanently disposed of?

    Not long after, the woman and I went our own ways. I don’t know what she ever did with the stuff.

    1. A point many people forget is that Herr Hitler did some good with his life. Which kind of speaks to the concept that no person is totally evil or unredeemable. Doesn’t mean he wasn’t a monster; but trying to erase him from history does us all a disservice.

      I suspect that had the Communists taken control of Germany, instead of the Nazis, we might have seen an even bloodier WWII.

          1. Shirer’s “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” and “The Nightmare Years” talk about the era between the Armistice and the Nazis gaining power.

            It wasn’t quite a Road-Warrior-grade collapse of civilization, but the parliamentary government was comprised of factions whose main purpose was to sabotage all the other factions, no matter what the cost. Plus the gangs, corrupt police, and general breakdown of the court system. And it was bad enough that there were people who were moving from “not enough to eat” to “starving.” Take what you read about the Depression in the US and add a multiplier.

            Various business consortia gave financial backing to the political factions who looked like they might be able to impose order. The NSDAP had the SA, the Brownshirts, originally Party police. They put the SA out on the streets and up against the gangs. As the SA grew, it became the de facto police in parts of Germany. That put them on the radar for financial assistance; which they used to set up NSDAP work camps, similar to the WPA or CCC in the US.

            Of course, a certain anount of crime and unrest was necessary so the NSDAP and SA could be visibly seen dealing with it; if crime went down too much, well, they could fix that too…

            What’s overlooked nowadays is that the NSDAP were possibly the best of a bad lot. The Crazy was serious in 1920s Germany, and compared to their competition, the Nazis looked more or less sane, moderate, and organized.

            1. …government was comprised of factions whose main purpose was to sabotage all the other factions, no matter what the cost.

              That’s starting to sound sadly familiar…

            2. That was essentially the same thing that happened to the French when the Germans started biting off chunks of French border territory. They almost literally had the “government of the week” as factions gained power in parliament, then did their best to undo what the previous party had started. I think there was one guy who was prime minister three times in three months…

            3. Thanks – one thing the recent decades of close attention to news (and blogs!) has taught me, is to not trust too greatly in what’s been given to us as “history” — hard enough to get two people to agree on what happened yesterday, much less a century ago or more!

      1. This. History of only one part is not history, certainly not a complete one. I do agree that he and his party and his mindset is totally evil, but as a historian, or at the least one who loves history, a complete story as possible must be told, for us to know it.

        1. I got lucky on that one– I grew up knowing that these “Nazi” guys were bad enough for my grandfather to fight them, but human enough that he bought a picture drawn by one of them in the after-war camps.

        2. The obvious flaw in a history or historical narrative is that it depends on events that simply did not happen. Humans are a hybrid of dolphins and lizardmen being one example.

          Subtle flaws involve what is left out, or cherrypicking of data to support a general rule that in fact does not apply generally. One of the central challenges of history is that even where we have much of the data, human minds are so relatively limited that what we use to form conclusions is sharply reduced even from that.

          1. That, and the unfortunate fact that neither individuals nor nations always act in their own best interests.

            One good example: JFK approving the Bay of Pigs invasion, then sabotaging it after it started.

  8. It’s been a couple months since I listened so I’m a bit vague on the details, but in one of the Founding Fathers’ biographies I was listening to on Audible, mention was made of someone (Jefferson?) burning all the personal letters after a loved one died.

    I physically winced when they got to that part because of the historical insight that literally went up in smoke.

        1. That’s actually an account setting– google can automatically contact folks after X time without log-in and give a message, Facebook you can give someone power if you die…. not sure on Instagram or Twitter.

          Oddly enough, this is a plot point in “That Time I Got Re-Incarnated As A Slime.” The main character’s final request is that the friend who was next to him ‘take care of’ his computer, in this sense.
          From the way the asked character does it, I got the impression that
          1) it’s a lot funnier in Japanese because you know what standard traditions he’s doing and what ones he’s wildly varying from,
          2) it was a kind of great honor– like the thing you’d have your firstborn do, if you didn’t have a loyal Lt. to do it.

  9. Whether Notre Dame survives probably depends on who ends up taking over. The Hagia Sofia is still there, after all, even if its now a museum rather than a church. If it’s a more Taliban-like group, however…well, we’ll have to prioritize what can be saved over what can’t be.

    1. Macron has said Notre Dame = France. so I’m sure the French would fight to keep Notre Dame de Paris.

      1. The early comment from Macron (since deleted) was that the restoration was supposed to represent France’s diversity. I’m kind of happy that it’s been many centuries since I had ancestors living in France. SMH.

        1. Short version: When you look at stuff like indications of how many babies are born, instead of asking guys in the public street, you get much smaller numbers of births.

          1. The middle East is in faster free fall than the rest of the world. They just started higher. ALSO in the west they only have higher numbers of births for a generation, then fall to European levels. (Though they might claim more for welfare. There’s borrowing of kids, etc.)

            1. Ah, what an effective aphrodisiac might do…”properly” released/applied… (What, me conspiratorial? Not like I have access or knowledge of such. If I did… would I commenting here? No, I’d be.. exploiting… such knowledge… whether for good or not is a matter of speculation. But as it is… a ‘taur can dream, can’t he?)

              1. So like The Purge, but instead of everyone trying to kill everyone else, all the adults go into Pon Far and have 24 hours of wild uncontrolled sex? Hmmm. What ancient society used to do that every mid-summer night?

                1. Keeping with the Star Trek them, perhaps it would be more like a combo deal, like “Festival” in “The Return of the Archons.”

            2. One of my big fears is that if the government continues selling out the safety and security of its citizens, that the pendulum will swing the other way, HARD. Then Europe will be covered in death camps again. The only difference would be that this time, simply LOOKING too “ethnic” would get people thrown in. It’s a terrifying thought. I had great grandparents in concentration camps in WWII. But if this ever came to pass, it would probably make the Third Reich look like a bunch of pikers.

              1. I’m not sure what any backlash will look like, but I suspect it would look less like Nazi Germany and more like Rwanda.

        2. There’s also the “problem” that if girls are raised in the West, they tend to have a notion that they’re fully human. And boys raised in the west tend to think the girls are fully human, and that there might be a cute chick who isn’t a first cousin….

          (This is why I hate, hate HATE the mass resettlement ideas.)

          1. Re: mass resettlement. Just a bad idea, all around. And not just bad for the surrounding areas, bad for the resettled. Refugee resettlement thousands of miles away from their home country, in a different climate/environment, with different and alien languages and culture, and no prospects for work, little for education, and no idea when (or if) return is possible. Plus, moving everyone as a group, from the same refugee camp where who knows what kind of f*ckery was happening? Who thought that was a good idea?

            Oh yeah, the same people who think that people streaming across the border willy nilly regardless of health status or documentation, is better than channeling them through processing points where they can receive medical care and documentation enabling them to live lives free of fear. That is to say, idiots who blather on about how much they care, but can’t be bothered to do anything concretely helpful for people, and condemn those who try to be practical about things for their “hatred” and “lack of compassion.”

            (I probably could have just stopped at “idiots”, I daresay.)

            1. Indeed, it makes me wonder why Foxfier even WANTS to be considered fully human. Every time there’s trouble in the world it seems like they’re involved somehow.

              Are you sure you want to be associated with that kind of crowd, young lady?

          2. I agree on the mass resettlement issue. That’s one of the reasons why Minnesota and Michigan are as screwed up as they are. I remember when the U.S. resettled a big bunch of Vietnamese (Hmong?) in NH Still some problems with them and the rest of the native community (on both sides); and that’s with most of them wanting to become full Americans.

          3. Eh. Dalrymple noted that the boys tend to be happy to have an underclass mistress somewhere and an arranged-marriage first cousin wife to look after his household. Some bias in his sampling, of course, but it’s there however prevalent.

    2. It is also a museum who maintenance is circumscribed.

      I also suspect it will go back to being a mosque under the current governemnt in Turkey.

  10. Waving aside how the fire started… where were the sprinklers? If there *were* sprinklers, why didn’t they work?

    The city of Paris, the nation of France, and the Catholic Church all failed in their duty to safeguard a structure that was entrusted to their care, not just for now, but for generations to come.

    1. Similarly waving aside the existence of a sprinkler system: Major renovations were ongoing, and it’s relatively common to disable a sprinkler system while work past a certain intrusiveness is underway to avoid major leaks or inadvertent activations and resulting water damage.

      But unwaving my aside waving, I bet there were no sprinklers, because France.

      1. A building I worked in once had a fire start in the wiring… early in the morning, right before they were about to turn on the new fire control system. Alarm system, maybe? I think the sprinklers worked.

        Actually, there was very little structural damage. But they had to do a lot of work afterward anyway because the soot got pulled into the ventilation system and went e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e.

      1. This – I’ve seen other churches in France that need fire-protection and other major work, but the French government said, “That’s inside the roof, so the congregation has to pay.” The walls and roof are government responsibility, otherwise the congregation has to cover the cost [much of the time] and still meet historic preservation standards, et cetera.

  11. I’m pretty much hyperventilating about your grandmother’s letters and they aren’t even my grandmother’s letters…

    The box of baby/toddler stuff though… everyone keeps at least one box, don’t they? The single cutest newborn outfit for each baby, maybe a special blanket. Don’t they?

  12. The eye-opener for me was helping a buddy clean out his folk’s place. Imagining a group of strangers helping one of my younger relations stuck with the job, exclaiming as they discovered more stuff that was kept, talking about my stuff, was frightening. Until then I had not looked at my stuff as a stranger would. Very enlightening.

  13. We just traveled for a relative’s funeral and came home with a bunch of pictures. I have to remember to scan them all and reprint a few.

    Good to be reminded.

    The woman who died wasn’t planning on it any time soon (found out about the cancer last September) and hadn’t even thought about down-sizing yet… bought a new, large, house. Sorting that out is not going to be easy. She collected things…

  14. Didn’t Connie Willis already write a book or two about cathedrals burning and things being preserved/rescued (Fire Watch and To Say Nothing of the Dog)?

    1. Also, I remember a series of stories (not sure if it was the Connie Willis books or not) about a time travel service that would visit places just before some huge disaster and rescue the most important artworks. They would, historically, just be listed as lost in the disaster so there was no impact on the time stream.

      1. In “Small Gods” (I think), the Librarian from Unseen University puts in a quick appearance (using L-Space to get there and return home) at a library that’s about to be burned to rescue some specific texts.

      2. ..the title is on the tip of my tongue …not the Pratchet story…gimme a few memory-cycles…

  15. But in a post-Christian Europe, how long will those marks of the past be acceptable and tolerated, much less cherished?

    While I have no doubt that Norte Dame will be rebuilt, I wonder if it will be rebuilt as a cathedral, especially if the government plays a key role.

    Sure, it can be rebuilt as a structural duplicate, but if dedicated to “Europe” or “the Modern Spirit” or “an ecumenical palace of peace” or even a museum, will it truly be restored?

    Plus, as pointed out above, Europe isn’t having children. Will it suffer the fate of Christendom’s greatest church, The Hagia Sophia, suffered for nearly five millennia, to become a mosque, within a decade or two of any such rebuilding finishing?

    I watched it burn and could not help wonder if the symbolism will be in the rebuilding or in the burning.

    1. As near as I can tell from the pictures, the stone structure of the building is only a little damaged: i.e. a couple of the stone ceiling vaults fell in, dumping some portion of the burned roof timbers into the interior. The rest of the ceiling is still intact.

      This means that to restore the building they need to rebuild the collapsed vault sections and replace the roof in its entirety.

      … and maybe scrub off the soot.

      That wouldn’t be the work of more than a couple years, even with union labor.

      1. *wags paw* The trouble is thermal shock to the stone. If you heat some kinds of stone, then quench it rapidly, it gets brittle or just shatters. I’m not familiar with all the different sorts of material used over the centuries in Notre Dame, but I’d be a little concerned.

        Apparently the other big worry at the moment is debris lying on top of the vaults. The arches are not meant to take weight other than the stones. Any additional mass adds stress that shouldn’t be there.

        1. *Nod* Both of those are big problems. I’m waaaaay away from being an expert, but I remember enough from my art history classes to have an idea how precariously all those flying buttresses carry the load.

          Hopefully someone knows what they’re doing.

          1. You don’t want the flying buttresses to convert themselves into crashing buttresses.

    2. I think it could be an “embrace the power of ‘and'” situation. At the time it was built, it was an engineering masterpiece. Why not rebuild it as one? Leave the street-side (front of building/back of church) towers and rebuild the rest with modern materials.

      Put a nuclear generator in the basement, rebuild the buttresses using active support, and suspend the roof with spun Kevlar.

      1. Using modern engineering practices to produce the same visual (and acoustic, the acoustics of the cathedral are famous) is one thing. I would expect that. In fact, it should be demanded.

        Adding to the appearance, especially to make it ecumenical or diverse, is different and should be opposed.

  16. I will note at this time that in ancient times the Library of Alexandria was burned, yet we all remain.

    Stuff comes, stuff goes, we go on.

    But maybe it would have been nice if the stupid pricks had been a little more careful.

    1. It would be an interesting piece of speculative fiction to wonder just where we would be had the Library of Alexandria NOT burned.

      1. in one of my stories, all the important stuff was saved, its just a pain to get to it now.

        1. Man walks into a government office in Egypt.
          “Hi. I’m trying to return this scroll to the library. One of my ancient ancestors checked it out and never returned it.”
          Clerk looks over her glasses with an exasperated look at the young man.
          “Let’s see the scroll.”, she intones,. while holding out her hand.
          The young gentleman hands her the scroll.
          The clerk looks at the scroll, sits up straight as her eyes widen.
          “Oh my. This is a scroll previously thought lost with the Library of Alexandria! Thank YOU!”
          The fellow turns to leave, as she wildly pushes buttons on her computer.
          “Wait just a moment young man.” the clerk says sternly. “I’m afraid you own us a late fee of 2045 bushels of wheat.”

      2. Worse off, perhaps. Notice that the Industrial Revolution occurred where the Roman Empire fell most completely

  17. It’s an omen. God turns his face away from the corruption of the eurocrats and/or the Roman Catholic Church.
    Or it’s another musselman attack on Christendom.
    These are not mutually exclusive.

    The above may or may not be true, but they are the stories that ring true.

    1. I didn’t assume that.
      After all, the Israelites always received blatant warnings before they were well and truly plucked.

      Maybe this time, it’ll work.
      But that starts with defenestrating much of the status quo, and those who hold power under it.
      Macron clearly understands how dangerous this moment is to him, and said the right things to lull the populace back to sleep.
      But the yellow vest movement gives me hope.

      For frantic boast and foolish word—
      Thy mercy on Thy People, Lord!

  18. Let’s try Taleb’s approach.
    This tradition clearly has practical downsides to those carrying it. I that there’s a risk of accidentally destroying a document (deed on something), or simply “grandma hid the gold under… oops, we burned that note”, etc.
    So if it persists over long time, it’s likely to have comparable or greater advantages.
    Maybe this reduces feuds?

  19. @ ATH …O/T…came across your name when putting together my final thoughts on the New Madrid Quake Zone after 6 years of piecing the puzzle together. Thought that you might be interested. … https://wordpress.com/post/goldminor.wordpress.com/223

    Break out the dart board, the big dart board. Dec 11th of 1811 was the first of a series of 3 large quakes on the New Madrid. The second quake was on January 23rd 1812, and the 3rd and largest struck on February 7th 1812, Dalton Minimum and the solar minimum

    The first major quake on the New Madrid was at 1pm on December 25th of 1699, recorded by a French missionary in a group of explorers, Maunder Minimum and start of the solar minimum.

    Other years were in AD300, AD900 and AD1450. Now take a look at the JG/U 2K temp graph and see what it shows is happening to global temps for each of those 3 quakes. Other moderately strong quakes were in January 4th in 1843, at the solar minimum, and on October 31st 1895. This last one occurs after the maximum of SC 13 and 8 years prior to the solar minimum. More recent was on November 9th 1968 three years after the solar minimum. … http://www.uni-mainz.de/eng/bilder_presse/09_geo_tree_ring_northern_europe_climate.jpg

    So commonality with the major quakes is they all strike mainly in the winter, at the solar minimum, and either during a solar grand minimum or during a Gleissberg cycle. Which raises the question is the next New Madrid quake now close at hand and ready to strike in this upcoming winter? If not this winter, then highly likely for the next solar minimum. It is clear to see that this year 2019 will be the heart of the solar minimum. The solar minimum is certainly low and prolonged as the last one was in 2008/09. In 2008 a moderately strong quake hit on the Wabash Fault Zone, close to the New Madrid Zone. Does this warrant issuing a warning to the proper emergency agencies to be on stand by alert, and/or to issue a general alert to the population at risk?

      1. Ahah, well just thought that I would share this as I am also sharing this elsewhere. I have been studying climate related material for that last 11 years. This caught my attention around 6 years ago. I really do think that this is important at this time for people who love in the states most susceptible to taking damage from the New Madrid Fault Line, for reasons stated. Solar conditions are set up just right to where there is a high probability, imo, of the next major quake hitting the region. Will look up Stephanie. I happened upon your site when searching for related quake info.

  20. My parents have 2 or 3 boxes of important papers from my grandparents. Everything else is gone. My husband’s family, on the other hand, has 6 storage units full of estates going back to the 50’s, at least. Mostly because it’s incredibly daunting to deal with so they just add to it when somebody dies and leave it in storage. I’m not looking forward to being the one to have to go through it all but I’ll be damned if I’m leaving that mess to my kids.

      1. So crazy. And most of my first apartment is in one of them. When we moved up to care for his grandfather, they offered to store our stuff until we moved again. Then nobody could remember which one it was in. They have occasional garage sales where they just open the doors and pull stuff out. They’re pretty sure that’s what happened to the contents of my kitchen.

      2. My sister’s and her husband got most of his side of the family heirlooms, because no one wanted them. Besides their wedding china, they can setup their own kids with 2 sets each of full china sets, nice ones. An formal dining table each (plus they keep two), I don’t know how much formal crystal ware, and I think there is only a couple sets of silver beyond their own (so only the girls get some). That doesn’t count family photos, and minor memorabilia. Plus everything he collects … they have a 3 car garage, plus 3 major storage areas within/under the house, based on how the house is built, full. Although a lot was lost when the storage area under their bedroom flooded when water pipes burst under the master bathroom. However, some of the items lost were her handmade (home?) dance costumes from when she was taking dance as a child (through middle school.)

        Our maternal grandmother was the same. Nothing got thrown away, everything was saved. Quality wasn’t as good. Grandparents had an excuse, called WW1, ’30s, and WWII.

        Brother-in-law comes from East Coast where heirloom furniture was regulated to the attic, to be found a generation or two latter, restored, and reused. When they moved out of those homes, they cleared the attics.

  21. Every so often, you do have to winnow out the closets, attics, basements, and garages. The problem with documents is that they are often irreplaceable…and you don’t really know what’s important until much later.

    1. Realized we needed to update our wills. Tried to locate the lawyer who did them. Discovered he had been disbarred. Wonder who has the originals now?

      Rule #47. Need to learn what I don’t know.

      1. The most important rule (#0) about will and trust documents is that you get to have an recordable copy. That way, you – or your heirs – get to pick the lawyer.

        If they wont let you have a signed counterpart, engage the NOPE drive and get out of there. My paternal grandmother got in one of these situations; the estate lawyer wouldn’t do anything without full power of attorney over the assets, which my father wouldn’t give him. It was a right mess.

        Later we found out he was financing his daughter’s eventing career out of estate and trust assets, so we dodged that bullet.

  22. FWIW, I’m betting they’ll have Notre Dame rebuilt better than new in three years. It’s going to be a point of honor. Although I suspect the new roof will be steel, not timbers. Grounding rods the size of a man’s wrist.

    1. Oddly, laminated wood roof beams are certifiable as “fireproof” in US and Canadian NFPA ratings, while steel beams are not. The steel will soften and collapse under the heat, while the wood ones will char on the outside and usually remain serviceable.

      Modern laminated beams are a far cry from dry 900 year old timbers, though.

      1. The dining hall at Hidden Valley Scout Camp in Gilmanton NH has the kind of laminated beams I think you’re talking about. Beams are a bit more than a foot thick, and 3 or 4 foot in height, and run some 70 feet unsupported until they meet their counterpart from the other side at the roof peak. Each layer of the beam looks like a 2×12 board to me.

      2. That’s them! The thermal mass of the beams is high enough that the fire will usually burn out before the beam gets hot enough to burn. NFPA figures some certain percentage of combustible material in the structure vs. the mass of the beam to get the rating.

        You can get them straight, or made in curves for Gothic arches, domes, that sort of thing.

        1. I’m not familiar with links in WordPress, but I will try. This is a video on YouTube of a Latvian fire test with a gluelam mass timber vs metal beam in a residential fire test. I know what I want to build from!

  23. When my brother got back from his trip to Italy, he mentioned that pretty much every museum (and there are an absurd number of museums there) in that country has a basement that’s filled with statuary. The stuff takes up space, but the display spaces are already stuffed with more important and valuable artworks. So the packed stuff stays packed, and no one ever does anything with it.

    1. There are often enough stories of how some new discovery has been made because somebody finally took a closer look at something which had been stored in some museum storage for decades without anybody else ever doing anything with it, after it had been initially cataloged and put into storage.

  24. One of the few major disagreements I’ve ever had with my wife was when we had only a couple of kids. She was cleaning out a storage room and told me it was time to throw out some car magazines (not the kind with half-naked women, just cars and articles on how to do modifications, etc.).

    WIFE: You need to get rid of that.
    ME: I don’t feel like it. I plan on building a hot rod later on, and I like to read the articles.
    WIFE: Buy more magazines THEN.
    ME: Why? I have these NOW.
    WIFE: But you’re not USING them now. They’re just taking up space!
    ME: So? We have the space. Besides, you see that pile of crafting stuff? I haven’t seen you use that in, like, a couple of years.
    ME: Yeah. The difference is that it’s YOUR crap, but I respect your right to have some crap if you want it. And considering these old magazines are taking up considerably less space than that, I think I’m fine. Maybe you should respect my right to have a little crap of my own, even if you don’t see the value in it.

    I understand that we don’t want to turn into hoarders. But by the same token, I feel no moral impulse to get rid of stuff just because I haven’t used it in X amount of years. If I were to do that, there’d be one heck of a lot of books and tools that I wouldn’t have any more, and there’s no way I’m going to do THAT. 😀

    1. Have you noticed that the day or week after you finally dispose of some book or tool that’s been hanging around forever, that job comes up that the tool does? Inevitable. Then you have to buy a NEW one, and the new one sucks because the quality of tools only ever goes -down- in our lifetime.

      1. I started noticing that years ago. Now I’m paranoid about getting rid of anything unless it’s completely worn out.

    2. I got out of the engine rebuilding business a while back. It took a couple of years before I could work up to getting rid of the machinery. But I not only got rid of it, I threw the milling machine in as part of the deal.

      Of course, I had to console myself by buying a brand new milling machine and lathe and mass quantities of new tooling for both…

      Still preparing to move into a smaller house. I’m still thinning out the books, because there’s simply no room for them at the new place. Lots of them go back to the pre-internet days, basic reference material. Some I will keep just for convenience or SHTF. Most of the rest… I can either find that information online now, or buy another copy of the book online if I find I really need it.

      I still have a lot of stuff I’d like to scan before disposing of, but doing it by hand isn’t going to be practical. Has anyone dealt with any of those “book scan” outfits? 1DollarScan’s price went up to more like $10.

      1. Consolidation and organization I definitely get.
        Funny enough, a couple of years after the magazine thing, I got a bunch of stuff from my brother. I was sorting it out when my wife came out to the shed and said, “What’s that thing?”
        I replied, “Half an alternator from my grandfather’s truck. He almost never threw anything away. It’s just part of all this stuff I’m going through.”
        She said, “So… you’re going to get rid of that, right?”
        “Because it’s junk. It makes this shed a mess. You have to get rid of it!”
        I replied, “Look, you’re in the house all day, so we decorate the house the way you want it. But this is my space. I get to have this space how I want it.”
        “But it’s junk!”
        “Yes, but again, it’s MY junk. And if I want this junk in my space, it’s STAYING in my space.”
        I immediately took a zip tie and hung that half an alternator on the wall. It’s there to this day. I don’t argue often with my wife, but sometimes a man’s just got to take a stand on his space.
        I guess it’s like Jeff Foxworthy said once: you don’t know what a stupid argument is until you’re married. 😉

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