Keeping things

Published 5:28 pm Saturday, August 11, 2018

By Yolande Robbins

Keeping things is something we don’t do much anymore. It no longer anchors us like it once did to times and things we never wanted to forget. In fact, it is now idle against the compression of time into just the present tense.

Technology has rid us of the past by making all things present. We don’t remember anymore; we just don’t have to. All we have to do is conjure “Siri” — or some similar tech monster — to make all things present and deprive us of the past.

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Everything is present now. There is no more “past.”

Waiting idly for a doctor or a taxi cab to come, we ask our magic phones to tell us the double dutch lyric of our playful past, and there it is: “3-6-9; the goose drank wine; spit tobacco on the streetcar line; the line broke; the monkey got choked, and they all went to heaven in a little rowboat.”

Mercifully, it doesn’t add the “Quack, quack” at the end. Nothing to remember. It’s all “present” in my hand.

Now here’s what we have lost: graveyards and who’s buried in them for instance. Except for large civic enterprise as by a city for a cemetery, there’s no record in church cemeteries of the loved ones buried there.

There’s no record in “Beulah” with more than 5,000 graves. Funeral home records only say they’re buried there, but they don’t say where. That’s how accustomed we’ve become to not remembering our past.

Just last night, we celebrated the 100th anniversary of the chartered founding of Vicksburg’s NAACP. But for the longest time we couldn’t find the papers — any papers — to document its founding. Eventually, we did. But for the longest time, there’d been no record, not here or in Jackson, that there had ever been one here. No living child or grandchild had any papers passed from their parents that documented their roles in that struggle. Those papers, if there had been any, were long lost or thrown away.

We love to have the outward appearance of organized and meaningful lives, but the reality seldom matches the appearance. We format ourselves into committees and we duly keep the minutes, but little else. We lose the history, but we keep the minutes.

I have a lovely lady’s watch, belonging once to my great aunt, my mother’s aunt, who passed it on to her. And she, in turn, gave it to me. I’m likely the last one in my generation to remember all those people. I don’t know what will happen to it when I die.

Somewhere in my father’s papers are the laid-out expenses for building this funeral home back in the 1930s soon after the Depression. It cost him $700 from start to finish. He and my mother wanted a three-story home with the bottom two floors for business, and the upstairs floor for us, but they ran out of money and made do with just the two.

That is why I’m keeping it.

“Siri” doesn’t know.

Yolande Robbins is a community correspondent for The Vicksburg Post. You may email her at