What Happens Every Day

Photo Credit:Jeremy Kovac/Unsplash

This past Thanksgiving, I wrote about how I’d recently come into possession of a diary my grandfather kept during the year 1926, when he was forty two. That little pocket-sized journal, no larger than a deck of cards, still sits here on my desk and I look at it from time to time just to see what he was thinking about. What I didn’t notice on Thanksgiving was that in the year 2021 the days of the week would line up exactly with the days of the month as they were then. Yesterday (Sunday) was February 21, just as it was in 1926. Today is February 22, as it was then. It was not a Leap Year, so the pattern should obtain all of this year.

The enduring question is of what possible interest is talking about my grandfather‘s diary from ninety five years ago to anyone today. It was what was on my mind over the weekend, for some reason, and it’s just what I want to write about. It feels like there is a gravitational pull toward that and I can’t say why. It just interests me.

I suppose I found it noteworthy that my grandfather and I both wanted to record what happened on Sunday February 21, ninety five years apart. Where was he sitting? Why did he do it? Why was he arranging words into sentences?

There’s nothing inherently deep or earth shaking about any of the content. It means more to me because he was my grandfather and I recognize the references, but it was mostly just humdrum every day details he made a note of because he didn’t want to forget.

On Sunday, February 21 1926 he noted that the weather was fair and the temp was eight below (in central Maine).
He wrote: “Went downtown and got Mr. Johnson’s papers and took them up to him. Took Mrs. J and Mrs. M to church. (He was a private chauffeur for a family at the time)Took Thelma (his daughter, my aunt) to Sunday school and got the women folks. Went up as far as Gannets (a nice wooded area with paths) for a ride. Worked at home in afternoon. Stayed home in the evening. Uncle Leonard Crocker died last night at South Gardiner.”

Next day, Monday, February 22, 1926 was also fair and up to twelve above.

He noted: “Made my regular trips with the car and went up to Augusta to the hot house and ordered some flowers for uncle Len’s funeral. I mended chairs most of the day. Went to the army supplier at 5:30 with Luther. Started to build my attic stairs in the evening. Snowed a little in the morning.”

Photo Credit:Matthew T. Rader/Unsplash

The “so-what?” question was just hanging out there, without an answer, until I was reading an essay by Georges Perec from L’Infr-ordinaire (1989).

“What speaks to us, seemingly, is always the big event, the untoward, the extra-ordinary, the front page splash, the banner headlines. Railway trains only begin to exist when they are derailed, and the more passengers that are killed, the more the trains exist.”

He goes on:
“What’s really going on, what we’re experiencing, the rest, all the rest, where is it? How should we take account of, question, describe what happens every day and recurs every day: the banal, the quotidian, the obvious, the common, the ordinary, the infra-ordinary, the background noise, the habitual?”

He coined a new word, when he wrote “Not the exotic anymore, but the endotic.”

That is where my grandfather’s diary lives and where most of us live. In the endotic everyday.

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