Readers of this blog know that I am addicted to Antiques Roadshow. I watch mostly for the description. Crenulated. Wingback. Bezel. That thing on the top of cabinet clocks. When is an object more than just a thing—when you hear one of the Keno brothers go into detail about it. You come to understand it is the sum of the parts, the work invested, the craftsmanship.
One of the appraisers was evaluating a book of police mugshots from Portland, Oregon circa 1900s. The term she used to describe it was vernacular, as in vernacular photos have become very popular.
Here’s how Daile Kaplan defined the term: The photography of the everyday, the photography that's a record, that's a document, that has a historic truth.
This is also how I might define flash memoir.
This is not the letter from Abraham Lincoln or the guy who found the Rembrandt in the trash. This is more like the story behind the toy train. I got it for Christmas one year and it’s been in our family ever since.
Some of us might use this as an excuse to get something out of the fridge or make popcorn. While some of us will lean closer to the TV and say out loud: I have something just like it! We learn that that thing we’ve always had and took for granted is now of value. That moment we almost forgot about, is suddenly the linchpin of an important memory. The thing that binds us together in a universal experience.
This is why it’s important to capture and write things down. We never know when the landline will disappear or that when we talk about a video or even now a DVD kids will look at us cross-eyed. We never know when writing the ordinary that it will someday become historic, a record of the past.
*the avocado-colored wall phone
Try to think of something that was ubiquitous when growing up has already gone the way of all things. Write about it.