Everybody Knows

Here is another portion of, The Saga of The Rhone’s – A letter written by my Great Uncle to my Great Grandfather:

Our grandmother Hetty was later married and had seven children, Lizzie, Emma, Jim, Dave, Will, Erastus, and one more… I am sure you know all about Erastus so I say nothing about him.

What?!? Wait one minute here! All those names, normal for the time, and then… Erastus? I don’t care about the other kids half as much as I care about him just because of his name alone. You know he was the most interesting of all because, well, look at that last line. You know at one time Erastus must have been known all over the family as a real character. Good? Bad? Who cares? All I know is that, because my Great Grandfather and his Brother knew “all about Erastus”, we now don’t.
Some vague memories remain. My Mother faintly remembers an “Uncle Rasty” growing up when she would visit with her Father’s family. She does not remember much. Mainly that he lived in a shed in the back, not in the main house. That there may have been some sort of falling out with some of the other family members…
This is an important lesson about the nature of storytelling and history. The stuff everyone knows is often the stuff forgotten with time. Nobody bothers to write it or repeat it because “everyone” knows it, at least at the time. The problem here should be obvious. As long as the knowledge is “known” and not captured and recorded, it will eventually be lost.
This is true of most of the things we keep in our heads really. No matter how good your memory, or deep your knowledge, all of it will go when you do. Write it down. Especially the stuff everybody knows.