Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Things Lost in the 1998 Flood

The hardbound 1941 first edition copy of this book was washed away (in the Gulf of Mexico, I suppose) in the 1998 flood. After tossing about 2800 books (if memory serves), I stopped counting. The discarded damaged books made an enormous pile at curbside. However, things ARE just things.

The family memorabilia is probably what I miss the most (when I take the time to think about it). My mother's autograph book. The old old photographs. My baptism certificate. Birth certificate. All of the old scrapbooks (I had scrapbooks for every year of my life and the older I get - and I am OLD - the more I seem to reminisce). My mother's letters. My youngest son's personal items (I had given the three older children all of their memorabilia and photos when we moved from Denver). News clippings about family members.

Since we had only recently moved to Seguin from Denver, all of that 'stuff' was in the shed by the house as we continued to renovate our home. Naturally the shed was the first to go - the sound of the nails popping from the shed like gunshots as we stood on higher ground across the street and watched everything float away.
ANYWAY - I just had to purchase a copy (1996 - softbound) of William Alexander Percy's book Lanterns on the Levee Recollections of a Planter's Son, to replace the first edition I had in my library.
The author Walker Percy was greatly influenced by his uncle, William Alexander Percy, and in the forward to this book, Walker Percy writes:

"I remember the first time I saw him. I was thirteen and he had come to visit my mother and me and my brothers in Athens, Georgia, where we were living with my grandmother after my father's death.
"We had heard of him, of course. He was the fabled relative, the one you liked to speculate about. His father was a United States senator and he had been a decorated infantry officer in World War I. Besides that, he was a poet. The fact that he was also a lawyer and a planter didn't cut much ice -- after all, the South was full of lawyer-planters. But how many people did you know who were war heroes and wrote books of poetry? One had heard of Rupert Brooke and Joyce Kilmer, but they were dead."

"...For to have lived in Will Percy's house, with 'Uncle Will' as we called him, as a raw youth from age fourteen to twenty-six, a youth whose only talent was a knack for looking and listening, for tuning in and soaking up, with nothing less than to be informed in the deepest sense of the word. What was to be listened to, dwelled on, pondered over for the next thirty years was of course the man himself, the unique human being, and when I say unique I mean it in its most literal sense: he was one of a kind: I never met anyone remotely like him. It was to encounter a complete, articulated view of the world as tragic as it was noble. It was to be introduced to Shakespeare, to Keats, to Brahms, to Beethoven--and unsuccessfully, it turned out, to Wagner whom I never liked, though I was dragged every year to hear Flagstad sing Isolde -- as one seldom if ever meets them in school."
William Alexander Percy [note: my friends shudder when I mention another genealogy 'link' and have been heard to groan and derisively mutter : "You're related to everyone." and once when we were discussing the kids' project with Flat Stanley (you've heard of Flat Stanley, I trust), my husband looked at me and commented dryly: "I suppose you are related to Flat Stanley.").

I am distantly related to William Alexander Percy (and thus Walker Percy) through my Williams lineage (of which - boring my friends I know! - the playwright Thomas Lanier "Tennessee" Williams belongs).
From the forward of Lanterns on the Levee:

The desire to reminisce arises not so much I think from the number of years you may happen to have accumulated as from the number of those who meant most to you in life who have gone on the long journey. They were the bulwarks, the bright spires, the strong places. When they have gone, you are a little tired, you rest on your oars, you say to yourself: "There are no witnesses to my fine little fury, my minute heroic efforts. It is better to remember, to be sure of the good that was, rather than of the evil that is, to watch the spread and pattern of the game that is past rather than engage feebly in the present play. It was a stout world thus far, peopled with all manner of gracious and kindly and noble personages--these seem rather a pygmy tribe."
I suppose there is some irony in losing a book about the 1927 flood in the 1998 flood - The Flood of 1927

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