Object from the past are more durable than you think

January 27, 2009 at 6:59 pm (Family, History)

This sentence occurred to me while I was indulging in some free association concerning cliches and odd verbal formulations. I began with “The past is another country; they do things differently there.” This oft-quoted sentiment is the first line of L.P. Hartley’s novel The Go-Between. Richard Cohen leads with it in his column in today’s Washington Post.

I suspect that many more people know this quotation than have actually read the book; I am, alas. among their number. I do, though, vividly remember the 1970 film starring Julie Christie and Alan Bates, with a screenplay by Harold Pinter.


Somehow, this led me to the words inscribed on the passenger’s side view mirror of most cars and trucks: “Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.” I’ve always found this statement somewhat cryptic and was pleased to find this explanation of its meaning.

Then my husband helped me to scan in these two postcards. I had found them in a cache of old family photographs which I was attempting to sort through.



Inserting these two images into this post, I could feel my heart beat accelerate. The postcards were sent by my grandfather Nathan Gusman to my grandmother Mary Davidoff, not long after they came to this country. Presumably, they were courting at the time. (The old-fashioned word seems appropriate here.) The card immediately above is clearly postmarked 1910. The other postmark is much harder to make out due to the raised surface on which it was stamped. We think it might be 1908.

These two people, my mother’s parents, were part of a large wave of Jewish immigrants who came to America from Eastern Europe and Russia in the early years of the last century. We grandchildren were simply told that they came to this country from Russia. Where, exactly? I don’t know. When, exactly? I don’t know that either. By the time I though to ask, it was too late.

(I did find some interesting historical background at the Library of Congress, Wikipedia, and, in a rather piquant manner, on the site of this Israeli retailer.)

After the scanning session, I became obsessed with the notion of the fragility of these two century-old artifacts. Should I have them laminated, or in some other way preserved? Finally my husband pointed out that with just small amount of damage to show for it, the postcards had continued to exist for the past one hundred years. Put them in an envelope, he advised, then put them in a drawer and leave them be.

And that is where they are. Although, of course, they are also in cyberspace, which pleases me – and you as well, I trust, Dear Reader.

I still have many photographs to sort through, but this one will always be among the most precious in this trove (click to enlarge):

Nathan Gusman and Mary Davidoff

Nathan Gusman and Mary Davidoff

1 Comment

  1. The Culinary Jewel of Historic Ellicott City: Tersiguel’s Country French Restaurant « Books to the Ceiling said,

    […] March 14, 2009 at 12:12 pm (Food, France, Local interest (Baltimore-Washington)) It’s official: Ron and I hereby declare that the best restaurant meals we’ve ever eaten have been served at Tersiguel’s, located downtown in Historic Ellicott City. Wednesday night I had the pan roasted seasonal salmon, while Ron had the rockfish special. Now I note on the menu that my entree is more precisely called “saumon mignon.” I don’t exactly know what “mignon” means when used to describe seafood, but I remember being 21, standing on a street corner in Paris, and having this word applied to me (”Que tu es mignonne”) by a gendarme, no less. Ah, well, that was another country… […]

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