|A Stray Moment - Celebrating Gering's Quasquicentennial|
|July 12, 2012 Doug Harris|
Quasquicentennial? Now that is a fancy three dollar word, isn’t it? It is so seldom used that most spell check systems can’t identify it. Yet, a web search and an archaic dictionary can verify that a 125th anniversary is called a quasquicentennial. Because we haven’t seen many 125th birthdays, let alone any 125th wedding anniversaries since, well, probably since Biblical times, the word has apparently fallen out of favor. But with the important milestone of Gering counting 125 years since it was founded in 1887 it seemed worth a little extra digging to get the fancy phrasing correct. Because a town celebrating 125 years is more than just a number; more than just another date to check off on the calendar.
125 years in the life of a community represents five generations, each building upon the work of the last one to create the unique whole that Gering presents to us now. We probably have a few left who can say they lived to see at least parts of all five, but the span of time and mortality tells us loudly that no one will ever claim to see the sixth. For most of us 125 years represents our parents, our grandparents and even our great-grandparents who came before us.
Depending upon where we find ourselves on this journey of life this measure of time can be viewed in both directions. It represents our children, our grandchildren and great-grandchildren as well. It represents both our fondest memories and fiercest hopes. And yes, it also calls forth our bitterest disappointments and deepest sorrows.
It is tempting to fall into velvet prose and give the most attention to the ‘blood, sweat, and tears’ that all these collective years combined would represent. Yet that would be unfair. While sacrifice and hard times are part of this legacy we need to look back (and forward) on the joys, the victories, and the accomplishments that also have unfolded over the past five generations.
One hundred twenty-five years represents the shady veil that is so close yet beyond our grasp; it is just across the edge of how far we can hope to go into the idea of living memory. Our parents can tell us about their grandparents, our grandparents about theirs, but eventually the memory fades to old photographs that (with luck) have unfamiliar names written on the back of them.
No, let me check that. The names are often familiar, if we’ve listened. They might even be our own names, recycled down from past generations as families frequently do. Did we listen as the Old Settlers reminisced? We can place the faces; we can know something of these old lives that are now long over.
We know the pioneer tales shared around the hearth or the campfire, but we never heard the sound of the laughter, and we wouldn’t recognize the voice. So it is in the here and the now that we can do what we can to carry the old memories forth even as we create new ones. We need to listen carefully so when the grandchildren ask “What happened here? Who were these people?” we can offer more than names written on gravestones and dusty photographs.
Is 125 years in a small town significant? It is to us, of course. We have to think of the many that have left the Valley and went off to make their unique mark upon the world; such precious gifts we have bestowed. We also note those who stayed, or returned.
These 125 years are the collective of us; the pride of place that comes naturally when we name something ‘Home.’ The phrase ‘from these roots’ comes to mind. It seems Gering rests on sound soil, and we’ve raised much more than just beets and beans over these years.
I did a little quick math to try to comprehend the scope of human experience 125 years in Gering adds up to. In 2011 the Gering census counted 8,500 people. Let’s pretend that each of these people lived a fairly modest 50 years. 8,500 people times 50 years equals 425,000 years of human life. That is only counting 2011, and a fifty year life span is a low estimate to begin with. Most folks live longer than that in these parts.
So if we consider the growth of Gering over the past 125 years, and count only once for each of the five generations, our little town can account for millions of years of sweet life. This is the story of us, our families, our friends, our neighbors, even the strangers we see at the grocery store; this is what quasquicentennial means. Is that significant? Is that something worth celebrating? Beyond Providence itself, is there anything greater or more noteworthy?
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