“Our archives are treasure troves – a testament to many lives lived and the complexity of the way we move forward. They contain clues to the real concerns of day-to-day life that bring the past alive.” ― Sara Sheridan

I now think of my great grandmother every time I ask Alexa to beam up the news on WHYY or listen to an audible-book in my kitchen around dinnertime–or whenever I sit down at the desk that family lore tells me was hers. You see, on almost every page of my great-grandmother Theresa Mostny’s (1889-1968) journal (1967-1968), I see her mention the headlines or a play or a book that’s got her thinking. Or she dwells on the conversations that have accumulated in her mind from that day. This journal had been living in my father’s basement, then stuffed in a box in the back corner of my attic, and I am so happy to have recently started my journey into the past with it.

I feel (and appreciate) Theresa’s instinct to write things down as though we are time-traveling members of the same club. If I don’t have a pen and paper in hand (or keyboard), I typically get itchy and nervous whether I am at my desk or in my own kitchen. I am now, for instance, writing my thoughts and quoting the lines that stop me in my tracks from Michelle Obama’s “Becoming” (“Alexa, pause!”) in a crammed full reading journal along with those post-it notes that invariably get lost, and I feel as if I am in sync with Theresa.

Theresa made vigorous notations on people, events and quotes that grabbed her too.

There is a cut out article on Ravi Shankar with a photo of him with a sitar. With it she notes the Beatles, “the younger generation are more for spiritual things. The Indian music and the reflectiveness of it will lead to the golden age.”

Other articles are as wide-ranging as her Facebook feed might have been. For instance, she notes an issue of Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists article discussing The Kennedy Effect:

“The military decision creating the Manhattan Project led to scientific and engineering developments not clearly foreseen in 1942. The political decision (Pres Kennedy) to send men t”o the moon also led to unexpected results in the development of space technology.
… it has determined the priorities, the engineering designs and the scientific objectives of the space program in this decade, and it is quite likely to control future space work for the remainder of this century. This unforeseen result might be called the Kennedy Effect.
The thundering success of the 364-foot Saturn 5 launch vehicle on its maiden test flight last (1967) November marked a dramatic upturn in the fortune of the U.S.”

Theresa placed her notations, quotes and newspaper clips in a neat plain three-ring binder in chronological order. In them, she also recounts her thoughts and feelings about her regular TV companions: Meet the Press, Face the Nation, and Book Beat with Robert Cronie, who reviewed books and interviewed new authors.

It seems clear to me that her journal is the place where she speaks most openly of all–with uncensored emotion –and it is a privilege to be able to hear her air her thoughts in a place she clearly views as safe, for she doesn’t hold back her opinions on psychology, politics or people–and that, to me, is a great great gift.

Her introspective musings like this help me to get to know her:

“I was born in 1889 in Vienna. I was born an ideologist or/and idealist in the hindsight, I found out this can bring me in dangerous brink positions in ambivalent periods of my life.”

Theresa Mostny

Theresa Mostny at age 31

Enough for now, but I will definitely be revisiting Theresa as I continue to get to know her through her journals.