“Live in the moment!” is sometimes said, as an exhortation to feel good, or at least to feel better. And I fully agree that brooding and brooding over old grievances can consume a person from the inside. But apart from that, on the contrary, I need to have one foot firmly planted in the past to feel good. “The present” itself often feels a bit flat as it usually only contains everyday tasks such as washing dishes, eating, and brushing your teeth. The present simply has difficulty creating deeper meaning in existence. My “Then”, on the other hand, which includes both my life and that of my ancestors, anchors existence in something that feels grounded and solid. A past.
Several years ago I wrote a text about my father’s aunt Astrid and her life. Alingsås museum had requested stories about women who grew up and lived in Alingsås and the surrounding area. With the help of my father, I wrote a story about a squatter’s life in Hemsjö parish outside Alingsås. Hardly glamorous. A hard, tiring, and perhaps not always so fun life, far away from today’s romanticized countryside idyll.
When, at the age of forty, she was finally free to take care of the croft and her old parents, she met a man. Shortly afterwards they married and moved to Älvängen. However, the happiness would prove to be short-lived – her husband suffered from a malignant brain tumor and died a few years later. She lived her life as a widow and died in 1984 severely demented at Sankt Jörgen’s hospital in Hisingen. A life.
I have recently found information that now leads me further back in the same family line and I have now found my great-great-great-grandfather Karl Jakobsson, born in 1798. Six generations back in time and I end up in the 18th century, the thought is dizzying! Right now I am busy trying to get an overview of the crofts my family lived and worked in during the 19th and 20th centuries in Hemsjö since the time of Karl Jakobsson.
I don’t yet know what to do with Karl Jakobsson and his wife Anna-Stina Olofsdotter. The present, as usual, has no answer – the future, however, may hatch one. If I were to venture a guess, it would probably be another text. Because putting it in print makes it all the more real. With the written text, they’re Then is incorporated with my Now. Astrid is forever inscribed in my life.
In Vårt ende liv by Martin Hägglund, I read: “Nature does not care if we live or die, which means that we must take care of the memory of the dead.” I think that’s exactly how it is!
Mattias is an author and illustrator