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The month of January signals many beginnings with the new year.

Planners and calendars are purchased and filled with schedules, events, celebrations. And, yet, as we so aptly learned in 2020, those plans can be changed, canceled.

It is good to plan. But, we must also realize there are circumstances we cannot control and so prepare our minds and hearts to adapt to change that is beyond our control. We can control our attitudes, although it doesn't always feel as though we can.

In my family, we've already celebrated several birthdays. And, whereas the celebrations may not look as they may have in the past with large parties, the celebrants were honored nonetheless.

Recently, I spent some time (more than originally planned), perusing old photographs. Whenever I see a photograph of myself when young, or of my forebears when they were young, it prompts memories and speculation.

Do I remember what it felt like to be a first-time mother? How did my mother feel? How did my grandmother feel as a young bride of 18 and a new mother at 19? And then a grandmother at 43? When I try to put myself in their shoes, I realize they had times of uncertainty, fear, concerns.

For my grandmother, who married in 1933 and had her first baby (my mother) a year later in 1934, I consider the culture in which they lived. It was the Great Depression. Financial fears reigned. And, yet, everyday life demands continued.

The little family took photographs of happy times and so I see photos of my mother as a young child, later as a big sister, a debutante, a cotillion maid. During those times, our country entered a World War, a president died, the culture changed as more women entered the work force while the men went to war. Yet, still, families took pictures of birthdays and weddings.

A daughter asked if I had pictures of her when she was young so I began the search.

With much chagrin, I must admit that my photographs are not as organized as I'd like. Many years ago when my children were young, I began scrap books and photograph albums, but haven't maintained them. And, after my grandmother passed away, and my mother moved out of her home, I acquired more photographs and photograph albums. There are boxes full of photographs that I really need to organize.

Since the advent of digital photographs, I have not printed many photographs so there are fewer printed photographs of my younger children than there were of my elder ones.

My fourth daughter swears she's adopted. She claims there are no photographs of her. Whereas there may be fewer (having four children in four years definitely prevented me from focusing on photography), there are photos and she's not adopted. But, I digress.

Today, in 2021, as we hear the news and struggle with the restrictions of the government-imposed regulations prompted by the covid-19 pandemic and the concerns about elections and changing leadership, we may feel unique and feel as though we're in an unprecedented time. In fact, that word "unprecedented" has been used repeatedly to describe these times.

Then, I realize that although these times are unique, they're not truly unprecedented.

"What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun." Ecclesiastes 1:9

Throughout human history, there have been plagues, financial and cultural crises, government crises, assassinations, wars. We live in an age of "instant" news and with internet capabilities, can watch events happening on the other side of the world as they occur.

In previous generations, news took days, even weeks to spread.

Photographs capture an instant of time. Life is lived in seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, decades. And the more we accumulate, the greater our perspective grows. Try to see the bigger picture and not get overwhelmed by the minutiae.

"A wise woman once said to me that there are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these she said is roots, the other, wings," wrote Hodding Carter in 1953. The origin of the expression is not certain, but the philosophy is.

Roots give both stability and nourishment and we can help our children understand they are loved and appreciated.

Wings provide the tool whereby one soars above the mundane and envisions one's greatest achievements. Encourage dreaming and give vision.

As we embark on a new year, consider not only the past year, but the many years that have gone into the making of who you are -- the sacrifices of your parents and grandparents (and even great-grandparents) that are the foundation of today. And, consider the future and make plans, dream dreams, envision great things, and reach forward to fulfill your purpose.


Editor's note: Annette Beard is the managing editor of The Times of Northeast Benton County, chosen the best small weekly newspaper in Arkansas for five years. A native of Louisiana, she moved to northwest Arkansas in 1980 to work for the Benton County Daily Record. She has nine children, six sons-in-law, nine grandsons and three granddaughters. The opinions expressed are those of the author. She can be reached at [email protected]

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