My youngest son has become quite interested in the ancient town of Pompeii recently, the wealthy trading town near Naples in Italy which had the misfortune to be situated on the side of a volcano. When the lava and toxic dust came pouring down the mountain without warning, the town and all its people were instantly swallowed up exactly as they were. Archaeologists exploring the region even discovered meals on tables and bread in the ovens.
If molten hot lava was to come pouring down a mountain now and engulf us all instantly I do wonder what would we be found doing? Would we be preserved forever in scenes of domestic bliss and family harmony? Would our legacy to future generations be something positive and would we be talked about with reverence and in hushed tones of respect and admiration? Or would the great explorers struggle to understand our lifestyle based on the positions we were found in, the paraphernalia hanging out of us and the people around us? God knows, there are days we struggle to understand it ourselves as we race to school, to work, to activities, to shops and eventually to bed before repeating the whole process the following day.
Recently a time capsule was sealed for 50 years in my city of Waterford, Ireland and inside it went a snapshot of daily Irish life. Photos of primary school children, copies of local newspapers, a recording of radio programmes and television footage of Waterford City as it is now. It’s probably a more accurate reflection of how we live our lives today than any archaeologist will get from trawling through our lava covered houses and preserved bodies.
Wouldn’t it be interesting though to make our own family Time Capsule and seal it away safely? It doesn’t have to be for as long. Indeed it could be opened after ten or twenty years instead of fifty. But wouldn’t it be a great way of recording a moment in time? A photograph of each family member is obviously non-negotiable but what else would be fun to include? Well, how about a little questionnaire for each child that records details about them such as age, height, shoe size, favourite colour, favourite food, favourite school subject, best friend on the day in question, best movie and television programme among other things. On a blank page they could trace the outline of their hand and write their own name so we have a record of their handwriting too. One of the most important things to ask them is what they want to be when they grow up. It will be really interesting to see how far they strayed from this path when the Capsule is finally opened and they are all grown up. Will they have followed their dreams or will life have got in the way as it tends to do?
What would be important for the teenagers among us to record? Well, again what they are aiming to do when they leave school is important to note. Also, they could include the names of their friends, their favourite things to do, a good memory they have, their favourite holiday, somewhere they’d really like to travel to and maybe some hopes or ambitions they have for the future. Obviously, being teenagers, these would be well sealed, hidden and kept firmly under wraps so their interfering and meddling parents can’t see them, especially if we encourage them to mention the name of their secret crush or forbidden boyfriend or girlfriend.
As for us parents, well what would we like to record to capture a moment in time? We’re all at different stages of parenthood, from having small ones that cling to you like limpets to tall ones that repel you like opposite sides of a magnet. But each phase has a certain level of fabulous, a certain level of hilarity and a certain level of exhaustion that deserves to be preserved. If for no other reason than to remind them that they were loved, needed and surrounded by strength and encouragement at that moment in time. Or else, it can be something to take out on their wedding day and embarrass the life out of them. Either way it’s a good idea, don’t you think?