Screen Doors, Sacrifice, and Sacred Freedoms
I work for a 500 acre open air-living history- museum. It is what I only half jokingly refer to as my #bestsummerjobever. Since most of the buildings to which I am assigned are from the 1870's or 1900, they have historically accurate fixtures, lighting, appliances and....screen doors.
The same screen doors that your mom yelled at you to NOT slam on your way out of, or into the house.
The same screen doors that you slammed anyway, because life seemed to be in too much of a hurry to worry about how the door closed as you moved on to your next adventure.
The type of screen door whose closing sound identified who was entering the building according to the velocity and volume of the door hitting the jamb. And the same type of solid, wooden "bam" that triggers memories of summer nights at Grandma's as you hurry in the house from playing outside after your dinner because the mosquitoes think your are their dinner.
We typically see our guests have one of two reactions as they come through our buildings and the screen doors announce their entrance....
Oh..sorry...I didn't realize it would do that! or... Little Johnny....don't slam that door!
As if slamming a door that is supposed to close that way while at a museum is some sort of breach of museum etiquette....
A second, but slightly less popular reaction (and most often shown by adults) is to purposely go out of and into a building just to hear the door. Most often this is because they remember that sound as part of their childhood. Before air-tight, pressure-loaded storm doors and weather tight house doors made to keep the cold A/C in and the cold IA winter air out became the norm in our modern, quiet-doored homes.
It is an unintended historical interpretation point of our "Touch-See-Hear" focus.
Quite honestly we, as staff, have tuned out the sound of the doors in our buildings. It has faded into the background, along with the ticking and chiming of our clocks and the crackling and snapping of the fires in our wood burning stoves. It is just a part of our every day "normal" museum life.
Until last month.
Last month we had a visitor to our 1900 Farm site. Our site staff was eating our noon meal and as often happens, a few guests were inside the house having a look around as we were eating at the table under the tree outside.
This particular guest came back out of the house and over to us to remark (in a delightfully French accented speech pattern) how much this house reminded her of the farm home in which she had lived as a young girl.
Now, we hear this often in our jobs. We get a sense of professional satisfaction from these types of remarks, as it helps us "whippersnappers" gauge how well we are doing our studying and research.
But what we don't often hear is how she finished her comment.....
"It reminds me of the house we lived in as I was growing up in the 30's and 40's in .............Normandy, France.
It took us a bit to absorb what she had just said.... It may be the only time that a group of people who are paid to talk about living history were dumbstruck by the living history in front of them.
She was gone before we collected ourselves enough to realize that we should have been hosting her and her memories. And I, for one, regret not getting her picture or signature for our site journal.
It was a heavy reminder of how the mundane, everyday, oft' ignored routines can sometimes be the most profound part of our guests' experiences and are part of our responsibility to preserve.
So today....on this anniversary of D-Day.....
...on this anniversary of the sacrifice of so many
...on this anniversary of the beginning of triumph over unspeakable evils....
In honor of those who had the screen door slam behind them on their way to Basic Training, but not behind them as they never made the journey home....
In honor of those who did get to hear the door slam upon their return, but who spent years trying not to startle at the sudden, sharp "Bang!"
And in honor of our sacred freedom to live in relative peace and security affording us the ability to excitedly move on to our next adventures as we hurry out of our doors...
Slam the Door and Remember
'cause we can't afford to miss the class on that.