I come from a family of history buffs. Meals are seasoned with salt and stories of the past. Conversations straddle the here & now and the gone & forgotten. My sisters and I learned to appreciate this world through the lens of a world long since departed. War heroes, ancient kings, great explorers, groundbreaking scientists: these were our playmates.
I learned from a young age that history is divided into eras, chunks of time grouped together by some commonality. The Age of Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution, the Victorian Era. It’s a way to make sense of the past, to organize important events into neat little time slices.
My life is peppered with eras, too. The Towhead Years, the Hospital Age, the Dread Revolution. And just like with largescale history, my own history has some layered time periods, namely one overarching era that spans many years on my timeline: the Together Era.
With little exception, my sisters and I have always been in school together. If not at the same physical school, we have always been walking together on essentially the same path. The commonality of academics has held this era together. Sisters, each with our own distinct lives, but together in assignments, tests, projects, teachers, and uniforms.
In elementary school, I chased them on the playground. In high school, I walked with them to class. In college, I shared a dorm room with them. I’ve been their tree fort spy, their snack deliverer, their forgotten-assignment currier. They’ve been my study buddies, my class advisors, my personal chefs. School has always been synonymous with together.
Yesterday evening, I sat beside a sister in class for the last time.
I know enough about history to recognize that this is the end of an era.
I will never again pass one of my sisters in the hall or yell at them from across the promenade. I will never succumb to an inside-joke-induced giggle fit in the middle of a lecture or mooch off of their notes when I wasn’t paying attention. Living together will soon be limited to overlapping stays at our mom’s house. Face to face time to be replaced with FaceTime.
It’s the end of an era.
Many historians have a favorite time period to study, a slice of time they keep coming back to again and again. Maybe they are fascinated by the drama of the Tudors or moved by the heartbreak of the Holocaust or inspired by the Suffragette movement. They become experts of that particular blip on the timeline of the world.
When you think about it, “area of expertise” is just another way of saying “home” and as the historian of my own life, I plan on studying the Together Era extensively, returning to it when I feel a little lost in whatever new era comes next. Rebecca and Molly, thanks for making this era one worth revisiting.