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Friday
May162008

Executive's Data Book, 1964

As part of our break in Kansas City, we happened upon one of my favorite places to spend time and money: The Brass Armadillo, an antique mall. Until last year, there had also been one in Cincinnati that I used to frequent with mom every time I went home. As soon as she heard it was closing, she called me, and we mourned together over the telephone wire. When she heard I'd be passing through KCMO, she clapped her hands and said "There's a Brass Armadillo there!"

Sure enough, as we approached the city on I-70, signs started popping up, and we pulled over. I didn't end up getting much (though the wax coated Pepsi cup on sale for a dollar was tempting, if only for the sake of its bizarre "recent antiquity" novelty), but one find sparked a reading session: an Executive's Data Book from 1964, seemingly put to use by the executive's wife.

After pages of postal information, first aid instruction, 1960 census information, tax rates, a list of foreign currencies and US presidents (though the book is for 1964, there's no date of death listed for John F. Kennedy), and quote by Aldous Huxley ("Every man who knows how to read has it in his power to magnify himself, to multiply the ways in which he exists, to make his life full, significant and interesting."), the tiny, neat hand of a housewife.

The entries are a laundry list of visits with their friends -- the Longs -- visits to Mother's, grilled steaks, boiled shrimp, doctors visits for sore necks and stitches in toes, report cards, and the occasional report of a rainy vacation in Minnesota when they didn't catch any fish. A new air conditioner is a notable entry, as is selling their 1960s Ford. The occasional blank day stands out like a gaping hole, and I wonder what came between the entries -- whether she was bored, or sad, or simply uninspired. They must not have had grilled steaks on those days.

I don't even know the executive's wife's name, but I do know that on Thursday, May 18, 1964, she planted cucumbers. And on the next day, she had her hair set. On May 23rd, she visited the cemetery with her mother.

We all leave our own histories behind for someone else to find.

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