Time Capsule

Office wall“You can’t take a picture of this, it’s already gone,” Nate’s ghost whispers to Claire when she wants to photograph her family in the series finale of the HBO television show “Six Feet Under.”

When I was a child, my parents remodeled our Little Green Bungalow by tearing out walls to open more space. Before the wall was sealed with drywall, I placed a letter to the future in the new wall of the kitchen.

I was all of about 9 or 10 at the time, but the letter detailed the house’s history (my parents purchased it brand spanking new in 1948), our family’s history and our current family members and dogs names. I don’t know where I got the idea; millennium time capsules weren’t even on the radar in the early 1970s. Perhaps I had heard of some other time capsule project or maybe I got the idea from all of those archeologist books I scanned in my childhood (my mother wanted me to grow up to be an archeologist in the worst way!)

Whatever gave me the initial idea, it was renewed last year watching a show called “If Walls Could Talk,” a show that documents people finding cool reminders of their home’s history. Old bottles, children’s toys lost in floorboards and dropped into unsealed walls, even letters and photographs hidden away for decades and even centuries.

On this show, the walls really do offer a window into the past.

When we were building The Belle Writer’s Studio in 2008, I decided to write another letter to the future and drop it into an unfinished wall of my office.

I began the letter, “If you’re reading this letter, you most likely own the property that once was our dream. “Our” is my husband and me. We are Kerri (Fivecoat) Campbell and Dale Campbell…” I continued with the history of our family ties to the land, which goes back to 1984, who we are and why we wanted to build here. I tell them this is the office I’ve always dreamed of, my writer’s studio in the woods.

I end the letter telling them that wherever we are as they are reading my letter, I hope that they too have found their heaven here among nature.

I sealed the letter in a plastic freezer bag (something I don’t think I did with the one as a child), along with some photos, a couple of my published articles and some web addresses. Since we’ve been told everything will live on the Internet forever, I assumed someone in the future might still be able to access our online presence if they desire.

Why? I don’t know. I’ve always been in love with history and especially love learning about the places I’ve occupied and the people who were there before.

Perhaps it is a desire that our family is not forgotten; that little nagging in the back of our minds that wants someone to know who we were and that what we did in our lives mattered, at least to us.

Should anyone in the future happen upon these two time capsules, they will get a glimpse of our present. They will get the picture of us that is already gone.

Have you ever buried or placed a time capsule anywhere? Do you plan on doing so if you’re planning on building?

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10 Responses

  1. Denise says:

    When my Husband & I built our home 8 yrs ago I wrote a letter telling about us, our property, our children, pets & our feelings about just being married & building this place ourselves. I enclosed a wedding picture of us, a favorite recipe for cheesecake & put them in a masons jar in the wall along with a horseshoe facing up to catch the good luck.

  2. Rosie says:

    Fun post, Kerri!
    I never found a time capsule, but when I was a little girl we lived in an old farmhouse in rural Illinois. My sister and I would go into the dirt floored basement and dig for “treasures,” and would find bits of dishware and bottles,etc. And when my dad tore out the old plaster walls to remodel, we found a vintage Valentine postcard with the scribbled words, “I love you.” The Valentine always stuck in my memory – I wondered if the recipient hid the Valentine from her parents, or if the signer chose not to send it?

  3. I have lived in several different houses out west, but when I moved to Arkansas where we purchased two different houses in different area’s of the state was the first time I ever found any information on any places left behind. The architectural plans, background of the builder and other subcontractors were mentioned. It was a wonderful surprise. I continue to keep all updates and repair slips for the next owner.

  4. Bj says:

    Kerri,

    Those garbage heaps can be more of a time capsule than any of us realize. After all in an archaeology dig site, those “dumps” give them the very clues that we base our facts of history on! Papers, pottery shards, campfire ashes, etc.

    While I have never personally had a time capsule, I was part of a second grade project way back in the 60’s on an airbase in New Jersey that did bury a time capsule to be opened in the year 2064 (100 years later). I won’t likely be there for the undigging and opening, but it is nice to remember I am part of that.

    Since the walls in my little cabin are still unfinished, this has given me pause to think of doing something similar to what you have in your walls. Thanks for the great idea!

    Have a great week! I have the rest of this week to play, and then go back to work on Monday!
    BJ

    • kerri says:

      That’s a neat story about that time capsule. I covered a story once where one was opened after 100 years. It had been placed in the cornerstone of a building when it was finished. Unfortunately, it wasn’t sealed and the contents were badly damaged.
      Anyway, you’re welcome for the idea. My drywallers thought it was the coolest thing, I bet they’re still talking about it! After writing this post, I remembered that my siblings had all wrote their names in the concrete of our basement stoop when it was poured. I think this is where I got the idea for the letter in the wall. Have a great rest of the week off. I was going to take this week off, but work came my way and I can’t turn it down!

  5. kerri says:

    That is very cool about your land. My parents purchased the Brick Tudor in our town that was built by the richest man in town at the time. He owned the bank and local grocery, but was a very generous person. It was neat for my mom, as the house was built for his wife, it was her dream and at the time, it was my mom’s too. She felt a very deep connection to that woman and to the past.
    The garbage dumps of old homes, which were usually located within throwing distance of the back door, is a treasure trove of the past. I love going through those!

  6. S.A.B.L.E. says:

    Kerri, I haven’t much thought of doing a time capsule or letter. The last place I lived I researched through land records and found our 40 acers were part of 80 acers originally purchased from the governor of Texas through the General Land Office on the mid-1800’s. Lots of history there and found some interesting things in what was the old garbage dump on the place. I thought that was pretty interesting. Life changes have brought me to another location. I haven’t researched it’s history to see what things of interest I might find, but now I just might go do “some digging” at the land records office.