Since our Census form arrived, I've been avoiding it - mainly the empty white box on the back page that everyone's been talking about - the Time Capsule. I felt completely at ease with the idea of filling in that little flat line in the information boxes - I know how old my children are, where they go to school, how many rooms we have and even that we have a functioning smoke alarm but being asked to write a letter to the future? Whoah dude, that's huge!
The fact that I write for a sort-of living would probably make you think that I was chomping at the bit to get cracking on my message to future generations and that something very worthwhile and insightful was simmering inside me that I could send forward in time. You'd think I'd be jittering with excitement at the very idea of talking to the future. But ... what on earth do you say? How can I encapsulate the world I live in in a tiny white blank space? It's simply not big enough - and yet, it's bloody massive - how on earth do I fill it?
In the long run, my wise eleven-year old set me on the right path. Thankfully she had done an exercise in school where they'd filled out their own time capsules and, prompted by her wisdom and experience, it was finally clear to me what to include and I hope, now, that our submission will paint a very small portrait of a family of six, living a very simple life in post-Covid Dublin - exactly the sort of picture I know that I would enjoy viewing of a family living a simple life in Civil War Dublin. Almost in the voice of an eleven year old I've written about what we drive, the technology we use day to day, our hobbies and the type of media we consume. I've mentioned where we holiday, and what we like to do to treat ourselves. It's a tiny, albeit not very creative snapshot, but one that we're happy to throw into the great melting pot of results that are sure to be submitted by a growing population.
A quick scan of Twitter this morning shows that it is likely a wonderful response, both heartwarming and heartbreaking - so many people naming loved ones who have passed on and who won't be included in a census again. Parents putting the identities of lost children on paper in an official capacity, naming those who never got the chance to be named or who will never grow up.
Many more are acknowledging adored pets, both living and passed, putting into writing forever the absolute joy and love that these animals have brought to peoples' lives, and their importance.
Others are creative - I've seen some people ponder what would happen if they confessed to a crime; someone else had written some erotic fiction. There are plenty of political statements, many indictments of our society and government. Many accounts of what it's been like to live through a global pandemic and to witness a war in Europe. I would give my right arm to be the person who gets to read them all and collate them to keep them safe so that our descendants will have a rich tapestry of social history to study and enjoy.
By a quick calculation, if my eldest has a baby at, say, 30, then my 83-year old grandchild will be able to access the absolute wealth of information that was committed to paper across Ireland last night. And as 2022 was unimaginable to our grandparents and great grandparents back in 1922, 2122 is inconceivable to us. I would love to be able to see how they will live. Instead, I'll have to be content with showing them our lives and in that way forge a connection across the coming century, maybe finding out that we have something in common after all.