On Christmas Eve, when my extended family was gathered at my parents' house for the usual holiday frenzy of eating and talking, we decided that in addition to all of our usual traditions, we would open a time capsule that we’d put in the basement on New Year’s Eve, 1999. School Teacher Niece said that we’d agreed to open it every ten years.
The shoebox was filled with a variety of odd personal items, including several photographs and a cassette tape of music played by my father and his friends. The kids, who were of course ten years younger, had put in all kinds of strange writings and drawings that caused screams of laughter. Red-haired Niece had included a calendar in which she had written down what she’d done every single day in 1999. “You were ahead of your time,” Urban Sophisticate Sister told her. “This was pre-facebook, but you were writing status updates.”
The shoebox did contain some more serious items that were intended to show some of the significant events of the 20th century — a computer chip encased in plastic, a Susan B. Anthony coin, a pair of contact lenses, the Diary of Anne Frank — but some of the objects seemed like strange choices. The map of Louisiana, for instance. “I think I had to do a project on Louisiana that year in school,” Boy in Black said.
"The bottle cap was mine," Blond Brother-in-law said. "I'd just gotten out of work and opened a beer."
Urban Sophisticate and I spent a long time puzzling over a pair of black shoelaces. “Who in the family would have put these in?” she asked. “And why?”
“Shoelaces were invented before the 20th century,” I said. “It doesn’t make sense.”
Finally, Boy in Black pointed to the side of the shoebox that we were using for a time capsule. “It’s the same brand. I bet they were just in the shoebox.”
Urban Sophisticate laughed. “This is how archeologists get things wrong.”