The Middle Ages

Every time capsule needs cigars, coins and a Kobe Bryant question

Chris Erskine crafts a letter to a family of the future

In a family time capsule, I would include photos and the stub of one of Posh's stinky cigars, the kind she smokes while reading the Racing Form.

In a family time capsule, I'd include a Christmas card and the diagram of our family tree — broken branches and all. I'd include a pack of baseball cards and a small can of Pringles, because they outlast time itself.

I asked my younger son, and he wanted to include a baseball he'd sign for the kid who might be living here in the future. For the dad, I'd include a little bottle of airline gin. And maybe a fishing lure (never worked anyway).

What would your family put in its time capsule?

The whole concept came to me the other day while reading about a time capsule found in an old building in Boston. Almost as old as the nation itself, the copper and tin box was tucked into a cornerstone of the Massachusetts State House in 1795.

Made me wonder what we'd include in something that might be opened centuries from now? Nothing that could be played on a device, for the devices of the future likely won't have the operating systems or other software required to run it. You'd have to consult some expensive digital archivist. "You want to open Windows 7?" he'd ask. "What's that?"

So, you'd want to include lots of photos, probably, some coins dated 2015. I'd toss in our monthly MasterCard bill, 144 pages long and a glimpse into how we carefully budgeted ourselves every Christmas.

What else to include? A photo of an opened refrigerator to show how we ate. A medal from a 5K race. A photo of the house too, which will probably be long gone by then. It was a good house, though, cozy and warm. The roof leaked only when it rained.

I'd include a newspaper. I imagine the people opening an L.A. paper 200 to 300 years from now, thumbing through it, marveling over the depth and breadth of the stories, the news of the day, Lindsay Lohan's freckles. Every daily paper is a time capsule, a mini treasure chest all its own.

Finally, I would write a letter:

"Here we lived, beginning in the year 2005. There was nothing particularly special about us, other than the kids all had red hair and big mouths, the dog always rose an hour too early, prompting the dad (me) to utter his first profanity of the day. That's the kind of Irish-Italian house it was, where we greeted every new day with a curse word.

Other than that, it was a very happy place. We lived long and well, ate hourly and fought only in the mornings. By afternoon, no one was speaking to each other, which was a relief. At night, we played board games as if human lives were at stake. One Christmas, there was a huge brawl over a game of Jenga. The women won, as they usually did with physical showdowns.

We weren't dysfunctional, just overtly middle class. At any given time, the milk carton was half open, or expired, maybe both. For her birthday, my wife demanded, "Wine. Lots and lots of wine."

Over the years, we watched a ton of TV here — too much probably, and especially football. Sports. Sports. Sports. If we had a minute of life for every stupid Lakers game we stuck with to the bitter end, we'd still be alive today, some three centuries later.

Hey, has Kobe retired yet?

Seriously, we lived in a crazy time when printer cartridges cost more than the printer, and kids played computers instead of guitars ... Lord help us all.

In our time, nobody could afford a house, or even a car, but we bought them anyway. Interest rates were high, then low, then high. Gas prices dropped for no apparent reason. There was war in the Middle East, just as there probably is now, as you're reading this. It was a world where there were always plenty of bullets but never enough bread.

In our time, everybody seemed mad at everybody else. Our only hope ... our only voice of reason, light and love? A shaky songbird by the name of Taylor Swift. Lord help us some more.

Regrets? We have a few. I wish we had added that second floor back when we first considered it, or bought the house next door, which at the time was $450,000 and waaaaaaaaaay too much. Now it's worth three times that.

With that house, we could've had more kids. That's right, even more, because of all the things that went on in this dystopian outpost over the years — the hissy fits, the laughter, the sleepovers, the proms — almost all of the best times centered on our four children, who remarkably didn't turn out half bad, if you ask me — and you didn't, so I told you anyway.

That's the kind of house this was, the House of Unsolicited Opinions — loud and passionate, but always straight from the heart.

Hope yours will be equally blessed.

In perpetuity,

The Erskines"

chris.erskine@latimes.com

twitter: @erskinetimes

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
89°