Anniversaries

February 13, 2000
Sunday

Today I am marking two anniversaries.

The Silken Tent made its on-line debut one year ago today. Late in January I’d been surfing the web, looking for sites that promoted personal writing. I entered a site called diarist.net, and found that the “on-line journal” had apparently emerged from the cybersoup as a genre, with thousands of examples.

I already had an on-line presence. In my last year of teaching I’d developed a site for use by my students. Called “English at 808” (my room number), it was hosted by Geocities, a provider of free web space. I put up the syllabus there, my classroom handbook, project requirements and dates, links to sites aimed at literature and writing study. In the seven months since I’d left teaching, I hadn’t bothered to take it down.

I joined two e-mail discussion forums frequented by on-line diarists, and spent about two weeks reading other people’s sites, learning enough HTML to overcome problems inherent in the WYSIWYG editors I depend on, and deciding what kind of material I wanted to post.

It wasn’t long before I came to understand that the free providers like Geocities and Xoom, with their pop-up ads or stationary banners (required in exchange for the “free” space), their cumbersome up-load protocols, and their notorious downtime, caused more problems than their very low cost warranted. 

I learned that the cost of my own domain name and rented space at a conventional host were not out of my reach. So for my birthday in March, I bought myself the domain name “silkentent.com” and a year’s service at Dreamhost, a provider in California. (For those interested, the domain name costs $35 a year — you pay for two years up front — and Dreamhost charges less than $200 for 30 meg space and the handling of technical details involving the domain. I am 100% satisfied with their service.)

Like print magazines, more on-line journals fold in the first year than succeed. By success in this case I mean that the journaller continues to maintain the site and posts regularly. Many people, after the novelty has worn off, tire of the process and let their sites languish and go dark, or sit forever with obsolete or static content. 

I’ve been here for a year. I write more and I write better than I did a year ago, I have clarified some of my needs and desires concerning the direction of my “career” as a writer, and I’ve made friends in on-line writing circles. I have a notify list with more than 25 subscribers, and the site averages about 50 visits a day.

I thank everyone who is reading this, be you a subscriber, a frequent but silent visitor, or a some who dropped in casually. Your presence and your feedback (should you choose to offer it) are treasures to me.

The second anniversary is that of my mother’s birth. She would be 89 years old today.

To speak of “her birthday” seems awkward, since she is no longer alive. In fact, she sometimes called this day her “birthday anniversary.” She had a teacher in high school, Miss McInerney, who insisted that “birthday anniversary” was the proper term — you could have but one “birthday,” the day you were actually born. My mother maintained a relationship with this teacher all of her life, and I remember my mother shopping for a greeting card for her when her “natal anniversary” approached. Mother would comb the anniversary card racks, searching for one without a direct reference to a wedding anniversary that she could safely send to her mentor.

My mother’s own genuine birthday occurred in 1911. It was a Monday. That means that Lincoln’s Birthday, then observed as a federal holiday on the actual anniversary of his birth, not some shared “President’s Day” (a concept my mother never cottoned to) fell on a Sunday. Thus federal offices, including post offices, were closed on Monday, the 13th.

My mother’s father was a postal worker. He told her that all the post offices in America were closed and letters went undelivered because a mail carrier’s daughter had been born. She said she believed him for years. Ironically, my mother died on Veteran’s Day, November 11, 1993. Once again, all the post offices in America were closed.

Happy Anniversary to us both.

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