306 Hollywood Avenue: Archaeological Digs

DATELINE:  How a Life Matters

 Grandma as Empress!

One of the most original documentaries and fascinating undertaking belongs to a film by siblings Elan and Jonathan Bogarin. When their grandmother dies at age 93 in New Jersey, they undertake to deconstruct her life though the house she lived in for 67 years.

Grandma Annette saved everything and they, at first, plan to shred documents and toss everything out for a quick sale. However, strange evocations in the house lead them to stop everything. Even the undertaker tells them her spirit may be in the house for up to 11 months.

Whereas most of our possessions are trashed in a bin immediately, like her lifelong collection of paperclips, the grandchildren now want to sift through her ordinary life like it is the pyramid of a great personage. The result is astounding, heart-rending, and illuminating. You must look at how our lives end up in a trash heap that no one wants or cares about. It could be your address or anyone you know.

In one segment, they visit the archivist for the John D. Rockefeller house, the saved heirlooms and collectibles of the rich family. They have the resources to do what middle-income people cannot—and they have selected what will survive to prove the Rockefeller legacy.

They then ask the archivist about his family. He has saved his grandmother’s cookie recipes and her log of making dozens for her children.

As Annette made dresses, beautiful copies for herself too, they have an interesting take on the fashion as icons. A conservator tells how she can feel the spirit of the owner in the clothes, and physicist Alan Lightman talks about how molecules and atoms never die, but become disarranged: the dead person is no longer assembled, but parts float around the universe.

They keep the house for six years until Jonathan hears his grandmother call his name. As Alan Lightman states, houses are universes, and like the universe, they can be reduced to fit into a thimble.