Friday, April 1, 2011

History? I'll show you some history

A teacher friend of mine was telling me today about showing her elementary school students a picture of an old dial telephone. They figured out it was a telephone but were very curious how it worked and were impressed with her operational knowledge. She wondered if they thought she was wise or just awfully old. I suggested she was simply historic, but that might have been a mistake, one of those things that a man had best make no comment at all about to a woman. But it did remind me of a similar experience a few years ago where indeed “historic” was the correct word.

I was helping chaperone a field trip with my son’s fourth grade class to the history and arts museum in Anchorage. I had recently been working on a research project about sea otters in Alaska history and that had included a considerable amount of research into Aleut culture.

We came across a diorama of an Aleut village and I was sharing my knowledge of it with a small group while others wandered through the exhibits. Suddenly a girl came rushing up to me shouting, “Mr. Jones, Mr. Jones, you’re in the museum.”

My first response was “I am way too young to be in a museum.” She would not be dissuaded and grabbed my hand tugging me toward the far end of the huge display room.

“There,” she said, pointing at a floor-to-ceiling photograph that was part of a display about the Exxon Valdez oil spill. And, sure enough, in the foreground of that photo, almost floor to ceiling in all my glory, memorialized on a museum wall, I stood there looking incredibly important and ... incredibly younger (at least to me).

Frankly I was a bit shocked. I didn’t know whether to be proud or embarrassed or just feel old. I had already had to deal with my son studying “history” that happened in my lifetime, but this was worse, I was now a confirmed artifact of that very same history.

I’ve always, like my teacher friend, been curious what those kids actually thought. Did they put me in the same category with dead presidents, or did they think, wow, Chip’s dad is old? I never did get any kind of a reading.

But someday I do have a story to tell all those kids of that age a story about the Exxon Valdez and its influence on their lives.

OK quick sidebar: When there are long electrical blackouts people always notice a surge in births nine months later. Exxon Valdez was a severe disruption in the lives of many of us living at that particular ground zero of the time. We were rushing around and perhaps not always doing the right thing. In the recent past and in the years following Exxon Valdez the elementary school always had three classes at each grade level. But for the one year when children would have been conceived during the hectic turmoil of the oil spill, there were four classes. In other words there were enough spill babies to fill a whole classroom at the Valdez elementary school. How's that for being part of history?

1 comment:

  1. thats funny stuff. never thought about it but you're right. i think i have a couple boys from that era.

    Do you see these comments?


    tim in valdez.

    ReplyDelete

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