Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Writing personal history for my children

If you were to tell your children (or other children in your life) about the historical moments of your lifetime, which ones would you choose? Would they be celebrations of achievement or a recounting of tragedies? Would choose events close to home, or happenings that touched the world? Would your remittances be sweetly nostalgic, or would they reflect anger and pain? Would your history lessons also be lessons on morality?

I have been my children's first teacher, especially in terms of history. We have discussed many historical and current events in terms of how they are or might be remembered, and I have stressed the importance of knowing that history is never, ever written with pure motives. I try to explain that events are isolated after the fact and grow, as all things do, from the world and that everything is connected.  Hitler didn't just become leader of Germany out of nowhere.  The roots of September 11 go back before I was born.  California history doesn't just influence what happens here.

I'm thinking about writing a book for my boys, interpreting, editorializing, commenting on the events of the world that I was born into and that they have inherited. As I think about the historic events that have happened in my lifetime, there are some that jump out.  I can remember the press conference that announced the beginning of the Iraq War on March 19, 2003 very clearly.  September 11, 2001 began with a ringing phone fore me.  I cried the night Troy Davis was executed.  I can remember the Challenger explosion and the Berlin Wall coming down, but I didn't understand them.  I learned that President Obama was re-elected from Kallan Kennedy on Facebook, not from the news, and in spite of a fever and sore throat, I was practically screaming. I thought my husband was kidding when he told me Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected governor of California.  

My reactions, my memories and my understanding of events were all very different from those of the people around me, but they tie me to place and time and the world at large in a unique way.  For many events, my children will understand them through history books and the recollections of their parents.  More importantly, the events that stick in our minds as defining our lifetime tell others a lot about who we are and our values.  I'm curious about what events other people remember with clarity and why they would see those as vitally important to teaching other generations about our lives, so feel free to comment and let me know what event syou would include.

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