Remembering big events

12 Jan

Thursday was a day of hard conversations with my students. Not only did we talk about the assault on Washington, we also debriefed our school district’s announcement that there is no projected return date for middle and high school students. They asked good questions and made thoughtful comments.

One student remarked that he thought the attackers were fools, taking photos and posting them on social media. “The police are going to find them,” he added. These digital natives know a lot about internet safety. I hope it stays with them as they get older

A girl was relieved about the news that distance learning was going to continue. “Why would anyone want to go back?” she asked. “It’s not safe.” I took this as an opportunity to teach my affluent, gifted students about the needs of those less fortunate than them.

These are probably the first big political, social, and cultural events of their lives. It all got me thinking about what was going on when I was their age and it brought back a memory of a day in August 1974. We had just moved into a new house. Now, this was a long time ago and events might have merged in my mind, but I remember being in the new living room, vacuuming the red carpet. This carpet was a source of pride and concern to my mother. It came with the house and she loved it, but it showed every piece of lint. It had already been vacuumed once, but I was given the task of revacuuming to be sure it was really clean and clear of debris.

The living room had big front windows. This was the newest house we’d ever lived in and the windows were a wonder. My father’s company paid for new curtains and mom had ordered heavy curtains with sheers – another fancy first for us.

As I vacuumed the living room, I remember noticing two things.

Through the window, I could see neighborhood kids crawling on the front lawn and huddling near the hedges, trying to catch a glimpse of “the new kids”. Little did I know that we would all become fast friends and spend hours together. At that moment, though, I was nervous about the prospect of meeting them.The second thing I remember is that the TV was on as I vacuumed. These were the years before the 24-hour news we have now, but I remember that regular programming had been interrupted to cover the moment Richard Nixon left the White House.

I wasn’t as interested in the events on the South Lawn of the White House as I was with those happening on the front lawn of my house, but both have found a place in my memory. I don’t know how the events of Wednesday will end, but I wonder what connections my students will make with their own lives.

6 Responses to “Remembering big events”

  1. haitiruth January 12, 2021 at 7:31 am #

    Good reflections. My post today is about my memories of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, and I can relate in many ways to what you wrote as I think of that time: the juxtaposition of the huge, earth-shaking (literally) event and the tiny memories that our family shares from that night. Ruth, thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown.blogspot.com

  2. arjeha January 12, 2021 at 7:46 am #

    Sometimes we forget that what is going on in the world affects children as well as us and that they need a platform to express their fears and concerns. It is sad to think that this is the first major event that rocked their world but unfortunately won’t be the last. Being able to discuss the events and share our feelings is a way to cope with the situation.

  3. Fran McCrackin January 12, 2021 at 10:19 am #

    A 3rd grade teacher in my school remarked that her 8 year olds have experienced two big historical events in their short lives- Covid and Jan. 6th. Not good.
    I appreciate your thoughtful take on a child’s memory of events big and small. The red rug and double curtains, and the neighborhood kids hiding in the hedges are fantastic details 🙂

  4. jumpofffindwings January 12, 2021 at 12:40 pm #

    I so connected to the vivid descriptions of the “firsts”—the red carpet, the heavy drapes with sheers—and the two lawns, South and neighborhood. For some reason, and I think it’s your connection to childhood and history, personal and panoramic, that made me think of Julia Alvarez’s poem “How I Learned to Sweep.” I include it because I think you’ll appreciate it, and it speaks to the enduring nature of your question: what connections will my students make with their own lives?

    • Adrienne January 12, 2021 at 4:25 pm #

      I’ve never read that poem. Thank you si much for sharing it.

  5. Lisa Corbett January 12, 2021 at 2:41 pm #

    I remember a lot of local events. A polygamist family held a stand-off with police for a over a week, a little girl was kidnapped from another town and her body was found in my town by a boy I went to school with, and a neighbour shot her abusive husband. Then in high school the Challenger blew up. Those big events really do stick around! I wonder what my grade 5 students from 2001 remember about Sept 11?

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