Can I tell you something? Growing up, I absolutely hated history. Detested it. In fact, I have distinct memories of traveling to Colonial Williamsburg as part of our family vacation and my memories are in black and white.
I can remember asking my history teacher in high school why he would choose history as his life’s work. He mumbled something about it being interesting and how important the past is to the future. Or something like that. To me, it was the equivalent to growing up and becoming an insurance agent. (No offense to the insurance agents of the world but it seems to me to be one of the more boring jobs out there).
It turns out, history is fascinating. Quite fascinating. I just had to grow up to appreciate it.
The upside is I live in a historically rich state with no end to local legends to explore. The downside is I have a lot of catching up to do and my brain isn’t as spongelike as it used to be.
But history fascinates me the most when it’s personally relatable. For example, when I moved to Eldersburg, Maryland, I didn’t see much more here other than a Kohl’s, Home Depot, and Big Lots. But the longer I’ve been here the more I see history all around me.
It turns out the community I live in was once part of a farm. Rumor has it that there were fields of strawberries once upon a time. The original farmhouse still stands in our community with a lovely young family (from the original descendants) still living in it. And they have a pool. I keep meaning to get to know them better.
And the McDonald’s on the corner? That was once the site of a one room schoolhouse. Inside the McDonald’s are old maps and photographs from the area so every time we go in, we get to have a little history lesson. And we imagine the children that were once sitting on that spot with their slates while we sit and eat french fries.
There’s also the town of Oakland Mills nearby. Well, it used to be nearby. It’s now buried under 60 feet of water. The town was acquired by the state of Maryland and in 1951 began to flood the land to create Liberty Reservoir. Apparently, the shell of the5 story mill are still found on the bottom of the lake. SPOOKY.
Maryland history gets even more personal for me and it couldn’t be more appropriate than to find this out on President’s Day.
My GREAT-GREAT-GREAT-GREAT-GREAT grandfather was a hero in the American Revolutionary War!
Okay, that may be a bit of an overstatement. But I still think this is really cool. There was this battle on August 27, 1776 called the Battle of Long Island, aka the Battle of Brooklyn.
I’m going to break it down for you in case you’re a history know-nothing like me:
General George Washington and his peeps were hanging out in Manhattan thinking the southern end would most likely be a harbor for the British Navy. So he waited, ready for the attack. The British, being all sneaky, decided to come by way of Staten Island and what is now Brooklyn and SURPRISE! “The Americans panicked, although a stand by 400 Maryland troops prevented most of the army from being captured.” – Wikipedia, Battle of Long Island
This regiment became known as the Maryland 400 and the Maryland State Archives has an entire blog dedicated to it. As for that long lost grandfather? His name was William Coe.
Okay, okay. It doesn’t say he was a hero. But he was there! I think that alone makes him a hero. And he made it out alive! Also, he lived to be 73 years old so I think it also proves I’ve got longevity on my side.
I called Evan into the kitchen to tell him the great news about his ancestor. He was a little underwhelmed. I guess it’s an intangible for him. For kids, you need to hear it, see it, taste it, touch it, or play it in a video game for it to have consequences.
We recently snagged a copy of one of the latest books from National Geographic Kids called George Washington’s Rules to Live By: A Good Manners Guide from the Father of Our Country.
Right. You’re thinking that it’s highly unlikely that a “good manners” book will pique even the slightest interest in a kid. And I’m saying that you would be wrong.
I had this whole plan to invite some neighborhood kids over to host a tea party and talk about manners. Then vacation, snow, and the flu got in the way so Evan and I had our own private lessons about manners. And he asks to read more every night.
Let me give you two examples.
George says: Speak not Evil of the absent for it is unjust.
Modern translation: Don’t go gossiping behind the other people’s backs or sending nasty text messages about them. Not cool.
George says: Run not in the Street, neither go too slowly nor with Mouth open go not Shaking yr Arms… go not upon the Toes, nor in a Dancing fashion.
Modern Translation: Be cool, be calm.
And at the bottom of each rule, you’ll read true history facts about George himself. Evan loved it. I loved it. And he’s learning without even knowing it.
Thank you, George Washington for not only being the father of our country but for also being (mostly) a gentleman. And thanks to National Geographic Kids for making a book that actually gets my kid interested in history.
Let’s hope when it comes to high school, history does repeat itself!
Thanks to National Geographic Kids for providing me a complimentary copy of this book at my request. All opinions and historical inaccuracies are my own.