Friday, September 5, 2014

History


I could never understand why people didn’t like history.  I have always loved History.  I was probably the only person in Western Civ. 101 who enjoyed the two hour lectures on Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt. It may have helped that I had been to the British Museum and seen the mummy room when I was a high school senior. We lived in Germany at the time and our Honor Society spent a week in London, giving us an education that can’t be taught in history books.
Whether we realize it or not, our lives and the lives of our ancestors were touched by historical events that can have an impact for generations to come.  We were not conceived in a vacuum, but come from many history chapters before us. What will our chapter say to our future generations? What will future census records tell our grandchildren and great-grandchildren yet to be born?

My own life has been affected by history. I was born in Germany and spent my early years living with my German grandmother. She and her children had been refugees after WWII, having lost their home during the war. She ended up in West Germany and my grandfather in East Germany. The details are shadowy, but the hardships affected several generations.  I had a German uncle who fought in the regular German army and was taken as a POW by the Americans. He kept a scrapbook of his time with the Americans.  

History once again was prominent in my life when in 1966 my father was shipped off to Vietnam. We moved to middle Tennessee to live near our grandparents. As I played in the shadows of an old southern plantation, walking in the creek bed behind the old house and catching toads, I didn’t realize then how history had played a role on this piece of land only a 100 years before, where Union and Confederate soldiers had fought nearby. I was in the third grade and befriended a new classmate, a little black girl that I would walk home with after school. It was the first year of integration. One day she didn’t return to school.  I walked by her house that afternoon and saw a pile of ashes. The house had burned to the ground and the family moved in with relatives. I didn’t know anything about Civil Rights then, just that I could buy my  popsicles for a few pennies cheaper when I went to the corner store in the black neighborhood.  
When I was ten we moved to Oklahoma and I soaked up the western stories in our musty Oklahoma history books. The story of Comanche Chief Quanah Parker fascinated me and I searched the library shelves for stories about the Indian chief whose mother had been taken captive by the Indians when she was a child.  Cynthia Ann Parker was eventually rescued by the Texas Rangers, who returned her to her family, but she died of a broken heart. After losing her young daughter, Prairie Flower, and missing her adopted tribe, she could never adapt to her new life. When the Indian wars were over, Quanah lay down his arrows, dressed in white man’s clothing, and became a celebrity, but kept his four squaws.

How can we ignore history when it’s all around us? I’ve walked the halls of Versailles and stood in the cathedrals at Westminster and Notre Dame. I’ve seen the horrors in black and white at Dachau concentration camp.  I’ve seen the Crown Jewels and can name all six of Henry VIII’s wives. I’ve walked along the canals of Amsterdam, where Anne Frank herself may have walked. Her home was closed for renovations when we were there. History is never more apparent than when visiting Washington DC, with all its memorials and names etched in stone. How can we not like history?

Looking at my life through the lens of a historian every part has been affected in one way or another.
This is my third time living in North Alabama. I lived here 50 years ago when the space program was in its infancy, although as a second-grader I didn't know it at the time. I lived her again for a brief time in the early 1970's. We survived the worst tornadoes ever seen in April 1974. I was a sophomore in high school when President Nixon visited Huntsville and my classmates and I went to see him speak. He was the first man in American history to resign the presidency. It was front page news at that time. Today it is history.

 
This photo is 40 years old.

 
The little town in Germany where I was born.

 
My husband and me, Paris 1978.



                                                           The canals in Amsterdam.

 
Where I lived in Germany as a young 20-year old.

 
The Saturn V rocket
 

1 comment:

Janet, said...

You have led an interesting life, and been to many interesting places. I also love history. Every time I find another Indian artifact in our garden, I think and wonder about the person who made it and the life he lived many, many years ago. I love to write about the history of my family and often incorporate it into the stories I write. Yah for history!

Pictures

Growing up in my era we didn't take a lot of pictures. Of course, there were the school pictures, which I dreaded, and Mom rarely bought...