Taking interest in history at a young age

Taking interest in history at a young age

Danny tells me he loves Andrew Jackson.

His sweet voice reaches my ears through my cell phone on speaker, more often than not these days, the added volume needed I blame on the connection.

“I love him too,” I tell Danny, who is well aware of his grandmother’s preference as it’s been discussed between us these past months. Danny at five, like his father before him, is quite interested in our presidents. I was overjoyed last fall when I accompanied Danny to his kindergarten open house and book fair at his school and while walking from the library to his classroom, he identified a portrait on the wall as George Washington. He let me know that ole George was our first president.  

I can’t help but think of the game show, “Jeopardy.” Needless to say all three buzzers would be pushed when, “He was number one” is the first answer requiring a question in the Presidents category.  The monetary award increases as the answers shown become more difficult such as:

“He was number 14.” 

In our family board game of “Jeopardy,” Danny would immediately shout out the question.*  

I look at this darling, youngest grandchild of mine and see his father, my first born, rattling off the same information nearly 50 years ago. Am I bragging? You bet I am. But especially so because this interest in our country’s leaders at such a young age transcends GI Joe and Spiderman and sparks a love of American history.

My son gets on the phone and diplomatically corrects what I heard and says that Danny “lost” Andrew Jackson. 

Danny, again like his father before him, has started a collection of miniature figurines of the presidents. He has perhaps a dozen, Jackson being one of them and now, sadly among the missing.

Danny is confident, however, that if he goes back to where he thinks he lost him, Jackson will be found.

Well I am confident that you will find him, I tell Danny, adding that it would be great fun to have Jackson at his birthday party next month. Had I ever told Danny that like him, Jackson was also born in March? Danny will be six on the 6th, a birthday shared with his Aunt Laura who will be 49. Jackson’s 252nd is on the 15th, a little over a week later.  Danny wants only his six candles to blow out and I am more than happy with that, having stressed over what size cake we’d need for 308 candles, let alone how difficult it would be to light them all. Besides, his Aunt Laura lives in Florida and well, Jackson might be at the party if he’s found in time, but the spirit of the birthday celebration would be more than present regardless. 

And speaking of birthdays, tomorrow is Presidents Day highlighting the birthdays of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. The date this year is Feb. 18. It’s been a while since the celebrations of the births of our first and 16th were combined to fall on a Monday resulting in their “birthdays” arriving on a different date each year. I get it, long weekend and all. But by doing so, I wonder if today’s youngsters know the actual birth dates of Washington and Lincoln as generations before did and could recite at least by third grade. And hopefully they understand that the birthdays of Washington and Lincoln on the same day is not a coincidence such as the quirk of fate deaths of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, both on July 4, 1826, and ironically the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.  

Ah, but this column should not be confused with a history lesson. That I shall leave to our son Christopher who has sparked the interest of generations of New Jersey students in American history who have passed through his classroom at Sterling High School.

While I see Christopher’s older brother, Danny’s dad, kneeling on the floor of the bedroom they shared as children and placing his presidential figurines on the appropriate pages of his “American Heritage Book of the Presidents,” I can see Christopher, eager to be a part of it all, looking over his brother’s shoulder and awakening his curiosity in our country’s legacy.

*Who is Franklin Pierce.



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