Friday, November 29, 2013
November 29, 2013: Giving Thanks: Future AmericanStudiers
[A Thanksgiving series on some of the many things for which this AmericanStudier is thankful. Add your thanks-givings in comments!]
On an amazing and inspiring conversation between past and future Americas.
A few weeks ago, I had the chance to take my boys to Plimoth Plantation (and its related sites, including the Mayflower II on the docks in nearby Plymouth) for the first time. As that blog post indicates, Plimoth is one of my favorite American sites, and so the chance to share it with the boys (for the first of what I hope and believe will be multiple visits) was something I had long looked forward to. And it delivered, in lots of ways but especially in a series of moments and images I’ll long remember: the boys resting on animal skin blankets in the large house at the Wampanoag Homesite; each straddling a cannon on the top level of the 1627 English Village’s fort (probably not allowed, but hey, engaging with the past, right?); and, most memorably of all, our nearly thirty-minute conversation with a young historical interpreter in one of the Village houses.
The interpreter was embodying an interesting historical type, a single young man who (as a second son who was thus not destined to inherit his family’s farm) had come to Plimoth on the Mayflower to make his fortune and had found himself increasingly connected to the community’s other families; when we met him he was making a fire in the home of one such family whose young daughter was (he told us) ill and in need of hot water. Perhaps because of his age, perhaps the fact that we were alone in the house with him, perhaps simply the vagaries of 7 and 6 year old moods, the boys were extremely interested in what he had to say—they sat down in two chairs in the house and quizzed him for, again, almost half an hour on who he was, what he was doing, what was in the home, and many other aspects of life for the Plimoth community nearly four hundred years ago. I had little to do other than watch, taking in this conversation between a 1627 Anglo American man and two 2013 Anglo German Jewish Chinese American boys.
I’m thankful for far more about my boys, and the opportunity to be their Dad, than I could possibly express here. But high on that list for sure is my gratitude for the chance to watch them grow into their own kinds of AmericanStudiers—not necessarily in scholarly ways (although we’ll see!), but as 21st century Americans, engaged with every part of their community and nation and world, past, present, and future. If the Expanding Horizons students about whom I wrote yesterday offer me one very definite source of hope for our future, my boys of course offer another—and I’ve never felt that hope more clearly or strongly than as I listened to their questions and conversation with this representative of one of the founding moments in America’s past.
November recap this weekend,
PS. Who or what do you thank?