On the way to work, cutting through the park as always, I saw two of the 5th graders looking for something in the grass. One of them I recognized as my own–facebook-obsessed, very social, very silly. I figured they were looking for a lost earring or bracelet. Nevertheless, it seemed an idyllic little image, a nice snapshot of my workday. I snuck a photo and didn’t get caught.
In class, their teacher used Sharing Time to briefly acknowledge today, September 11th, asking what that means to them. I did a mental double take, then did the math to confirm, when he pointed out that it was 12 years ago, before any of them were born. It doesn’t seem that long ago, to me. They don’t seem young enough to not know.
Not that I knew anything about major world events at their age, no matter how publicized or fatal, especially those that pre-dated my own little life. I knew a fair amount about the holocaust, but we’re culturally Jewish. Plus every little girl goes through a Little House on the Prairie phase and a books-about-the-holocaust phase. It’s unavoidable.
* * *
Back in the spring, I worked a weekend English camp for middle school girls. Twelve year olds, with only a smattering of English among them, six to each counselor. It was game night, and we were practicing the command form by splitting our teams into pairs, with half of each pair blindfolded, and the other half guiding her partner around print-out cartoon bombs on the floor. So, “Go straight, turn left, stop, turn right,” etc. Don’t step on the bomb.
Except they didn’t know that word, and so I found myself pantomiming a big explosion, the smiling American clearly enunciating “BOMB,” to a gaggle of Japanese schoolgirls.
If the cultural-historical significance of that meant anything to them, they didn’t let on. And I suspect it was no more than a new vocabulary word, part of a game that they thoroughly enjoyed.
So I wonder…what histories have their parents passed down to them? What grudges do they hold onto, as a people, and how long do they wait to forgive? I suspect, in these regards, they are less punitive than We The People of the United States.
Or maybe not. My public-school educated self is not well-suited to substantiating my claims or researching my theories. Extrapolation heavy, interpretation lite.
* * *
The kids in class today, though, they go to private school. International school, and they come from multi-cultural families and a greater expat community. Maybe that’s why they knew, most of them, about September 11th. And even more of them knew about what’s happening now, in Syria.
I think we worry that sharing world news and history with children will somehow corrupt them. That telling kids the truth robs them of their innocence.
Meanwhile, Mr. V, their teacher, had a sprig of greenery tucked behind his ear. “What’s that?” one of the students asked.
“Oh this?” he touched the tender leaves. “Hannah and Akito found it in the park and gave it to me.”
It was a four-leaf clover.