History is so much more than dates and dead people. Even if we never read about it in a book, we can’t escape history because we live in it every day.
History connects generations.
My great-grandmother grew up during the Great Depression. Eighty years later, I bought a house and started a family in what is now being called the Great Recession.
I was born on the 42nd anniversary of D-Day, a battle in which my great-grandfather served.
In another example of history repeating itself, Mam-maw saved a TV Guide from the 1960s about President Kennedy’s assassination and funeral. It is now a sad bookend to a “Time” cover story I kept about John Jr.’s untimely death in 1999.
When Wyatt is old enough, he may want to see my collection of magazines from the days and weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks.
His dad will want to show him all the newspapers we bought to commemorate the University of Alabama’s national football championship last year.
If it’s family history that my son wants, I’ll let him read a college paper I wrote about my grandmother’s journey from West Virginia to Chicago and then sweet home Alabama.
I also hope to have a collection of journals for him that I’m calling “Letters to Wyatt.”
I started the first one several months before he was born, and I’ll keep writing through his college years and beyond if he wants me to.
My favorite entry so far is from April 27. I ended it with the words “I’ll see you soon, son,” meaning when I was scheduled to be induced in two days.
Wyatt must have taken me literally because I went into labor a few hours later and he was born at 3:41 a.m. on April 28.
Napoleon Bonaparte called history “a fable agreed upon.” I have found in my own studies that history has sometimes been rewritten over the years.
For example, I was an adult before I realized that President Roosevelt did not lift the country out of the depths of the Great Depression. World War II finished the economic recovery that his New Deal programs started.
My teachers also never happened to mention that Thomas Jefferson did not believe in the deity of Christ or that members of only one branch of government, the House of Representatives, were directly elected by the people under the original constitution.
Like many Southerners, I’m interested in the Civil War. I still remember skipping ahead in my fourth grade textbook after recess one day to find out which side won.
For a long time, I thought the North and South were only fighting over slavery. Now I see that the conflict was more complex than a single issue, although slavery was certainly a major factor.
I’m lucky because my job allows me a rare chance to be paid for learning about history. This week alone I’ve heard stories about the Burton Building in downtown Jasper, a World War II veteran’s experiences, the Bankhead Highway and the Alabama Central Railroad.
If we don’t know history, then we can’t know ourselves as well as we need to.
That’s why the heritage festivals that are going on in Walker County this month are so important. It should be no surprise that the one I plan to attend is Discover Cordova Day next weekend.
I’ve mentioned my hometown in several columns, and the response I get from readers of all ages proves that Cordova is a special place.
Unfortunately, most young people leave it after they graduate because they don’t believe that Cordova will ever be more than it is today.
Maybe it won’t, but I think it can be.
When my son studies Cordova’s history, I hope he learns that this was the period when people stopped just celebrating the past and started focusing on the future.
Even people who hate reading about history can’t be opposed to helping make it.