A Father’s Journal: History lessons on the cheap
Published 6:30 am, Friday, June 19, 2015
My daughter recently told her friend, “My dad loves to show us history as long as it’s under $15.”
She was responding to the fact that I bought last-minute general admission tickets to the Belmont Stakes and we witnessed American Pharaoh win the Triple Crown for the first time in 37 years. I figured the odds were good that history would be made so I tried to cajole, and then force my daughters to go with me to “see history.” I got $15 tickets. One daughter had a friend in town that did not want to see “a horse race” so I only forced one to go.
Lesson No. 1: History is much cleaner on TV
We got there about two hours before the race. About five hours after the doors had opened and the alcohol had started flowing.
No. 2: History sometimes involves college kids vomiting.
We made some bets and secured a great spot by the Final Turn. American Pharaoh pranced by us a few times warming up. We had a great view. Then the crowd started pushing forward to share our view. Words were exchanged between inebriated patrons. I am a very large man, I am not easily moved. I chose to block people from crushing my daughter, as opposed to my wife who I left out on her own.
No. 3: History is full of choices.
I didn’t see the race on TV, but I’m sure they had on a camera on American Pharaoh’s owner. The tension on his face was nothing compared to mine. I was much more nervous than he was. If American Pharaoh lost, no history would be made that day. My family would have turned on me. If American Pharaoh lost, the owner’s family would still love him. They would embrace him. Not mine.
No. 4: History is sometimes lonely.
We live so close to New York, that if I feel history can be viewed for less than $15, I will drag my kids screaming in to witness it. A few years ago, my daughters and I were talking about the current, at the time, Occupy Wall Street movement, when I realized were going into the city the next day and for three round trip subway rides, we didn’t have to watch it on a screen. We could talk to the protesters in person. I made my daughters go in against their will. It was right before Halloween, and a freak snow/sleet storm came up.
“It’s going to be fun, a cheap civics lesson. We can talk to them find out why they are doing it. We can have a dialogue with them.” We were forced to stop at Duane Reade and buy garbage bags. We put our belongings in some and cut out holes for our head and arms in others. We were not prepared for a snow storm.
No. 5: Often you are not prepared for history.
When we got to the protesters, the weather had deteriorated. There were only a few of them outside their tents. Generally if you are standing outside your tent in a storm, you are not a “dialogue” person. You are more likely a “monologue” person. So the girls watched a few monologists spouting off in a snow storm.
No. 6: History is often not made by moderates.
One year as we were driving home after Christmas with family, I made the girls go with me to Gettysburg. Which I have been to several times (free). This time I decided we would stand in the place where the 14th Connecticut regiment was hunkered down. I made the girls stand there and look across the landscape to the trees. It was late December and very windy. I made them look out and imagine General Pickett readying his troops on the far side of the clearing, preparing to run at the 14th Connecticut in Lee’s last desperate gamble. Pickett’s Charge was the high water mark of the Confederacy, and I made my daughters stare across the field and imagine thousands of rebels running at them, trying to kill them. If they fail, maybe the Union fails. It was cold. My daughters hated me.
No. 7: History sometimes turns generations against each other.
Growing up, my father made us read every plaque on every building. He would often take us to history being made. I’m sure I hated it then, but looking back, these were some of the best times I ever spent with my father.
No. 8: History repeats itself.
Thomas Lawlor lives in Southport with his wife and two daughters. His "A Father's Journal" appears every other Friday. He can be reached by email at Tlawlor@mcommunications.com.