Miles run today: 10
Age I was when I read about Anne Frank: 8
Year the Berlin Wall came down: 1989
When I was 13 and Sting was singing about whether the Russians loved their children too, I wondered: Did they really? How could they love their children so much if they were spending all of their time standing in long lines for toilet paper? Seemed like that would be distracting from the whole parenting thing.
And I was pretty sure both sets of leaders, American and Russian, would screw the whole thing up. I’d seen the boys in my classes, and they always had a hard time keeping their fingers off of buttons; presidents were only grown-up little boys.
Ergo: We were in big trouble.
I spent a lot of time listening to the “Dream of the Blue Turtles” album that year; “Fortress Around Your Heart” remains one of those pivotal songs in my life.
The English fortress thing spoke to me: I was way deep into King Arthur and longed for the days when men killed each other more elegantly, man-to-man, instead of obliterating whole states from across an ocean.
My daughter’s class is reading a novel based on a true story called, “A Long Walk to Water,” about children in Sudan who became “lost boys” when war broke out. The horrifying but gripping story has captured her imagination. I mentioned that she might want to read about Anne Frank, a young girl whose family hid from the Nazis but eventually died in the concentration camps.
She wanted to. So we went to the library and got the book.
There was a picture book of Anne’s life, too. We got the picture book.
There were heaps of dead bodies in the picture book.
Add it to the list of subjects she will need to discuss in therapy. We talked about how a lot of people died; dead bodies were the horrific reality.
She decided not to read about Anne Frank.
Now my son is concerned about North Korea. And nuclear bombs.
Around the dinner table, my husband and I talked with the kids about the Cold War, and the Berlin Wall, and guards who shot at people who tried to escape, and nuclear arms.
And then we YouTubed video from 1989 when the Berlin Wall came down.
“Will it be scary?” my daughter asked, putting her hands halfway over her eyes. “Will there be dead bodies?”
“No. It was like a huge street party with drinking and laughing and cheering. And sledgehammers,” I said.
Which now that I think about it sounds like a pretty scary idea.
The kids watched the video. It all happened a long time ago, way back in the 1900s, a century my children did not experience. The hair was… unfortunate.
But when I saw footage this morning from the Today show, with Matt and Savannah in Boston, men dressed up in redcoats and those representing the colonists, I realized: things change so fast.
To go from hating the British to being BFFs (and me marrying one), to go from a nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union to calling it Russia and a bunch of smaller states, to go from a huge cement wall to a time when tiny fragments of the wall are all that remain…
When I was young I used to wonder why adults would say that they were horrible with geography. It was so easy. You learned the names and memorized where they were. How hard could that be?
Now I know: a third of the country names have changed since I learned them all back in high school. Wherefore art thou, Yugoslavia?
So when my son asked the other night, “Do you think we’ll ever be friends with North Korea?”
I had to say: “I think anything is possible.”
Also, I hope the North Koreans love their children, too.