My husband, Dee, loves history. Make that adores history. The more bygone and boring, the faster his heart pumps. His idea of the perfect rainy afternoon is to curl up with a real page-turner, like a fat volume of “Civilizations of the World.” Doesn’t get more exciting than that! Zzzzzzz… Boring. I’d rather go to church. (Oops, did I say that out loud?) I‘ve never been able to get into history. It’s just so, you know, yesterday. Over and done with. Let the past be in the past, and all that.
That’s why it was so surprising that I recently picked up a book about the Wright Brothers. Even more shocking was that I finished it and enjoyed it! It’s not that I don’t read… I actually read a lot. I can justifiably brag that I average around 100 books a year, including chapter books and Dr. Seuss. Of course, many of those are written in past tense and most of them take place in former years-- but I draw the line at calling them historical. Historical fiction, perhaps, if you add a scoop of ice cream.
I hate to admit it, but there was something about this history book that moved me. Ironically, the Wrights may have proved me Wrong. I find myself reluctantly relating their past to the future. A few days ago I routinely boarded an airplane for a quick excursion across a few mountain ranges and a dozen or so patchwork-quilt countrysides. What would have been ho-hum for me in the past was this time, anything but. I marveled at the sacrifice that went into what we routinely take for granted. What seemed impossible to achieve then is everyday-ordinary now and it certainly didn’t come easy.
I gleaned a few other insights along the way as well. For example, history is basically like a parallel world. Of course, the characters and settings are different but the plot is basically the same. Bicycles, television and video games are all ruses to keep children from reading and will eventually send them to hell in a handbag peculiar to the style of their time. And it’s really nothing new that politicians will ultimately put their careers above the collective good. Can you believe Congress would (many times) decline the Wright’s offer of their revolutionary invention? (We don’t want your stupid-crap-flying-machine—everyone will think we’re foolish and won’t vote for us … oh wait… you’re offering it to France? Hang on… we’ll get back to you. And yes, we’re idiots.) Yep, same old Congress, minus the last admission.
I’ve always been a believer in the theory that to be truly compelling, every story needs a love interest. The Wright brother’s book proved me wrong again. Wilbur and Orville were odd-duck genius’s that never married and hung out a lot with their sister. In their case, his-tory didn’t include much her-story. And still I enjoyed it.
I was so edified by reading this rudimentary history book that I decided to pick up another. This one had a title that invited me to examine the nitty gritty politics of World War II. I do love a good World War II story. After all, my last book featured a genuine war hero. But after about ten minutes I was back to my old un-enlightened self. Ugh! What a yawner.
I’d like to say that because of my recent educational aptitude, I pushed through until I was completely absorbed in the narrative. Yep. I’d like to say that.