Ancient History

Follow Me?


Scene from a Happy Childhood

Every spring, my K-8 kids have a mandatory, massive, ridiculously involved school project called Night of the Notables. They have to become a notable person from history, dress as the person, and give a speech. I dread it and I look forward to it. There’s work, but reward. I learn a lot from my kids as they research fascinating people.

Sam enjoys adopting less obvious choices. One year, he was Barnum Brown. Who? Only the guy who discovered the T-Rex and literally fought in the bone wars. This year, he chose President Rutherford B. Hayes. When I heard, I tried to sway him to pick someone else. My thought was that it’s hard to research people like Rutherford. When Sam explained he chose “Ruddy” because someone threw a cabbage at him during a speech, I caved. Admirable, indeed.

We requested a huge stack of various biographies from the library, picking them up today after school. As we drove home, Sam dove into a book about Ruddy. “He was a sickly child.”

After a minute, he piped up, “Wow. Most of the famous people I like were sickly children. I wonder why sickly children become so important?” Ryley joined in the conversation:

“To be important, you need a terrible childhood! This means I will never be famous or important. A happy childhood means unhappy adulthood.”

I said that wasn’t true.

“I don’t have an emotionally-scarring backstory!” he continued.

This is a line straight out of Phineas and Ferb. “You’re no Doofenschmirtz, Ryley.”

From there, the conversation deteriorated into a discussion on ocelots, who live in South America—not Europe, where Doof grew up. He was raised by ocelots, at least for awhile.

Somehow, the conversational wind changed again and we ended up back at Notability. Infamy. And another truth.

Sam, thinking about his choices, said, “Barnum Brown was probably the loneliest person I’ve ever heard of. His wives and his daughter all died.”

“NOOOOOOO! The loneliest man, ever, was Edgar Allan Poe!” Ryley made his case while I laughed until my stomach hurt. I barely remember driving. My two oldest sons were comparing the lonely lives of Victorian-era men. T-Rex vs. Annabel Lee.

Nope. Nothing notable about that.

Two Notable Lads doing a Notable Thing ~ 2007 ~ Ryley was 8, Sam was 6

5 comments to Scene from a Happy Childhood

  • I loved this post so, so much. I can not wait to see what your kids do as adults. They will be notable.

    • Gretchen

      I can’t wait, either. My kids want to have odd careers, like a milk train driver or an in-house plumber at Disneyland. I hope their dreams come true.

  • Gretchen, I’m dying laughing. Our school does Night of the Notables too – but not until grade 5 and 6. I can’t wait to see who my kids decide to research!

    My anti-spam word is PUPPIES!

    • Gretchen

      Our school makes everyone do it, from K-7. The 8th graders do a project incorporating ALL the people they chose over the years. Big sigh. They talk about Night of the Notables year-round. It’s like Halloween. The day after, they talk about who they’re going to be next year. I’m like WHOA WHOA WHOA, when is summer break?

  • amyptucson

    “I don’t have an emotionally-scarring backstory!”

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>