Wednesday, August 16, 2017

History hungry

We've always talked about how Jordan is Mini-Me because she's athletic, competitive and high strung. A girl after my own heart.

Evan has always been Packrat's doppelganger. The geek interests, the introvert and the mild endearing disposition.

A few months ago, I received confirmation of my genetic contribution to Evan. Our regular pick up ritual is the boys get into the car and mutter salutations before requesting for their audio book of the day to be put on. One day, this routine deviated. Evan got into the car and asked to talk rather than listen to the audio book.

He went on to tell me about Social Studies in school and Singapore during World War II. My mind flashed to me, having these conversations with my parents, when I did Social Studies in primary school. I was exactly the same age as Evan. I learnt from my mother how their house got requisitioned by the Japanese High Command. That they all ducked under the dining table when there were air raids; the same dining table I used for studying and now sits in my brother's house. I learnt then that my grandfather would set traps in the drains that had water flow in from the sea at high tide and how he caught fish and crab for the family that way. I learnt about the gory sight of heads put up on spikes as a warning of disobeying the Japanese.

I also remembered having discussions with my dad about the war, on the way to uni, where I spent a semester reading Singapore history.

In an instant, all this seemed relevant as my 10 year old fired a million questions about Singapore during the war. And I told him all the stories that my dad and mum as well as my grandmother told me about their lives during the war. I answered his questions about the European Theatre with what I could remember from days in freezing cold lecture halls 20 years ago. Perhaps, a primitive instinct 20 years ago pushed me to do all those course in preparation of a son not yet even a thought.

And the boy lapped it all up. He asked for books, more books and has started reading obsessively about war. War literature (it's amazing how much good juvenile war literature there is out there), fact books, a whole bunch of "I survived..." books and an old abandoned copy of a secondary school history text book. He literally paced the house waiting for the Amazon order to arrive with more history books in there. When it did, quiet descended upon the house. I let homework slide because I saw how he was devouring the books. There was always tomorrow for homework.

I didn't understand the obsession when it was Pokemon where he inhaled facts about Pokemon and could spit them out with such precision I wondered why he didn't put that much effort into his school work. But it's just how an obsession works. He's doing the same thing now for WWII history though because human nature and cruelty are involved, he doesn't get all of it himself and has questions that bother him somewhat. So we sit and chat about it. He asks questions, I try my best to answer it. I pull on things that he remembers, like visiting the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbour when he was little. And it makes more sense to him now. The attack, why it was surprising, why the Japanese did it. How that coincided with the attack on Singapore. Bit by bit, he's figuring it out.

He draws the line, though, at media. He'll read, he'll listen to stories about it but he won't watch it. Pity, I thought. I would have loved to have taken him to see Dunkirk.

But it is true. When there is interest, passion lies and the curiosity to know.


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