If you were an elementary school student (or parent) in California, I have three words that will bring back memories for you: Fourth-grade missions. And if you don’t live in California, fourth grade is when you study California history.
Fourth grade was over twenty years ago so I don’t remember much other than the missions are a day’s walk apart. Don’t quote me, but I think they were built by Spanish monks.
Anyway, the big project in fourth grade was constructing a replica of a mission that was assigned by Mrs. Collins. I got Mission San Juan Capistrano. I had been there several times as it was in South Orange County, maybe an hour away.
Dad is very handy and loves things that require construction. Me, I couldn’t care less. Just as long as I got an A on my mission. How my teacher could believe that mine was built by a fourth grader I’ll never know. He (we, I mean) even used blue Saran Wrap in the fountain at the Mission’s entrance.
“Fortunately” for me, I cut myself with the Xacto knife, proof to Mrs. Collins that my beautiful mission wasn’t just Dad’s project.
But I remember the Xacto incident very clearly
I cut myself not helping Dad, but playing with the knife because I was bored. But Mrs. Collins didn’t have to know that.
Every kid has done the “My Hero” essay in elementary school. I know I did, but elementary school was over twenty years ago and for the life of me I can’t remember who I picked. Some hero, huh? It was most likely a celebrity, or at least somebody well known.
I have grown up, obviously, since then. I realize now that my true hero was, and still is, Linda Tharp, my mother. Mom shaped me into who I am today: take no guff from anybody, but have a softer side. I got away with nothing as a kid. Between she and Dad, I remember spending a lot of time in my room, but the next day I would come home from school and the house would have a chocolaty aroma, brownies or chocolate chip cookies cooling on the counter.
But my favorite memory was in the summer of 1998. I was in the hospital recovering from a brain injury the doctors still can’t explain. Technically I was in a coma, but my brain was working like it always had. Mom and Dad came every day, Mom taking the morning shift. She would talk to me like as she always has, just filling me on the news at home or reading the newspaper. It was such a comfort. I just wish I could be Mom (at least to a human child, you’ll meet Maggie next) so I could show my daughter the type of love my mother has showed me.
Who would you say had the best presidential accomplishment? Bush leading us through the dark days of 9/11 was the biggest one of my lifetime so far—I still remember very clearly that morning Mom coming into my room and telling me what happened. We were glued to the TV the rest of the day. It was so surreal. Over the next few days we saw how the country could put it’s differences aside and work together.
My elementary school was big on patriotism: at assemblies we sang songs like “America the Beautiful” and “My Country tis of Thee.” We also had memorization challenges: the Preamble to the Constitution and the Gettysburg Address. I did it because I had to, and didn’t really pay attention to what I was memorizing. Now, 20 years later, I kick myself. I was reciting some of the most important documents in American history!
Take the Gettysburg Address: Without it, America might be two countries, and who knows when slavery may have ended?
Today marks the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. I know even today America has its differences, but because of Lincoln we are ONE COUNTRY.