(This post is going to get me into so much trouble! Wait for it.)
Dani the Art teacher called me last night to talk about the boys in my class. (There are five of them who are all in the vicinity of 13 years old.) She had a terrible time getting them interested in her art lessons. She gave them several options and got five flat out rejections. She asked them what they might be interested in doing instead and got almost no response. They agreed to think about it and make a list by the end of the school day. No list was made.
Two nights earlier, there had been a parents’ evening and the subject of internet/computer games became a surprisingly hot topic among the parents of these same five boys. It made me think about my own lessons with them and realize how much harder it had become to motivate them in recent weeks. To begin with, they were always tired. (As I know now, it is because a lot of them are playing late into the night.) Secondly, the only topics that really seem to light their fires and get them talking are all related to computers and games. Unfortunately I am completely uncool in this area. I can hardly understand, much less participate in, their discussions of . . . Grand Theft Call of Mind Warcraft Duty. Or whatever.
As Dani and I were talking about how to deal with this situation, I suggested she try to find something that is related to what we are learning about in other subjects – and right now that is inventors and inventions. A few of the boys have shown signs of interest, even intrigue. Suddenly I remembered a book that my brothers had made when we were kids. They had designed and drawn complex machines for various silly purposes like feeding the dog or catching a mouse. They taped their designs into a notebook and called them “The Inventions of the Great 3N Company”. I described the designs a little to Dani and that got her mind racing toward a whole new set of ideas.
After the call, it occurred to me that I had seen this notebook fairly recently and that it could very well be in my own house that very instant. I went rummaging through shelves and boxes and files, and . . . wahlah!
Something about this book was special enough for me to let it travel eastward across the Atlantic to Austria after one of my visits home. I suppose I might have asked my brothers first if I could have it, but, let’s face it, that is doubtful. I more likely stole it – or let’s be generous and say “appropriated” it.
I wandered around my house looking for other objects I had appropriated over the years. It turned out to be quite a collection. My father’s dog tags and his commemorative university graduation beer stein. A friendship bracelet with his and my mother’s names engraved into it – which dates back to their high school years in the 1940s. A paperweight that stood on my grandfather’s desk and some ceramic dogs always on display in my grandmother’s bedroom. Treasures, all of them. Things I visited and revisited in my childhood, things I stared at and played with. Things that somehow captured my imagination and meant something to me.
Now that I have confessed to my crimes, I can only hope that my siblings did some appropriating of their own over the years. Surely these can’t be the only objects of our shared upbringing. She says hopefully.
I wonder if my five computer-crazed school boys can notice and be fascinated by such simple, real objects in the world around them. Or conversely, if 50 years from now, they will have memories and associations with whatever they are experiencing while looking into a screen for hours on end.
Will they keep memories like these in little treasure boxes and feel nostalgia when they rediscover them decades later?