Connecting with the past

When we hit the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge from Charleston into Mount Pleasant the boys stopped watching Harry Potter on our minivan’s built-in DVD player.

From the span over the Cooper River we could see the U.S.S. Yorktown, parked at Patriots Point. It would be our home for a night, and it was lit impressively, beckoning us to come and explore.

“Wow! Is that it, Daddy?” and “I’ve never been on a ship like that before!” came from the back.

That’s when I knew it would be a good weekend.

Boarding the U.S.S. Yorktown

Boarding the U.S.S. Yorktown at Patriots Point in Charleston Harbor.

The boys and I joined 101 other Cub Scouts and parents from Pack 564 for an overnight visit to the retired aircraft carrier parked in the Charleston Harbor since 1975. The six hour drive was interrupted only by a stop in Sandersville to unload Carla and Carlton, who were spending the weekend with her parents.

What struck me most about the half hour stopover was Poppy’s excitement about the boys’ trip. He had served on the U.S.S. Little Rock in the 1960s, and began telling us about his experiences at sea. I referenced the conversation numerous times while on board the Yorktown, trying to help the boys connect with their grandfather in a new way.

For kids, the sheer size of the ship is a novelty. But throw in 38- and 50-caliber gun mounts to climb on, airplanes to get a closer look at and seemingly miles of passageways to explore, and you’ve got life-long memories.

Harris at the helm

Harris at the helm of the Yorktown.

What stood out to the boys? If you ask them, they will tell you about the galley with a recipe for 10,000 chocolate cookies printed on the wall. Or they’ll describe the brig, the massive engine room and the gigantic hangar containing old aircraft.

Their expressions of wide-eyed wonder as they took the helm and climbed into the captain’s chair spoke volumes about their experience, and the questions came faster than an F-18 catapulted from the deck of a carrier.

I could see the realities of life at sea with 2,600 other sailors begin to sink in with the boys as they stowed their gear in their “berths.” The stacks of bunks, three and four high connected by chains drew immediate calls for “top bunk.”

Barron even affirmed my career choice. After watching me duck through hatches all day, he said, “You wouldn’t be a very good sailor, Daddy. You would always be hitting your head.”

Barron in the captain's chair

Barron tries out the Captain's Chair.

When we got back to Sandersville to pick up Carla and Carlton, I caught a glimpse of a twinkle in Poppy’s eyes as the boys breathlessly fired facts and descriptions at him. They covered the highlights, pausing every now and then to let Poppy insert a story from his service to help provide context for what they saw.

It’s like the time I saw “Saving Private Ryan.” In the intensity of that film, I was able to barely grasp what it must have been like for my grandfather to serve in Normandy. Now my sons were seeing their grandfather in a whole new way as they experienced history.

We’re still processing the questions. The boys spent their President’s Day holiday drawing pictures of the Yorktown and setting up dioramas with their souvenirs, all the while asking more and more questions.

Perhaps even in the New South, there’s an appreciation for the experiences of our elders. I look forward to the conversations my boys will have with all their grandparents as their understanding of history grows and their bonds with them are strengthened.

How have you connected with your grandparents? Did a trip to a historical place or an afternoon of stories on the front porch or time at the dinner table give you a glimpse into their lives? Take a moment to share your experiences by leaving a comment.

Advertisements

About lanceelliottwallace

Lance Elliott Wallace lives and writes in the Atlanta suburb of Lilburn. A native of Texas and a former resident of Florida and Alabama, Lance married a Georgia girl and together they are rearing three Georgia boys. By day he communicates for Georgia Tech engineers and scientists. He spends his early morning hours praying, writing and running.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Connecting with the past

  1. Autumn says:

    I always enjoy cooking with my grandmother. She always refers back to her childhood and how she used to cook with her mom, helping me feel connected to her in new ways. I do my best to share these stories with my girls when we cook some of my family’s recipes. I also try to create opportunities for my grandmother to spend time with M & M. This summer, Maddie will spend a week with my grandmother. They already have plans to cook some special family recipes and to make a quilt together. I have no doubt that this will be one of the highlights of Maddie’s summer! Thanks for reminding us all the importance of linking together generations and creating priceless memories in the process.

  2. I didn’t realize y’all were going to Charleston! Both of my grandfathers were in the Navy and stationed there at the end of their careers. I never got any good stories out of one, though the living room wall in their home is covered with all of his award plaques. The other has told me about skiing in China and almost getting locked out of the sub when they had to do a sudden deep drive. Glad you had a great time with the boys.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s