Friday, April 11, 2014
Living History: On Board the R.M.S. Titanic
I love history.
History means story and people and the hows and whys of the choices that they make. It means understanding a different time and place and coming to learn how that time affects our own.
I come from a long line of storytellers, and I grew up hearing family stories, many of them dating back to the Civil War. But when my grandmother took me to Plimoth Plantation in Massachusetts and I walked into one of the tiny huts that resembles a Pilgrim dwelling from that first harsh winter in America, I was hooked on seeing history come alive.
Last week, it really did.
For a year a group of friends and I have been planning a Titanic unit with our kids. The idea was that each child would choose a person who had a connection to the fatal maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic and then research that person deeply. The family would study the ship and anything connected with it however they chose - but on April 4th we would come together for a Titanic-style luncheon. Each child would dress as their 'character' and each family would come bearing a dish that was really cooked on board. The parents would then serve the children, who would converse in character and share what they had learned.
One of our moms most generously offered to host this gathering. It takes a rare and kind person to allow 18 children of all ages to invade her home, eating off of fine china and silver and wiggling happily on beautiful chairs - and she is definitely that kind of person.
And so, venture out we did.
I couldn't help but wonder: what did passersby think of these antique-looking people?
As everyone arrived, we took pictures by family and with close friends. Think Prom. This turned out to be a really big deal!
Of course, the Titanic could not sail without Captain Smith.
Our hostess went all out. The girls seated themselves in her dining room, amid many giggles and smiles,
while the boys all retired to the butler's pantry, where I heard many glasses clink to shouts of 'cheers!'
We ate very well, and we ate beautiful, wonderful food that was authentic to the voyage.
The children chose a wide variety of people connected with the Titanic. The Astors were present, as was Harold Bride, Marconi operator; Thomas Andrews, ship designer; Violet Jessup, nurse/stewardess; Captain EJ Smith; and many others. One family with an infant even dressed up the baby and chose a character for her!
This was an event that we will not soon forget. Though it was fun, our children studied history, literature, science, scripture, writing, health, and grammar. They talked about pride and money and etiquette and whether one really needs to eat nine courses of dinner.
While we're all happy to live in a time that doesn't require such grandiose manners or focus on luxury in quite that way, we can learn a lot from those who lived it.
And we'll never forget the Titanic.