We were on Maryland's Eastern Shore, eating Pho. Because that's what we do, when visiting the land of crab cakes. The sky was blue, the children were smiling, and I felt compelled to read aloud from promotional tourism brochures.
I am my mother's daughter.
I turned to my oldest, "Owen, do you want to hear how we defeated the British Navy here?"
He munched on a chicken tender, "Okay."
"The people of St. Michael's hung their lanterns way, way high in the trees so that the British overshot with their cannons. They people were safe, and the town didn't get hit. Only a few trees." As I spoke, I attempted to focus on the details that would interest my son---fire and cannons.
Owen finished chewing, "Then what happened?"
"Well, then, we eventually defeated the British and the United States became an independent nation," I replied.
"Then what happened?"
"Well, then we started our own government. But the British didn't like that, and they started another war in 1812." My voice grow louder as I elaborated, "There was a battle right by our house! With big ships and more cannons!"
"What was wrong with those British?" He twisted his fingers a bit as he spoke.
"Nothing was wrong with them," I said. "They just thought they knew how to govern this country better than we did."
"What ELSE did those British do?"
'They did the thing that makes Americans really, really mad," I answered. "They made them pay taxes."
I glanced at my husband. "Am I starting to sound like Sarah Palin here?"
"A little," he said, "Are you going to finish your Pho?"
"Anyway, Owen," I replied, passing the bowl to Paul, "Americans wanted to have a say. No Taxation without Representation!" I pounded the table, as my fellow diners asked for the check.
Owen nodded as I detailed the Stamp Act, the Boston Tea Party, and the Shot Heard Around the World. He asked questions, specifically, "And then what happened?"
And I realized something. I was having fun. A lot of fun. For the first time, Owen and I were talking about something of mutual interest to us both. We were building a bridge out of words and ideas, and together, we would reach the other side.
I thought about field trips. Mother-son trips to Bunker Hill and Harper's Ferry. We could listen to the whispers in graveyards and yellowed documents. He could learn about the flawed, but strong people who built this land--Jefferson, Cady, King, Lincoln, and Sitting Bull.
And we could build a history of our own.