I don’t remember how old I was when I first realized I lived in a country called the United States. It was probably around the same time I realized this country was led by a president, and that this president was elected by the country’s citizens, and that presidents basically came in two flavors — Democrat and Republican. I must have been younger than eight, because when I came to this new understanding, the President of the United States was Dwight D. Eisenhower.
I always had a fondness for the man, merely because he was the one who was in office when I came of age as a pint-sized citizen; it had absolutely nothing to do with his politics. I simply liked him because he was my president. Besides, he had this very cool and catchy campaign slogan, “I like Ike.” Boy, I wanted one of those lapel buttons. Didn’t matter that I never understood how “Ike” could be a nickname for Dwight, David or Eisenhower. I mean, I got the connection between names like Michael and Mike or Phillip and Phil, but Ike? And if that wasn’t baffling enough, I later learned that all the boys in his family were nicknamed “Ike.” Go figure. (Never actually got my hands on one of those campaign buttons…)
I recently learned lots of interesting things about Eisenhower when we visited his boyhood home in Abilene, Kansas, a few years ago. We toured the presidential museum dedicated to this 34th president of the United States. I fully expected to see things on display like military decorations and presidential memorabilia, but what surprised me was a gallery of paintings: this five-star general and statesman was also an amateur painter. And a rather accomplished one, at that. In his own words:
“[My paintings were] reports on things that came to my personal attention and seemed interesting.”
Sounds a lot like “Show and Tell,” if you think about it — with more emphasis on the “show” than the “tell”. And that’s precisely the balance I preferred when I was in elementary school. I mean, who wanted to listen to kids stand up in front of the class and just talk about something cool? I wanted to see the goods.
Show and Tell was reserved for Friday afternoons and I could barely wait to return to the classroom after lunch to see what my fellows had managed to sneak out of the house and into school. Anything alive scored a perfect ten in my book. Be it clad in fur, scales, shells or feathers — they were all equally compelling. Bugs also scored highly, but were much harder to smuggle into the classroom alive, what with teachers being so skittish, and all. And coming in at about a 9.5 was anything that contained life, or that would someday be alive – such as eggs or cocoons.
Unfortunately, most of my comrades either didn’t have pets or weren’t allowed to bring their animals to school. Those who were allowed brought them in at the beginning of the school year, so it was generally downhill after that. I was relegated to spending Friday afternoons for the remainder of the year feigning interest in such things as marbles, gyroscopes, and stamp collections. Sigh. (Who knows. An all grown up Larry Cochran is probably blogging even now, somewhere out there on the InterWeb, saying the same thing about Betsy Wetsy dolls and Betty Crocker baking sets.)
It is currently almost a month into the school year – about when I remember things beginning to peter out. Ah, gentle classmates, not to worry. I haven’t even gotten around to the cute, furry little blog posts yet. It will take a while to exhaust a sixty year stash of “interesting things that have come to my personal attention.” And the Parade of Show and Tell continues…
Oh, by the way: I always thought it was fun to be up in front of a full classroom. Thanks for showing up!
[P.S. That stuff I said about marbles, gyroscopes and stamps? I didn’t really mean it. In fact, I actually liked looking at marbles a lot. It’s just that I was real bad at shooting them, and consequently had to act like I didn’t like them so as not to be humiliated on the playground. Gyroscopes? Well, they were simply too tricky for my level of coordination. And it required way too much patience to collect things. But I married someone who collected stamps as a kid. Does that count?]