The Gift I Never Expected

As I sat in my comfy chair, late in the evening, pondering the events of this Mother’s Day, it occurred to me that I received the most amazing gift from my children today, and I’m pretty sure they don’t even realize that they gave it to me. Let me explain.

I love exploring history, especially American history. I love it because it makes me feel like I’m connected to the past, and I love seeing how the past connects to the present; how those who lived before us helped to inspire the lives we live today.

My children have often referred to me as a “history nerd.” They never seemed as excited as I was whenever I attempted to impress my love of history upon them. I recall them once rolling around on the floor, acting as if they were in pain, when I tried to read a biography of Abraham Lincoln to them. I’ve noticed the “look” on my daughter’s face, on many occasions, when she thought I was going to make her visit some historical site on one of our mother/daughter trips.

I realized that my children didn’t share my love of American history, but I secretly hoped that they would grow to appreciate it more as they got older.

They did seem to show an interest in learning about their great-great-great grandparents, when I made them books on our family’s ancestry a few years ago. That’s when I thought there might be hope for them, yet. But I still didn’t feel brave enough to ask, “Hey, who wants to drive 99 miles to go visit an old historic town with me?”

And, then, on Mother’s Day, 2019, I received “the gift!” One that wasn’t planned and that neither of my children will even realize they gave to me, until they read this blog post

It began when my daughter asked me to go with her to Locust Grove, the home of William and Lucy Clark Croghan. The beautiful mansion was built in 1792, and has a rich history of hosting such people as Andrew Jackson, James Monroe, Lewis and Clark, and many others. George Rogers Clark was Lucy Clark Croghan’s brother, and he stayed with Lucy and her husband at Locust Grove whenever he wasn’t out on one of his many pioneering adventures.

The reason why my daughter invited me to go there, however, was not for the history but, rather, to attend a Gardener’s Fair that was being held on the grounds.  It was drizzling rain when we arrived, and the Fair was not quite as impressive as we had expected. We were able to visit all of the booths in a short amount of time, purchased some fresh-cut Peonies, and that was it. My daughter noticed that the mansion was open for tours, and she suggested we take a look.

Much to my surprise, she actually got excited about remembering some things she learned when we had visited Locust Grove years ago, on a school field trip – the small models of furniture pieces the Croghan’s had ordered, that the children used for doll furniture once the full-scale furnishings had been completed; a balloon made from a pig’s bladder; the bed mattresses that were stuffed with hay; the room where George Rogers Clark died after suffering an infection from a leg injury. She marveled at the old glass window panes, and started taking photographs of some of the architecture.

We went for the Gardener’s Fair, but we had more fun learning about the history of Locust Grove, and my daughter seemed to enjoy it as much I did!

After dropping my daughter at her car so that she could meet her friend for dinner, I went to visit with my son, my daughter-in-law, and my grandbabies.

My son recently began a new ministry position at a church in a small nearby town, and he has become interested in learning more about the surrounding communities, in efforts to better know the people who live there. I was playing with my grandchildren when, low and behold, he came into the room with three historical books that someone had loaned to him.

I skimmed through the books as he shared some stories with me about the history of these small Kentucky towns. I loved seeing his enthusiasm and interest in wanting to know the history that helped shape those to whom he is ministering. The past connects us to the present!

My grandchildren had gathered around, looking at the photographs in the books with me, when we came upon some photos of steamboats cruising down the Ohio River. They seemed very interested in the boats, and this presented me with the perfect opportunity to share with them a little bit of history about their great-grandfather.

My dad grew up on the Kentucky river bank, in the early 1900’s. His parents owned a business that offered food, supplies, and even animal care for riverboat passengers. He had a tiny row boat when he was a child, and he often told me stories about how he would put his dog in the boat with him and row out onto the river, in the midst of all the steamboat traffic. Sounds dangerous to me, but he was fascinated by it all, and he never passed up an opportunity to look for steamboats on the river, even when he grew old.

I admit that I sometimes grew bored with my dad’s often-repeated steamboat stories when I was young, but I sure am glad that he told them to me, and that I got the opportunity to pass those stories down to his great-grandchildren.

So there you have it. After 31 years of motherhood, this “history nerd” spent Mother’s Day exploring a little bit of Kentucky’s history with her children and her grandchildren! No one planned for that to happen. It just happened. No one had to “endure” it, in an effort to please me; everyone seemed genuinely interested.

The fact that my grandchildren got in on the action was the “icing on the cake!” As a result, one of them is extremely excited about going for a ride down the river on a steamboat on our next adventure together!

I wouldn’t have been happier if they had given me a shiny, new car, instead. Okay. Let’s be honest. A new car would have been awesome, but the memories of discovering some of the past with them would still be cherished long after the car became a rusted-out clunker. 

Thank you, to my children, for giving me an amazing Mother’s Day gift – the one you didn’t even realize you had given me. Let’s explore more of the past, sometime soon!





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