Making History

On Saturday, my son and I woke up BEFORE the crack of dawn to head to Richmond for the state-level National History Day competition…


At the VMFA, which is next to the Virginia Historical Society and Museum.

For weeks my son and his fellow group members toiled over their entry: a documentary on the Mongolian revolution. I sent up endless trays of food to the three boys, who spent endless late nights working on their project. This was a real challenge for my early-to-bed-early-to-rise 15 year old, who starts to turn into a pumpkin at the stroke of 8 pm. During one all-nighter I could hear one of the boys doing a voiceover at around 3 am.  Right before the assignment was due, a storm knocked out the power for days. The boys were frantic. They ended up spending the weekend finishing up their project at a dad’s office, where the power had been restored. During that blackout weekend, they managed to track down a history professor at the University of Memphis, who had written one of the scant articles they could find on their topic. They emailed him and he agreed to do a Skype interview, which they incorporated into their documentary. Their hard work paid off at the regional tournament, where they came in 2nd place for group documentaries.

At the competition on Saturday, I got to watch the documentary for the first time. As I was congratulating the boys for their impressive final product, they told me their teacher had deemed their award-winning documentary only worthy of a B. What’s more – another teacher called them into her office after the regional competition to tell them that although they had advanced to the state tournament, they really didn’t deserve to. When I expressed shock at this, my son consoled me with an A+ answer: “Eh, it’s ok. It’s good to learn how to deal with things like that in life.”

Good thing those teachers weren’t the judges:


With another 2nd place win, the boys are moving on to the national tournament. We all felt a bit like this:


Willem van Heythuysen, 2006, Kehinde Wiley, VMFA

Weekend Snapshots 55


I awoke to the sound of our son (aka Jiminy Cricket) opening our bedroom door. An early riser, he was the first to realize that powerful winds had left us powerless. He was making the rounds of all the bedrooms, leaving flashlights for everyone on their bedside tables.

Schools were closed for the day for the kids, but my husband and I had to get to work. It was a harrowing trip that involved rerouting several times because of road blocks, driving through a roadblock, and twice driving under a tree resting on power lines. Meanwhile, the kids spent the day shivering in a house that was cold, dark, and without water. My daughter’s was delighted to get out of the house that evening to go to her quartet practice…


We went out to dinner and then killed some more time at a bookstore, all the while compulsively checking the Dominion Power website on our phones to see if power had been restored to our neighborhood. When it became clear that we would spend another night without power, we stopped off at two different grocery stores to find enough water to drink and to flush toilets.

My daughter and I camped out in the living room next to a cozy fire…



…but woke up shivering in a house that still had no power.

It’s amazing how quickly we lose the will to be civilized when there is no electricity. Dirty dishes piled up in the sink. Clothing was discarded on the floor. Tissues were used then left on the coffee table rather than thrown into the trash. Worst of all, we became like rats in a cage, snapping and snarling at each other for no good reason.

We tried to restore our humanity at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, where we caught the end of the remarkable Terracotta Warriors exhibit…



Back in Charlottesville, we dropped one son off at a friend’s dad’s office to work on a project and my daughter off at church, where her Sunday School class was serving dinner to the homeless guests who are there for PACEM. After taking the opportunity to fill jugs with water to take back home, my son and I decided to have dinner at the newly-opened J Petal: a Japanese crepe and Thai ice cream restaurant.


We picked my daughter up and as we drove back to the house, I began to whine about the prospect of having to spend another cold night without power. I felt immediately chastened when from the back seat my girl piped up: “Think about the people in Puerto Rico…Some of them haven’t had power for 6 months. And then, of course, I thought about the homeless people who have to worry about keeping warm and having enough food and water to eat on a daily basis. We came back home to lights, heat, water, and a renewed appreciation for the simple things we take for granted. It was hard to fully enjoy it, though, knowing that friends around town were still without power and thinking about those for whom this situation is not just a temporary inconvenience.