January is Kansas History Month, so like elementary school kids all over the state, Katherine has been coloring meadowlarks and cottonwood trees and singing Home on the Range. Her second grade teacher decided to have the kids do an oral history report to learn more about Kansas history. And that simple assignment caused some drama at our house.
Katherine climbed into the car after school last week and announced, "I can't do my homework." This is not her usual attitude, so I asked why not. Kate replied, "I have to interview an ancestor and I can't! I don't HAVE any ancestors! Well, I do, but I don't know who they are and they're in China. They were never IN Kansas!" She was crying so hard that I pulled over to sort it all out. I have long lived in nervous fear of the dreaded family tree assignment, but I never expected history interviews to be our downfall. I looked at the assignment sheet and it said "Interview a grandparent or older adult." No mention of ancestors at all. But that's not how Katherine saw it. Something about this assignment had brought her face to face with the huge black hole that is her history. And it hurt.
I managed to calm Kate down that day, but it took most of a week before she could discuss her history assignment without getting emotional. I finally convinced her that it was not about ancestors, this was simply learning how people in Kansas used to live. Then we had to choose someone to interview. Since relatives were too close to "ancestors", I ruled out grandparents and great aunts. I gave Katherine a list of "older adults" that she could talk to. She finally chose our good friend Roger. Roger was a college acquaintence of my parents, one of my college professors (we spent hundreds of hours in theater practice together), and a church friend. He loves my girls and has great rapport with Kate. He was a perfect choice.
One afternoon this week Katherine and I went to interview Roger. As it turns out, Roger went to grade school at one room school a few miles from town. He suggested we take a little trip out to see the school, which is now a house. So we did. The little limestone school had an official name, but the students always called in Frog Hollow. [Isn't that a fabulous name?] Roger told Kate all sorts of stories about his childhood and the daily life of Frog Hollow School - being in class with 8 grades of kids, playing on the delightfully dangerous playground equipment, catching frogs in the woods, the barn where kids once left the horses they'd ridden to school, the outhouses, the joys of being a farm kid. Katherine just soaked it all up. It was wonderful.
When we got home, I looked up Frog Hollow on the internet. I found pictures of the building and students and a list of all the pupils from before 1950 (including Roger's dad). Katherine has pored over them all. I am quite certain that Frog Hollow would be her ideal school, outhouses and all. And I am grateful to Roger for giving her a glimpse of this part of our local history and letting her feel a part of it all.