Tell someone that you love history and you’ll either get enthusiastic agreement or a blank stare. Or worse, “Ugh, I hated history in school.”
Well, that’s not history’s fault. Because history done well is about what everyone loves: great stories. We are hard-wired for narrative, and the best history reaches that deep part of all of us. In this blog, I hope to keep you informed and entertained with stories from my own research, my travels, my books, and some of my wacky friends (you know who you are).
As for me, I have always lived in the past.
I spent after-school hours in the fall of fifth grade on the redwood deck of my post-War suburban home in San Rafael, California dressed in a white blouse and a long, flowered skirt. There, I swept my backwoods “cabin” just like the mother in the TV series “Daniel Boone.” The following spring, Mrs. Gurin taught us about New England Puritan life by taking us into the grassy ball field behind the school buildings. She divided us into families and we set up our pretend dwellings among the native oaks which dotted the edge of the field. This was our little village of Sudbury, and we put our Puritan lessons into practice a few days a week.
I loved it, but as the grass began to go brown in May my hay fever took hold and I had to stay home the entire month. To explain my absence, my classmates said I’d been burned as a witch.
By high school I was reading fat history books and lightweight fiction set in various time periods. In 1970, during my junior year, the calico “granny” dress and granny glasses look was very popular (today we call it boho). I thought this was a historical, rather than hippie look, and decided to get one of the ruffle-fronted dresses for myself.
On the first day I wore my new finery I went into the girl’s bathroom in between morning classes. Looking absently into the mirror something clicked in my brain and with horror and a blush of shame, I realized that my button-up-the-back cotton dress was actually a nightgown.
My forays into historical clothing got less embarrassing as I got older. For me, anyway.