Sunday, January 15, 2012

Geo genes

My dad has received a new World Almanac as a gift every Christmas of his memory - a cherished annual gift given to him religiously by his mom (Nana Jean). I should say every year but one. I say that because one time many years ago, Nana Jean thought that perhaps she didn't need to buy him an almanac for Christmas anymore. She never heard the end of it and resumed her annual Christmas almanac purchase after much good-natured chastising.

My dad is 58 years old. That's a lot of almanacs. That's a lot of facts. My family has always been into history and geography, and I think that Nana Jean probably recognized and encouraged that when my dad was very young.

We read almanacs and enjoy studying maps. Tell my dad where you need to go anywhere in the United States and he can tell you how to get there... he knows the Eisenhower Interstate Highway System by heart. Unless you like losing quickly at Trivial Pursuit, I recommend you turn down a game with him. Even if you're armed with a World Almanac and he is asleep. He'll still win.

A couple of months ago, Luke asked to see one of the outdated Rand McNally road maps that we keep in the van. I thought it was amusing that he would show interest so young. I told him that Grandpa would be so proud! He asked me to point out where we lived. Then we talked about where all our extended family lives. Afterwards, he could point to different states on the map and remembered who lives where.

For Christmas, Luke got a map puzzle of the United States. Despite our best efforts, Luke has never shown interest in doing puzzles. Not even when he was younger. I was totally shocked when he pulled this new USA puzzle out after New Years and asked if we could do it together. It said ages 6+, but we decided to give it a try.

Luke and I put together the outside of the puzzle together. We looked at the colorful box, and noted how each state had a funny shape and a unique picture on it (peanuts on Georgia, a football on Ohio, and a big boot on Texas). He clearly understood the task at hand. I took a step back to see what he would do.

All of a sudden, he was into puzzles. He kept consulting the box for which color or shape to go after next. He picked the big states around the bottom of the country to start out with, then worked himself north on the eastern seaboard, through the Great Lakes and Central Plains, and finished out the perimeter with the apple state of Washington. Then he filled in the middle. He was good! He obviously doesn't know the names of the states, their capitals, nor does he recall exactly on the map where each state goes... but just give him a couple of months and a weekend with Grandpa. I'm sure its just a matter of time.

It dawned on me that this might have been how Nana Jean felt 54 years ago, when watching her budding spatially-oriented kid and realizing that he too had the geo genes. I kind of got teary, thinking about it that way. Motherhood and pride and amazement still feel the same, no matter what year you exist in.

When Luke was nearing completion on the new puzzle, Matt tried to get in on the action. He would point to a random spot on the box cover, and then pat his hand on a random spot on the nearly-complete puzzle. As long as Matt didn't mess up any of the pieces that Luke had already placed, Luke didn't mind the attention.

When the last puzzle piece went in (that would be the great state of Arkansas), Luke beamed with pride. He completed this pretty challenging puzzle with minimal assistance from me... and I think he knew that his geo geek mom thought that was pretty cool.

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