The Civil War, literature, and Bruce

I nudged my daughter, whispered, "Bruce," and nodded toward the statue. My daughter looked at the pigeon on the statue's head and she and I looked at each other out of the corners of our eyes. We started to giggle.

Bruce was a pet pigeon at our local vet's office where I used to buy our cat food when the kids were little. The receptionist told me that Bruce was a bird she rescued and that he didn't like many people. But Bruce liked me, and he liked to sit on my head while I purchased cat food at the counter. Bruce is gone now, but stories about him live on in our family.

You might think we were a sophisticated pair, my daughter and I, attending an evening lecture in New York City about the Civil War's influence on American literature, but there we were during the lecture, trying to hold in laughter about a pigeon on a statue's head.

As the outdoor lecture began, I felt like pinching myself. I know I'm a homeschooling nerd, but hearing an articulate and knowledgeable professor speak about a topic he loves - and a topic we happen to be studying at the moment - is such a great opportunity, and I felt happy and grateful to be there with a child who was equally as excited to hear what he had to say. Of the lectures we've been attending about the Civil War, she said, "This is the one I really wanted to hear!" (Though it turns out this lecture about literature hasn't been her favorite. She liked the lecture on Civil War nursing better. I preferred the literature one.)

I guess you could call it a "living lecture" in the same way we call great books "living books." I also thought, as she and I listened to the lecture and later discussed it, that years of reading aloud provides stamina to listen to a lecture that didn't have any visual aids or props. It wasn't difficult for her to follow the lecture and pick out ideas and information that interested her, even though at age 12, she was by far the youngest person in the audience.

My daughter seemed surprised when the professor mentioned books she has read and then mentioned his college students are unfamiliar with the literature. I'd like to think she got an understanding that evening of how rich her education is, but then again, maybe giggling at Bruce the pigeon with her mom is what she'll remember about the lecture.

The lovely location of the lecture also made me pinch myself. We sat in the outdoor reading room of Bryant Park, and it happened to be directly across the street from the building where I used to work before I had children. See the white building with lots of windows? I worked on the 6th floor in an office that overlooked the park. It seems like a lifetime ago when I worked there and was part of the weekday working crowd in midtown. I felt lucky when I first moved here and landed a job in Manhattan, but I feel much luckier now being a Manhattan mom.

After the lecture, my daughter got an ice cream and we sat in the park people watching and talking. I kept pinching myself and savoring the time together. I worry that the next few years are going to go too fast for me as she grows up and away.


  1. I forgot to comment on this and the past post. I rejoice with you and your children, with all the opportunities you are seizing to get a real education, so many relationships and special moments. Yes, they grow fast, I do not experience that yet, but I feel it. Mine are little for not long... the oldest will soon be seven, it's not preschool anymore!
    It's incredible how many things are around that we don't see. I'm astonished from looking at your beach pics!

  2. Silvia: My goodness, they grow so quickly, but I guess that's what they are supposed to do.
    Thinking of you...