Weekend Snapshot: USS North Carolina
While on vacation in North Carolina last week, my daughter and I took a tour of the USS North Carolina, which is in Wilmington, North Carolina. My daughter didn't much like it, and I felt bad about that at first. Then I thought, why on earth should anybody like a battleship? That's about the last thing anybody should do. Be awed, be impressed, be intimidated, be horrified, but don't actually like it. "Take it in," I told her. "Take it all in, even if you don't like it. Because you're here."
After the tour was over and we bought our bogus souvenir photos (We stood in front of the green screen though it looks for all the world like we stood in front of a plane.) and got instructions from the cashier on how to get to the nearest cinema (to see the Hannah Montana movie), I asked my daughter what she didn't like.
The smell. The dampness. The heat. The metal floors that weren't solid that she could see through. The steep and narrow ladders.
She gave me what I wanted: a teachable moment. I invoked my dead uncles who served in World War II. Imagine living with all that because you had to. Imagine living in that thing for weeks at a time in the Pacific, far from people you loved, and being aware of the possibility you might never get back--and before you did or didn't get back you might have to fight like hell. Imagine sinking in that great metal barge.
"I hope you never forget how much you didn't like that boat and why," I told her, adding the question, "What did you think of that cabinet with the names of all the schools whose students gave their dimes to preserve that boat? Cool, or what?"
It was cool.
"Were the men who served on that thing brave, do you think?"
"Why? You know, not everybody who fought in World War II had a choice. Many were told to. So is courage a commodity, something you can find when you need it because you need it?" When I was her age, I learned about my uncles who served in That War, how they found the courage and did what they had to do despite their own discomfort and the privations.... Heard it all so many times. I never grew bored with that story. I understood that these were young men with big hearts and a sense of honor that grew out of a good home. I understood that the whole business of war was horrible. I understood that my uncles were wonderful.
"Guess so." All the while, she had been navigating us to the theatre. Though I couldn't understand a word that lovely local woman had uttered by way of directing us to the cinema, Adella took in every word. And there we were. She could have a future in navigation.
Click here to tour the USS North Carolina.