Here it is, July 14 again, and as soon as I see the date pop up in the corner of the computer screen, my mind cries out, “It’s Bastille Day!” I’m not quite sure why this date has any significance at all for me, but for some reason it’s stuck in my brain, no doubt taking up room that could be better spent on “Where are my glasses?”
I’m sure that Bastille Day was mentioned at some point in my public education, but I certainly don’t remember it. I am aware that The Bastille was a prison and that the attack on it began the French Revolution. That’s really about all I remember, because in my youth France seemed a long distance away, and what the heck, it was centuries ago. It had nothing to do with me.
I don’t think I’m alone in this deficiency as regards knowledge of world history. I do have a pretty good handle on the reasons why early Americans wanted to have their own revolution. We were handed all those names and locales back around fourth or fifth grade, when we dipped candles in class, and carved wooden trenchers for plates. We accepted the tales of Paul Revere and George Washington and Benjamin Franklin as entertainment, rather than as journalistic reconstructions of “history.” Ten-year-old minds can accept just so much if it’s thus labeled and offered as curriculum. Still it made an impression on me, and to this day I recall a lot of the anecdotal incidents of the period. Later on, we were introduced to world historical events, but at that time in my life, there was too much world and too little time to take it all in. Besides, they didn’t offer any midnight rides or cherry trees or lightning-attracting kites to grab my attention.
The funny thing is that France is still the same distance from me, and the active part of the great French Revolution is long behind them, but I’m thinking it might be time for me to look up some of the reasons and some of the effects of that pivotal point in Gallic history. Maybe I’ll branch out a bit and also look up the Battle of Hastings (1066) and the Spanish Armada (1588) since those dates have also stayed with me for all these years. Not the history, just the dates.
Who knows? Maybe I’ll find some stories to go with the dates; maybe I’ll be able to imagine faces and costumes that belonged to real people. Maybe next year, July 14 will mean a little more to me.
I’ll see you again, after the commercial.