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Is This How Historians Feel All the Time?
October 28, 2008 - 4:42pm


Teachers, who age while the students in their classes do not, are big on noting time’s passage. Most often this is done by pointing out what their students have not—and never will—experience directly. My college professors spoke of experiences such as seeing the Stones live in concert—the first time around, when they were good, man. For my generation it’s events like the birth of MTV—when it was still about the music, man.

Children grow up quickly—think of the differences between a ten-year old and a college freshman—but adults often change little in those seven or eight years. Is it any wonder that teachers marvel about current students, How can they not remember 9/11?

I thought that as a man of the world, for whom time is but a lap pool, I was immune to this, but all sorts of freaky things happen when you have children of your own. It struck me like a bolt yesterday (no, Rory, not like a dolt) that the distance of my three-year old son to the Vietnam War is almost exactly my distance to World War I when I was his age. Now everybody knows WWI was a million years ago. I look back at it, and I’m fascinated, but it was a million years ago. But I was born in Vietnam at the start of the Vietnam war, and my good friend Frenchy served two tours there. That was all just yesterday. What weird short-circuit in time has occurred so that Wolfie will look back at my yesterday and get that ancient feeling?


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