When I was young, I think I approached history the way many people do – it was a subject I had to take in school, and not much more. I was a good test taker – so I could memorize the names and dates, at least long enough to get an A on the test. But history held no more significance to me than that.
It wasn’t until our family moved to Wuerzburg, Germany for more than five years, and I found myself surrounded by history that I could reach out and touch, that I figured out that history was more than just the names and dates in my history textbooks.
All of a sudden I was surrounded by what makes history real – the stories! And then I realized that it’s the stories behind those names and faces that make history important, that make history come alive.
Now, I find myself asking often: What happened in this place? Why did it happen? What was the context in which it happened? Maybe it’s the storyteller in me that wants to find the answers to these and many other questions. Or maybe the seeds of a historian had been planted when I was younger, traveling through Central America with my family, and I just didn’t realize it.
But whatever the reason, being there in Wuerzburg, I suddenly found the desire to learn more. In fact the more I learned about this amazing place that we had been transplanted to, the more I wanted to know. I found myself taking every tour I could find in English, tours that took me through the palace, in and around the castle, or through the historic old portions of town.
After awhile I became frustrated at the lack of English materials that existed to tell me more about this city and its fascinating history. When I complained to a friend of mine that I couldn’t find a book in English about the history of our town, she replied very matter-of-factly, “Because you haven’t written it yet.”
When I was done laughing at her (at that point I had never considered writing anything for readership beyond myself, my teacher, or my family), I looked at the pages of notes I had already compiled from the countless tours I had taken, looked at the stack of books I had been pouring over just for the fun of it, and finally admitted that it could be fun to write a short history book.
And that, as they say, was just the beginning. Over the next two plus decades I was generally busy homeschooling my twelve children, but along the way it seemed that I just kept stumbling across the wonderful stories we call history: The history of those who made up the Lewis and Clark Expedition; the history of George Vanderbilt and the amazing house he built and called Biltmore; and of course, the never ending stories I read about Leonardo da Vinci and his amazing life and work.
It seems that the stories are everywhere I go. Whether I am taking a vacation in Panama or visiting family in Turkey or Albania, the stories seem to reach out to me. They beg me to listen to them, to hear them, and then to retell them. It is actually one of the things I love the most about being an author – it gives me an excuse to do more digging, another reason (besides just for the fun of it) to travel across the country and around the world, and an audience with which to share it.
My hope is that is long as I am on this earth, I will be able to enjoy the stories of history that are all around me – and to share them with others, both young and not so young.