Friday, November 7, 2008

I Have Always Been an Exceptional Child

Exceptional- adj.

  1. Being an exception; uncommon.
  2. Well above average; extraordinary: an exceptional memory.
  3. Deviating widely from a norm, as of physical or mental ability: special educational provisions for exceptional children.

There have been a lot of things that pick me out as different, but a particular incident stands out in my mind. Back when I was in the second grade (which wasn’t special in any way) I remember coming home from school and watching a documentary miniseries on the history of World War II. Back then there were regular periods when we lived without television, but at the time we had one. I remember it was a portable television. This is when a portable television was a new concept, so it was about the size of a briefcase. It had a four-inch wide screen and ran on something like twenty four D-cell batteries for a total of six hours. Fortunately for the sake of our battery budget, it could also be plugged into a wall.

Despite it’s diminutive size, every day after school for those two weeks I sat transfixed, my face inches away from the screen, as the narrator laid out the details of the second world war from the rise of the National Socialist Party in Germany all the way through V-J Day. I don’t know why a second grader would be so interested in that part of history, but I was. The part that really stuck in my mind was the sudden change from black and white to color. You see, almost all of the footage shown in the documentary was black and white. The invasion of Poland was black and white. The Battle of Britain was black and white. The attack on Pearl Harbor was black and white. The flag raising on Iwo Jima was black and white.

In fact, the entire documentary was in black and white until it came time to show the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This was in color. I remember being very impressed with this sudden transition from black and white to color pictures. From then on the footage that was shown was entirely in color.

A few months after I sat and watched all of this I was sitting in class and the subject of the afternoon was science. At one point I remember very distinctly the teacher asked, “Do any of you know why the sky is blue?”

Being the deductive genius I was, my hand shot up faster than ever.

“Shawn, tell us why the sky is blue.”

“You see what happened was we dropped these two bombs on Japan in 1942 and ever since then everything’s been in color.”

“Excuse me?”

“Yeah, the atom bombs. That’s why we can’t use any more of them. We don’t know what’s going to happen the next time one goes off.”

I spent a lot of time taking special tests after that.

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