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Fort Sumter

Posted by | July 08, 2014 | BAMBINOS | 12 Comments

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Kyle is developing (or has developed?) a serious interest in U.S. History — specifically, African-American History — and even more specifically: the Civil War. At first we thought this was an intensive obsessive interest (he tends to fixate on specific topics for stretches of time, but then he usually moves on). This interest, though, seems to be sticking. It has been growing and rooting for a few years now. And instead of phasing out, it seems to be deepening and strengthening. At this point he already knows far more than I ever knew about the Civil War. Once we saw that this interest was not just a passing phase, we began to help foster it a little bit — the real start of that was when Braydon took him to Gettysburg for a weekend, which was (truly), for Kyle, a top highlight of his life to-date.

There is something about being in the South — or maybe it is specifically the Lowcountry?, or maybe it is the summer’s time to decompress, and open up mental space, and create space for continued conversation about topics-outside-the-realm-of-the-daily-grind?, or maybe it is something else entirely? or maybe it is, as I believe, some combination of all of those? — well, there is something about our time here that seems to noticeably intensify Kyle’s passionate interest in history. To me, it is intuitively understandable why this is, but I think it would be hard to understand it if you’d never spent time in this very specific and very unique part of the country. Here there is history all around us, it is just oozing out of every pore of the place; it almost feels like if you are open to it, you’ll absorb it through osmosis; we are — quite literally — at the epicenter of African-American history. We’ve brought the bambinos to the Lowcountry for the past four summers in a row, and it is remarkable to me how much just being here stirs and rejuvenates and fuels Kyle’s interest.

Last summer we took a trip to Magnolia Plantation, which was, for Kyle, a pivotal experience. We wanted to do something like that for Kyle again this summer, and we knew — months ago — what it would be. He had a burning desire (seriously! an obsessive need) to go to Fort Sumpter. So, just a week into our stay, as our first big day-trip in the Lowcountry, we all headed out on Sunday for Fort Sumpter National Monument.

The bambinos have been sleeping in until 8 or 9 each morning, but on Sunday, Kyle was up at 6:10am, ready to get the day started, too excited to sleep. We were on the road to Charleston at 7am, and got there (with plenty of time!) to make it on the first boat of the day at 9:30am.

Family Pic

It was good that we had left so early, actually, because we ended up needing to stop to run an errand — before we had even left the beach house, Kyle explained to me how much he really needed a notebook and pen for this trip. So, we stopped on the way to buy a notebook and pen for him, which you’ll see Kyle holding and/or writing in when you look at most of the photos of our Fort Sumpter trip.

It was cloudy and threatening rain all day, but it never actually rained on us, and it made for a welcomed — relatively cool (instead of swelteringly hot) — summer day-trip in South Carolina. As we approached the island that is Fort Sumpter, Kyle was starting to realize that his dream of visiting Fort Sumpter was coming true in real time.

IMG_5273Fort Sumpter 1IMG_5284

As soon as we were off the boat it was announced that there would be a “history talk,” which, of course, Kyle definitely wanted to attend (and in which, of course, Owen and Meera had zero interest). So, we split up. I took Owen and Meera to explore the fort and island, and Braydon took Kyle for the “serious stuff.” Kyle immediately got to work with his notebook, sitting within hearing distance of the expert/speaker/tour guide, listening with rapt attention, and taking notes in his book.

Notebook 2Notebook 1

This (above) is my favorite recent picture of Kyle. I think this really shows his true essence. This (below) really shows his true essence too! He wrote in that notebook the entire time.

Notebook 4

A page from his notebook~ (This page, below, is notes from the actual Fort Sumpter trip — since then he’s been working on turning all these notes into some sort of “draft”. A draft, of what, I do not know. But I do know that he spent an hour yesterday, while his brother and sister were swimming at the pool, sitting at a table in the shade working in his notebook.)



Owen and Meera, on the other hand, are much more typical kids — being dragged by their parents to a National Monument during summer vacation. The boat ride was fun, the first few minutes of exploring were fun, but they had exactly ZERO interest in the history of Fort Sumpter and spent much of their time either: 1) waiting to get back on the boat again, or 2) finding ways to entertain themselves.


Despite Owen and Meera’s lackluster enthusiasm, Kyle, Braydon, and I found Fort Sumpter to be so interesting. It is amazing to be able to visit a place like that.

Fort Sumpter 3

Fort Sumpter 2


Above: I, for one, as someone who isn’t originally from a coastal area, always find this sort of thing so incredible — the fact that they originally built the foundation from shells and mud. This — called “Tabby” — is something that has always fascinated me. You can read a quick little bit about “Tabby: The Oyster Shell Concrete of the Lowcountry” by clicking here.

Below: We, for obvious reasons, are particularly focused on the history of all of these things from an African-American perspective.


Once the boat got back to the pier, I took Kyle into the Fort Sumpter National Monument gift shop. It was a thrilling experience for him. As I told my mom the next day: Taking Kyle to that store was like taking Meera to the American Girl Doll store. We took this selfie just as we left the gift shop. He had just had one of the best experiences of his life (a trip to Fort Sumpter! a dream come true!), and was leaving with two new Civil War books and a Fort Sumpter t-shirt, that his mom had happily bought for him. He was on Cloud 9 and I wanted to try to capture that look on his face.

IMG_5295Braydon's Pic


  • shannon says:

    This made me tear up a little! what an amazing gift. a literal dream come true.

  • Candis says:

    A budding academic, following in the footsteps of his mom… It seems as though Owen and my son Colin are the REAL twins. I have to wrestle Colin to the ground just to get a pencil into his hand. Sigh. Well, may they all find their joy and pursue it with diligence. Kyle seems well on his way.

  • Melody says:

    I love reading about Kyle’s love of history! I loved history myself, and majored in history in college. I had a hankering to go the route of academia, and ultimately decided against it. I wonder if Kyle might eventually take that path.

  • Stacey says:

    That’s so awesome–I love how he’s writing stuff down.

    I’m with the other two. I hated visiting forts as a child.

  • Katie says:

    Wow! As a mom of a young (16-month-old) boy I both got the chills and felt like I was going to burst into tears as I read about Kyle’s true passion and interest in history (Ok, maybe those feelings are also coming from the teacher in me). How awesome! It will be so interesting to see how this all unfolds as he grows. Maybe you have a future professor on your hands :)

  • Cate says:

    Oh, I hope the whitewashing of American History doesn’t discourage him as he gets older. I love his passion. Good for you Mom and Dad for encouraging it.

    • Heather says:

      Cate, I know. We are working hard on that — to avoid the whitewashing. I will continue to do that as we grow. Also, Kyle is aware of it (he knows about the whitewashing), so he’ll be on top of it too hopefully. Thank you for reading! ~Heather

  • Melissa says:


    I love reading all your summer posts ! I wonder if you would consider writing sometime about being in the south. As a 5th generation Californian I am a little scared of visiting there but you make it look and sound so good! Is it scary at all for you? Do you hear or experience offensive things you dont in the north? Just curious!

    Thanks for writing! Your kids look happy and beautiful. And the boys , Owen especially, are so big!

    • Heather says:

      Melissa, I know… it is definitely something I need to write about. It is a tough one, so it is hard to make the time to really write that one out. But I promise: I will do it sometime this summer. Thank you for reading! ~Heather

  • Elizabeth says:

    My brother was also a huge civil war buff at this age (and now he teaches middle school history and geography). He was a huge fan of civil war coloring books. His fine motor skills/artistic interest were on par with how you describe k&o, but he absolutely adored those coloring books. I’m not sure who published them, but they would give specific descriptions of what each uniform looked like and he would faithfully color them in. Whenever he ended up with birthday money, that’s where he would choose to spend it (that and a new box of 64 crayons). Don’t know if Kyle would go for it, but just thought I’d throw it out there!

    And I too was a sibling that tagged along to Fort Sumter, and Gettysburg – and all the better for it!

    • Heather says:

      Oh my gosh this is an awesome idea (the coloring books!). I’m totally going to look into this for Kyle (and we’ll see if he’ll go for it)!! THANK YOU!!!!

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