Below, a short essay written for class today…
Old stone buildings dot the landscape, nestled between the tiny mountains and wide, bending river. The smell of history lingers in every corner of the area, not least of which in the ethos. On every wall and every field there sit reminders of the great men who passed through this spot. MacArthur, Eisenhower, Lee, Grant, Washington. The gray statues of these and many other American icons pierce the scenery everyone you could care to look. They sit to remind those men and women there today of the expectation that they too will become great men; that they too will become part of the long gray line.
But maybe not me. I’m just 9 when we arrive. I am an inconsequential part of our tiny community, here only because my dad is one of them. I sit idly by, fidgeting, as the real members of the community learn to march together. They are the centerpiece. All those boys and girls becoming men and women are the purpose of this tiny town. The land has long since forgotten its old purpose as the key to the defense of New York 200 years ago, but the people have not. They display the chains and cannons and docks with the pride that they hope instill on these many young soldiers.
But me? I never really subscribed to the culture of conformity that permeates the air. Many of my grade school friends did. My sister. Robert. Marie. Andy. All now part of the long gray line. They look in awe at the soldiers perfectly positioned as instructed in the formation before us on the field. The sight does not inspire me like it does to those around me. I fixate on one tiny statue in the mass so far from me. Large black hat with a gold speck, gray coat with gold buttons, white pants with black stripe down the side, black shoes. One of many; all the same.
But not the same, I remind myself. There is a unique mind buried in that mold. What is it thinking? Why is it there? Does it want to be? What are its dreams and hopes? I do not know. I cannot know.
With a shout, the nameless bodies turn together and exit, leaving only the stone monoliths behind and perfect grass beneath.