The first Americans I ever met were Anna and Katie Klein, who, were the only kids in my grade two class at Queen Mary School in Peterborough, Ontario to have traveled to places like New England and New York and could list all the famous American presidents by name. “Have you ever heard of the Boston Tea Party?” I remember Anna quizzing me the fall after she returned from her summer vacation south, standing in line after the school bell rang to walk into class. “Have you ever heard of Thomas Jefferson?”
I hadn’t, but would, years later, in the Hall of Presidents exhibit at Walt Disney World, where I got to see Thomas Jefferson live. Still by that time I knew more Americans than Anna and Katie Klein anyway. I knew the gas station attendants and waitresses and store clerks along the highways I traveled with my parents several times a year since I was seven. I knew the kids and their parents from the Florida beach where I grew up who were visiting there from Minnesota and Michigan. And I knew the hair dressers who worked in my parents salons, women who’s voices were so Southern they seemed to me almost famous, since they sounded like people on American TV. By the time I figured out who Thomas Jefferson was, Anna and Katie Klein weren’t the only Americans I knew.
Still, they were my first. And so I think of them today as I follow US politics and wonder about the US presidential election and worry that so many of my American cousins don’t know their American history like Anna and Katie Klein did.
End Note: Next to Anna and Katie Klein, the person who taught me the most about American politics was Hunter S. Thompson. Some if what he taught me is right here.