It's no secret that I've been doing a lot of sitting around recently. I'm still too weak to do much of anything and I have a constant headache and am quite lightheaded when I stand or bend over or walk around or do much of anything. This won't last long, I'm sure, and I really don't mind being made to rest other than 1) Lucia has been watching television all day long which I hate and 2) I don't know what to do with myself when all I can do with myself must be done sitting down.
Yesterday, I remembered that I had a new copy of Smithsonian Magazine waiting to be read (and several old copies that hadn't been cracked either) and so, while my attempts to read books in the last few weeks have been highly unsuccessful, I thought that maybe a few short articles would be just what I needed. And my goodness, I forgot how wonderful Smithsonian is. I was a history major in college and am a history buff. In addition to history, Smithsonian includes articles on popular culture and politics and anthropology and oh my, could any magazine be better paired with my interests? (Well, perhaps if there were little sections on mothering and nail polish and Catholicism added in?)
It's been a while since I've read an issue, but I'm absolutely certain that this month's Smithsonian was written expressly for me. There was an article on Jeopardy! And another on Gary Kasparov! Does it get more entertaining than that? In fact, this issue wasn't made for me - wouldn't everyone find those articles fascinating? No? Wait, you haven't watched Jeopardy nearly every day for as long as you can remember? And you don't hear the name Kasparov and think, "Oh, Gary! My favorite World Chess Champion!" Oh, you don't know the first names of World Chess Champions? And you don't have a favorite? Never heard of Deep Blue? Oops, my nerd is showing.
My grandfather taught me chess when I was five or six. I grew up competing in tournaments. This wasn't a little side hobby. I took lessons and knew the names of World Champions and famous grandmasters and studied many of their notable games. I could show you dozens of openings (and knew them by name). I knew chess terms like gambit and en passant and en prise. As a freshman in high school, I won a (very pretty) trophy for being the "top female player" in the state championship for my age group. (It's not as impressive as it sounds. As you can imagine, not many girls played chess. I was never more than a very average player for my age.) I played chess as much for the social aspect as for the actual game. I know that may sound strange since chess players are expected to be anti-social oddballs (and there are some of those) but seriously, I had a lot of fun and made a lot of friends.
Many people know that I was a cheerleader and that I played flute in the marching band, but it's not often that my love of chess and the huge role it played in my childhood comes up. It's not intentional. I'm not embarrassed. In fact, I'm pretty darn proud. Chess has been proven to enhance math skills and understanding of political strategies. But more than that, chess taught me to ignore stereotypes and to be true to myself. Through chess, I regularly interacted with people who would have been outside my social group at school. And when there was an article in the city paper after my "top female" win, I was pleasantly surprised by the congratulations and high fives that met me in my high school hallways (many from the popular kids who I had no idea even knew my name). I realized that if I allowed myself to choose my activities by my interests and not by their status, that I could shine and enjoy myself.
Unfortunately, my chances for playing chess are limited now, but I never turn down a casual game. And I can't wait to teach Lucia. I hope she'll want to compete in tournaments someday and she'll discover how amazing the weird little world of chess is, but if not, I'm pretty content that by teaching her chess, I'll be improving her mind and she'll hopefully get a pretty good party trick out of it too.
4 of 7. More than halfway through with Jen.