My guys and I have been slowly working our way through the Story of the World. We’re not very far along in it, about half way through the first book I guess. Their interest kind of waxes and wanes and I’ve not pushed it. I mean really. They are 3, 6 and 7 years old, just how much ancient history do you suppose they will retain?
Here lately though, they’ve asked about it again. They think it’s kind of interesting with all the funny names and wars and such. So I got the book out, thinking that I’d be really organized and look ahead a bit… skim the pages for fun go-along activity ideas and make sure that I had the supplies on hand, should we get the itch to delve into the past.
I read as far as “something something Phoenicians something something snails… something something purple dye something something wool.” And thought, “Tie Dye!” (read yesterday’s post
to familiarize yourself with our other hippie tendencies.)
The book said that you could boil purple cabbage or blueberries to create a natural dye, and as I was not about to sacrifice my precious blueberries for the sake of higher learning, I added purple cabbage to the grocery list.
The smarter ones among you know where this is headed. Don’t you?
Didn’t even think about it.
In fact, I proceeded to tell my boys that it was officially purple day! We read Harold and the Purple Crayon and we made purple popsicles. We played games with purple baloons, we danced to the Purple People Eater! We had ourselves a rip roarin’ royal purple time! Then, I sat down to read them the bit about Phoenicians gathering multitudes of a certain little purple snot-making mollusk and boiling them to make garments so expensive that only kings could afford them, and that, children, is why purple is considered the color of royalty.
So far so good. They found this riveting. I mean really, does it get any more fascinating than purple snot-making mollusks? I don’t see how it could.
We read on, and learned that the smell of the simmering snot snails in the city of Tyre was so bad that it was a common insult, in ancient times, to say that someone “stank like a man from Tyre.”
That, friends, is when it hit me. I’m going to boil cabbage for an hour and then soak clothing in it.
Um, just why had I thought that would be a good idea? Why had I not actually READ the passage and considered the consequences? What’s that they say about those who don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it?
I went ahead with it. I had already told the guys that we were going to be purple cloth-making Phoenicians, so what could I do?
I want you to know that my house stinks.
It stinks really badly. It stinks like a man from Tyre.
When we go outside and then we come back in, having forgotten about the stench, all my fellas make the most horrendous, dramatic, gagging, throat-clutching scene that you can imagine.
My husband left altogether, claiming he had some extremely urgent errands to run. I think he said something about checking the air pressure in the tires and getting a jump start on his Christmas shopping.
But, when finally the rubberbands came off, and the shirts were hung, there were grins all around. Gagging, throat-clutching grins.
My Luke wanted to know if cabbage smells worse or better than the boiling shells in Phoenecia did.
“Worse,” I told him. It was so bad that you could smell it all over the city, and since it was their livelihood, and not something that they did just for fun on one day, it was a smell that they lived with, day in and day out.
My guys stood, and stared up at their purple shirts in wonder.
Something tells me that this multi-sensory lesson, albeit unintentional, will ensure that they never forget the Phoenicians and their purple cloth. Of course, it may also have some unsavory Pavlov’s dog-ish side effects – I’m envisioning watering eyes, uncontrollable gagging noises and phantom puking gestures at the sight of purple.
Oh well, a little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing.