“…I wonder that so much
Of value came from tacky, corny props
That helped me on whatever path I took.
The memory of their meaning never stops
For one who conned them like a history book.
But more alive than even they themselves,
The parents, scraping by, who for their son
Once claimed these men from supermarket shelves.
Who knew? Who’ll ever know what they have done?”
My parents were not well educated but they seemed to assume that toys ought to have a pedagogical purpose. Like Krisak, I remember presidential minutiae and can recite their names in order, like a poem. Grover Cleveland’s second term always sounds like a mistake, a typo in memory (years later I interviewed his great- and great-great-grandsons). Because of a plastic jigsaw puzzle of the United States, their names, shapes and capitals are inscribed in memory. The card game Authors taught me the faces and vital stats of Longfellow and Louisa May Alcott. My brother and I collected Civil War cards, as much for the gore (“Painful Death”) as the history.
The long-term result is a gift for winning at Trivial Pursuits, but more importantly the assumption that education is unending, informal and cobbled together from unlikely scraps ("tacky, corny props"). It has little or nothing to do with accumulating degrees or even showing up for class. Autodidacts start young.