Monday, February 25, 2013

Life Lessons 21: Sacrifice

A week ago Nickel had been absolutely thrilled when his teacher announced that they would be beginning to study the Rebellion, starting with the 74th Hunger Games, in history. Regardless of who his parents were, his knowledge wasn't much better than his fellow classmates on the subject. He knew the basics just like everyone else, but it wasn't something openly discussed with his parents.

Seeing the familiar names of his parents in a school book was thrilling. It made him feel special and proud. Yet his feelings changed a bit as the week went on. Nickel imagined kids in other Districts didn't feel quite the same as he did while learning this stuff in school. Sure, they were affected by the war. They probably knew people in the war. But they'd never met the Mockingjay and Peeta Mellark like everyone in his class had. More importantly, they weren't their parents.

The class didn't go into much detail on all of the events. It was apparently believed that young children just needed to learn the sugar-coated, short version of history. The darker, more complicated parts could be shared with them later in life. There was just one little problem. Although Nickel could tell that Mrs. Power tried to disguise the grittier parts, it was hard to hide everything. A hundred years from now children learning the same thing would have a glorified picture of the events they were studying, but for Nickel and his peers it was too recent. This wasn't like the faraway historical figures they'd studied earlier in the year. This was the pain they could see on every adults' face whenever the Rebellion was mentioned. Even the normally cheerful Mrs. Power taught with a pinched look.

The aftermath of the 3rd Quarter Quell hit Nickel the hardest. He suddenly began to wonder what District 12 had been like before the catastrophic bombings. He'd heard of the event briefly in the past, but the true destruction they'd caused had never been in the forefront of his mind. What had the relatively new buildings that he knew as his home taken the place of?

The Quarter Quell aftermath was also when he discovered a truely shocking piece of information: his father had been held captive by the Capitol. The book was unclear about what had happened to him while in the hands of the corrupt government. Apparently, neither Peeta nor any other person in-the-know had ever spoken openly about it. Mrs. Power's face showed great curiousity when she shared that little fact, and Nickel could tell by the look shot his way that she was hoping he could tell her everything. Nickel would have felt slighty offended at the way his teacher and classmates looked at him as if they wanted him to confess all of the "family secrets," but all he felt was shock. He knew his parents had been through hard times. He knew that they had killed and seen death, but it seemed like their horrible pasts just became worse and worse the more he learned.

Even at nine years old Nickel had the discretion to know that his parents wouldn't want to know what he was studying. He could picture their faces. They'd wonder what he thought about their horrible pasts. It was just better to stay quiet about the whole thing. Yet Nickel found it difficult to not bring it up when it seemed to be on his mind constantly.

On the day Mrs. Power finally began to teach about the final day of the war Nickel finally learned just what had happened to his Aunt Prim. He knew of her from passive mentions by his parents and from her pages in The Book, but his understanding of what had happened to her had been nonexsistent. Mrs. Power was obviously unaware of this fact and had no problem matter-of-factly telling the class that Primrose Everdeen had exploded in a bomb along with many other children and medical workers. She didn't use those words of course. Things had to be muted for the young children's ears, but Nickel had a feeling he was the only one really picturing it.

The picture didn't give him any emotional distress. He'd never known his aunt afterall, but it hurt him to think of what that must have done to his mother. Nickel couldn't imagine what it would be like if something like that happened to Dani. That's what made him go straight for his mother after school. Katniss seemed confused, but she accepted the hug nonetheless. Nickel remained sure of the fact that he was doing her a favor by not mentioning his history class, but he wanted to let her know he was sorry all the same.

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