“All of this history,” my five-year-old sighs, “I am just not sure I believe it.” We are standing on the walls of a medieval Hungarian castle on a rainy, gray day. The town has grown around the castle over the centuries and it looks very different from what I assume my son is expecting: dead Ottoman warriors on open fields, burned down walls, and scattered weapons and flags, all leftovers from the unexpected victory of a small Hungarian army against a vast Turkish force in 1552.
We climb steep stairs (new concrete) to the top of the tower (ancient rock), and follow our tour guide’s finger as he points to enemy cannon positions on the ground. We stand at the foot of the captain’s tomb (copy of the original) and wander past the sarcophagus holding the bones of those who perished during the battle (assumed real).
Sam is fascinated by history and I feed him small bits and pieces from books and movies as well as my own recollections. The years are all muddled in his mind—“a long time ago,” he says as he plays out battle scenes with his toy soldiers, “in the 1980s.” He imagines battles that never happened, between Indians and Hungarians, between American Civil War soldiers and his favorite Turkish warriors.