My public school academics aren't something I brag about, but there was one subject in which I shined. In the eighth grade I breezed through geography.
Because I had been a stamp collector, there was barely a country I had never heard of. And I really loved United States geography. That was partly because years before I received a puzzle map of U.S. in which each piece was a state and I spent hours playing with it.
When given geography tests about the United States, I coasted to an A almost every time.
I understand that now the subject in which I stood out is no longer taught in a lot of schools. It figures. Those in academia figured if I could breeze through a subject, they better find something else for today's students to concentrate on.
But back to that United States puzzle map. When I became a father, I made sure my son had a similar puzzle and when I became a grandfather, I also bought one for my grandson, Brennan, who is now 6 and could probably put it together blindfolded.
While visiting over the holidays, I discovered Brennan's 3-year-old sister, Cora, had continued the tradition as one night she pulled out the puzzle and began putting it together.
And with ease, I might add.
She knew which states went in the west and the south and northeast, etc.
If they end up teaching geography when she goes to school, it shouldn't be a problem for Cora. At least I thought so until I later began answering some questions.
While working on the U.S. map puzzle, I was listening to a college football bowl game that was on the television. Cora must have been listening, too, because she asked, ''Grandpa, what's the Big East?''
''That's the conference in which Louisville plays,'' I answered.
''Where is Louisville?'' Cora asked.
''In Kentucky,'' I answered and then pointed to that state on the puzzle map.
That led to a funny look from Cora, who had just placed the piece for her home state of Tennessee in the map and it was right below Kentucky.
''So we're in the east?'' Cora asked.
''No, you're in the south,'' I answered.
That led to another puzzled look and Cora asked, ''Is there a Big South Conference?''
When I said there was, she asked, ''Why isn't Louisville in the Big South Conference?''
I said I didn't know and when she asked the name of a team that was in the Big South, I said, ''Stony Brook.''
Cora began pointing to states in the south and asked, ''Where is Stony Brook?''
I pointed to Long Island.
And there was that funny look on Cora's face again.
She decided enough of this silly talk from Grandpa and went about finishing the puzzle. She picked up a state and I noted it was Colorado.
''Colorado plays in the Pacific 12 Conference,'' I noted.
Cora began looking for a space on the Pacific coast for Colorado, but she had already completed that section of the puzzle. I pointed to where Colorado went and Cora said, ''Grandpa, that's not the Pacific coast!''
I told her to put it there anyway and she continued.
Cora had one more state to complete the puzzle and it was Ohio.
I told Cora I was born Ohio and the capital is Columbus.
''That's where Ohio State is and it plays in the Big Ten Conference,'' I added.
''So there are 10 teams in the Big Ten, right?'' she asked with a smile.
That's when I quickly changed the subject by telling Cora to find another puzzle. I wasn't going to ruin her math skills by trying to explain why the Big Ten has 12 teams.
(Editor's Note: Cora actually did put the puzzle together, but I might have exaggerated a bit about our conversation.)