1812 c/o Jason Lee Norman

In 1812 there were so many earthquakes.

My daughter is at that age where they study Canadian history in school. Lately we spend our evenings ignoring each other with technology in the living room. She gets to use my old tablet since I got a new one at Christmas. Her tablet is the thickness of a pencil which makes mine about the thickness of three quarters of a pencil. She’s holding a computer in her hands the way people used to hold magazines in a waiting room. She’s however old she is and she has her own computer. A hand-me-down like it’s an old shirt I never wear or something. I didn’t get a cell phone until I was 25. I didn’t touch a tablet until I was 30.

Showing her Wikipedia was probably the best and worst thing I ever did for her. She loves it. She’s one of those terrible students who corrects the teachers on their facts or dates. She’s supposed to be reading about the War of 1812 but she’s too obsessed with all the earthquakes.

I have a friend like that. He’s obsessed with sinkholes. He has a weekly online newsletter that he sends out to some friends but mostly coworkers. This Week in Sinkholes it’s called. He worries that one day his house will get swallowed up. I think sinkholes are stupid. They’re made by man. We’re constantly digging up the earth and blasting it with chemicals so no wonder the earth opens up sometimes and takes a few houses down. Sinkholes are not the same as earthquakes.

As Canadians we are so proud of the War of 1812. It’s the year we fought the Americans in an actual war - not a hockey game or something like that. We fought the Americans and we were nasty about it. We even burned down the White House. So the White House that you see today is a different one because Canadians burned down the first one. We love the War of 1812 so much that we love anybody who was on our side during the war, even if they weren’t Canadian.

Tecumseh was an American Indian but he fought on our side during the war. He killed Americans for us. A few years ago there was a TV show about all the greatest Canadians and the show was trying to decide who was The Greatest Canadian of all time. Tecumseh was on this list and he wasn’t even Canadian. He’s from Ohio. We have parks and schools named after him.

Speaking of earthquakes, I say to my daughter, did you know that Tecumseh was responsible for the New Madrid earthquake in 1812? She barely looks up from the tablet. It’s true, I say. He caused the earthquake to show his enemies that he was not to be messed with. They say the Great Comet was him as well but that was in 1811. Even his name meant shooting star.

My daughter doesn’t care about shooting stars or Tecumseh. She only cares about earthquakes right now. Who knows how long this phase will last. Did you know in 1812 there was an earthquake in Caracas that destroyed the whole city? Where is Venezuela? I point to it on our globe. I also point just above Venezuela: they speak Dutch there.

I love my daughter’s tablet because there is nothing she can look up on it she can learn about me. There’s nothing she can look up about her mother either. There’s nothing on the whole Internet that can explain what drove us so far away from each other. She can read all about Tecumseh and his brother who became a prophet but she’ll probably just keep reading about earthquakes. Tecumseh’s brother the prophet could predict earthquakes but few others could. My daughter tells me about an earthquake in California that collapsed a church and killed 40 American Indians. Tecumseh’s brother missed that one.

I tell my daughter to focus on her school work for awhile. Stop reading about earthquakes and read a little more about Tecumseh. He fought for us. He wasn’t even one of us. My daughter won’t listen to me. My daughter is obsessed with earthquakes because she needs to read about other people whose homes were split in half in the middle of the night. There’s nothing on the Internet to tell you how to prevent the destruction. Sometimes you’re just living on a fault line and you don’t even know it.