In the process of getting Firstborn ready for school this morning, I made a joke. This was a mistake, and I probably shouldn't have done it.
I was trying to get him into his hoodie, so he wouldn't freeze on the way in. Simple enough, but when he went to put his arm in the sleeve, we discovered that the sleeve was inside out. Being stiff, tired, and only barely awake, I said: "Ha! In Soviet Russia, sleeve goes in your arm!" This, in my best (read: completely atrocious) Russian accent.
Firstborn, predictably, said: "What's Soviet Russia?"
So, by the time I dropped him off at school, we'd discussed the U.S.S.R., and the fact that it doesn't exist anymore; the country of Russia, and the fact that it does; Communism, both theoretical and applied; the difference between a "cold" war and a real war; and why, if the meteor strike in Russia had happened a few decades ago instead of a few weeks ago, it might very well have kicked off World War Three.
Fortunately, we got to the carpool line before I had to explain the concept of Nuclear Winter, or even the likelihood that World War Three would have lasted about two hours, and ended with no victors and everyone vanquished.
The Cold War was a constant background presence in my childhood, though I was never as traumatized by it as some people were; I just sort of assumed that we'd muddle through somehow. Still, I remember thinking at the time that the whole situation was pretty stupid, and that it required a high degree of stupidity from the leaders on both sides to have gotten there in the first place, let alone to stay there for as long as we did.
Now that I'm older, that seems even more true.