Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Magic of Gettysburg

Most of you know our summer vacation plans this year include a trip to Gettsyburg, Pennsylvania, for a family reunion on my mother’s side, which will involve several thousand aunts and uncles and cousins. The highlight of the trip, however, will be an erotica writers’ soiree on August 9 at a delicious Italian restaurant recommended by Craig Sorensen. Heidi Champa, Jeremy Edwards, Emerald and Erobintica are planning to attend, and a few others mentioned they might be able to make it (don’t want to shout out until plans are firmer). The more the merrier, so please consider joining us for a living, breathing erotica anthology!

Being the nerdy types that we are, Herr Doktor and I decided to devote a few evenings to a screening of the movie Gettysburg to help our kids get more out of the upcoming trip. Both of them are really enjoying the soft history lesson, and indeed the movie is very well done, if almost as long as the Battle of Gettysburg itself. The acting is first-rate and I was especially drawn to Jeff Daniels’ portrayal of the professor-soldier Colonel Joshua Chamberlain who held Little Round Top with his brilliant strategy (and received the Congressional Medal of Honor for it). Seldom is a “hero” played with such a low-key, down to earth subtlety in Hollywood. It makes me want to read more about the historical figure…not that I don’t have a million books on my to-read list already.

Anyway, after Gettysburg, we’ll be heading south for more family visits, and I was reminded again that if we lived in the 19th century, our family would indeed be divided, sister against sister, cousin against cousin. My sister married a Virginian, I an Illinois native. Her husband’s great, great, great…[insert a few more greats]…grandfather was a 19 year old private in the Confederate Army, one of the soldiers who followed Pickett in the deadly charge across the open field on the third day of the battle of Gettysburg—although apparently, he survived to sire descendents. Herr Doktor’s kin who were in America at the time were affluent lawyers and judges who could pay others to fight for them, but their loyalties lay with the Union.

My brother-in-law is a Civil War buff and knows just where on the battlefield his forefather waited for the charge to begin. I’ve yet to have his guided tour at the historic park where my mother played as a child, but perhaps some day? I do have a wonderful photo he had taken at a Civil War reenactment of himself in a Confederate sergeant’s uniform, holding his baby son on his knee. He has a beard, so the effect was uncanny—exactly as if he had gone back in time to be his own forebearer. A year later, when my first-born was about the same age, we happened to be in Gettysburg, and I made it my project to have a twin photo taken of the Land-of-Lincoln side of the family. It was hard to get the same authentic look from the tourist trap photographers, but we finally found the best photographer in town (thanks to a family recommendation) and they were very willing to help us get an “authentic” look.

That’s what you see here, although it really doesn’t have the same haunting magic as my brother-in-law’s photo. (Wish I could show you that one—maybe in Gettysburg?) But it’s not a bad counterpart. Unlike most tourist men, who choose to pose as a general, we also went with the more realistic rank of sergeant. And in both photos, the bald one-year-old baby boys look equally annoyed, even on the verge of tears, as if they disapprove of their daddies going off to war.

I was also a big Civil War buff as a child, due in great part to the fact I visited my grandmother in Gettysburg so often. The wax museum there was one of my favorite places in the world. I always felt as if I was literally stepping back in time to spy on these momentous events, and I remember one particular Friday evening when we stopped at the museum after dinner with Grandma (usually I had to wait until Saturday). No one else was there, just my parents and I wandering through the dark corridors in the company of John Brown, Robert E. Lee and U.S. Grant. I can still conjure that hushed, wondrous feeling of time travel. Indeed, I’m looking forward to taking my children there in August, and to getting a new photo taken of the whole family at a tourist trap photographers. This time, though, we may be more playful, and promote Herr Doktor to general!


Heidi Champa said...

I'll be there for sure, Donna. It will be great to see everyone again. :)

Erobintica said...

Hey, I'm gonna get in touch with my inner trucker and head on down. See ya there!

Craig Sorensen said...

I'm a bit of a Civil war fan, which comes in handy when you live in this neck of the woods... ;-)

Can't wait to see you all!

Jeremy Edwards said...

Hey, I can see the family resemblance from when you posted your own adorable baby pic a while back!

And we're really, really looking forward to 8/9!

Ooh, a palindromic spamword: tinnit.

Donna said...

Oh, yes, Heidi, I'm so glad you can make it! We'll have a New York reunion plus. And Robin, I kind of have a thing for truckers or at least the sexy glamour of a long drive for the profession ;-).

Definitely a useful place to live for a Civil War buff, Craig, although Virginia isn't bad either. And yep, Jeremy, we're both bald and worried looking--still are!

Emerald said...

"Get in touch with your inner trucker" — HA!! How cute.

Neat picture, Donna, and I'm really looking forward to seeing everyone too!

Donna said...

We're counting on you to add the sparkle, Emerald. Of course, I always imagine you in the lovely and sparkly green dress you wore to "In the Flesh" but you might be in the schoolgirl uniform this time, right ;-)?