Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Summer Trip '08, Part IV (or, "Atticus and Gettysburg Finally Meet")

Part I
Part II
Part III

When we last parted, Ramona had just turned six and Atticus had just stepped into his dream town.

How to describe this man's love affair with the Civil War? Hmmm. "Love affair" sounds all wrong, actually, as if he's romanticized it or turned it into something flowery and sentimental. "Civil War buff" doesn't quite do, either, as it might denote too fluffy a quality to describe Atticus's immersion into history, especially into this period of history.

To say that I should be on a first name basis with Shelby Foote, based on the number of his books that reside on our shelves and make their way around the house, might begin to describe it. To say that I know Ken Burns and his documentary so well that I could recite Sullivan Ballou's letter to his wife in my sleep might give you a peek into what we watch when there's nothing else on. To say that we have books by MacPherson, Gallagher, Catton, and Shaara might drop the hint that Atticus reads everything. To say that I know Jeff Daniels played Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain in the film Gettysburg, and that I know that Chamberlain was a fascinating fellow who was a professor before the war, with no previous military experience, and to tell you that even I got goosebumps when I climbed up to Little Round Top and considered what had happened there, is a testament to Atticus's influence on me and on our family.

the view from Little Round Top

Our first day in Gettysburg, we spent hours in the Museum/Visitors Center and even the girls were fascinated by much of it. Atticus is an encyclopedia of Civil War knowledge; we didn't need a single professional tour or docent. When the girls had questions, I simply said, "Ask Daddy."

On the day we toured battlefields, Ramona's (and everyone's?) patience was beginning to wear a bit thin so I mustered the troops and delivered a morale-boosting speech that would have had Meade beaming. I explained to the kids that we would each get to have our favorite parts of this two-week road trip, and that this was Daddy's part, this meant the world to him, and this was his gift from us. After a snack, Ramona said, "Okay, Mommy. I've had enough sugar now to keep me going and be a trooper. And, I'm really trying not to use the word 'boring.'"

Atticus took advantage of the fact that tired children wanted to rest at the hotel for awhile, and he went running on the battlefield trails (he's a distance runner, and likes to go 5-8 miles at a time.) It was the fulfillment of a dream for him.

Meanwhile, back at the hotel, I was fulfilling the dream of a few more clean clothes. I took advantage of the washer and dryer down the hall from our room at the No, That Would Be Too Much Service Hotel. The washing machine ate one of my quarters, and when we told the desk clerk about it, the response was to say "Oh, really?" and turn away. Other amenities included having to ask for milk each morning at breakfast, and the loss of electrical power for several hours on our first night there.

We went to daily Mass at the beautiful St. Francis Xavier church, which was used as a makeshift hospital during the war, with the Sisters of Charity caring for wounded and dying soldiers on and around the pews. (I prayed to be charitable and kind to everyone at the No, That Would Be Too Much Service Hotel.)

And in closing tonight, I'll leave you with one of the best signs I saw while we were in Gettysburg:

Up next: Souvenir shopping with Anne, Betsy and Ramona.

I'll meet you back here tomorrow at the blog ... by appointment or chance.


Karen said...

Oh, you have me waiting to hear about the No, That Would Be Too Much Service Hotel....

KC said...

Atticus and my dh would get along fabulously! My husband has told me that when he's at Gettysburg, he can see the battle.

We are planning a civil war road trip sometime in the future. Atticus is welcome to come along. ;)

Alice Gunther said...

More great coverage! I love your accounts of the hotel in particular.

You are looking young, Karen. In that picture of you with the girls, I was wondering who the other teenager was!

Michelle said...

My husband did ROTC at a college in PA, and this battlefield was visited every year as part of the curriculum. He knows it pretty well.

My interests are from a humanitarian perspective. They just needed shoes and boots. The townspeople were left to tend to the wounded and bury all those dead. Can you imagine the horrors that even little children had to not just view, but deal with? Honey, fetch me some more water so I can wash this gaping injury. And then can you see if that man wants any more whiskey? He'll likely be dead by morning, but we have to try to keep him comfortable.

Karen E. said...

Karen, just imagine having to ask for or about nearly everything that you expect to be standard. :-) KC, you will love your road trip to Gettysburg! Alice, I looked much younger earlier in the week, before we met. :-) And, Michelle, I know what you mean. The horrors there were unbelievable. There was a good chunk at the end of the museum that we shielded Ramona from (lots of info there about dealing with the bodies and the aftermath.) Unfathomable horror.