The 25th Anniversary of Our Summer Vacation

When I think of Gettysburg, I always think of Minnetonka Moccasins. Why? Because we spent three days there twenty-five years ago this week. This was the summer between my eighth and ninth grade year and I was NOT interested in the Civil War as a family vacation. Neither was Alex. But like all tourist destinations, there was a little strip of beach-like shops that included an ice cream shop, an arcade and a place to buy moccasins. Acquiring a new pair of shoes was the focus of my attention for three days.

Now, it would not have even registered with me that this week was the 150th anniversary of the battle at Gettysburg, except for the following conversation, which was prompted after Henry read 36 Hours in Gettysburg in this Sunday’s NYT.:

Henry: “How did you get to Gettysburg?”

Me: “Which time?”

He started cackling.

Yes, I’ve been to Gettysburg more than once. The first time by car with my parents on our family vacation twenty-five years ago. And the second time was by a charter bus with my high school classmates on the way back from Philadelphia. We spent three hours there. THREE HOURS. I promptly reported this to my dad as soon as we returned home. We pretty much covered everything in three hours.

This is what I remember from our trip 25 years ago:

We drove up without making a hotel reservation first. We ended up staying at a bed and breakfast outside of town. That was my first bnb. It was also my first exposure to Neutrogena shampoo. The owner had a claw foot tub. I think she had a plant sitting on the side of it.

There was the shopping or window shopping I described before. I think Alex spent a lot of time in an arcade. It would have been nice to have the Times guide back then. Although I think they may be stretching time out quite a bit. And 36 hours is still half of the time we spent there.

On the third day, I went to find Mom in the visitor’s center. I found her beneath the large mural in the rotunda. We went to see the final reenactment. Two large groups of men marched across the open fields and shook hands. That’s it? I was expecting a little more.

Certainly this was not my first reenactment, being the daughter of a historian. I often tell people that my form of rebellion was not absorbing any facts about the Civil War or any war for that matter. I do remember a reenactment at the Guilford Battleground where all of the dead soldiers were sitting up and watching the rest of the Revolutionary War battle. I was very young at the time, but that memory is etched in my mind.

Apparently this type of behavior is frowned upon. We have been watching Family Tree, a documentary-style sit-com by Christopher Guest on HBO Go. The main character has traced his family roots from England back to the US. Episode Six included a Civil War reenactment in California. I loved it. I’m trying to figure out how to get Dad to watch it.

And for one of the most moving Civil War reenactments, CBS Sunday Morning visited London Elementary less than one mile away from my parents’ office in Walnut Cove. Perhaps if I had been in this class, I would have been a little more interested and spent a little less time giggling with my mom about the signs stating “DO NOT CLIMB ON THE EARTHWORKS” at battlefields throughout the East Coast. By the time I reached college, I could laugh about our historical-based family vacations. Who needs a week at the beach? Since Henry grew up at the beach, he had no idea that most families make an annual mecca to the beach or three or four.

But in all sincerity, I am grateful that I can simply call about my dad to learn about my family history on both sides. I have felt a bit like Tom Chadwick during the last year as I have tried to learn more about my family history. I hope to share more stories soon.

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