Tuesday, 18 October 2011

On the Road: history lesson

Today I bring you Ria’s version of the Gettysburg Adventure.  I get the feeling Mom was just along for the ride on this particular vacation…

It’s a well-known fact in my family that I, like the song, “don’t know much about his-tor-y.”  My first History teacher in high school, Mr. Brown (yes, that was really his name) taught in a droning monologue that rendered the subject equally dull and colorless.  I never again found history to my interest or liking until Mr. Zubal taught World History 102 in junior college.  The man came in with a stack of reference material, dumped it on the desk in the front of the room and never looked at it once. He then commenced to tell mesmerizing stories about the French and English kings.  I hung on every word, but alas, I didn’t remember a thing.

So when it was time for us to embark upon an educational vacation for our daughter Ariel, that was to take us through early American History, I knew I’d better pay attention or forever be labeled as a historically-challenged mother.

The ‘historical’ itinerary included Gettysburg, Williamsburg, Jamestown, Yorktown, and Washington D.C.  Gettysburg was our first destination – the sight of the deadliest battle of the American Civil War. Gettysburg was one of Craig’s favorite childhood vacation memories and he was excited about re-visiting the best, animated diorama of the battle – ever. We never did find it.

We went into every tourist establishment that promised just such an experience. I sat through live and model re-enactments. Saw wax museum exhibits. Viewed cyclorama paintings and presentations with miniature soldiers, horses, cannons, with blinking lights that explained each campaign of the 3-day battle. 

Now…I knew who won the war. The North (the Blue), led by General Ulysses S. Grant had beat General Robert E. Lee of the South (the Gray). I had read Gone With the Wind and seen the movie many times!!  But I just didn’t know who won the battle at Gettysburg and no one was sayin’!  I listened intently to every lecture and demonstration, but the winner of the historic skirmish was never announced. I guess it was assumed that if you were there, visiting Gettysburg, you knew the history. Damn!

I finally had to ask, “Who won?” 

To this day…it has become a family anecdote, which, if you haven’t already read…you will.

I paid close attention during the remainder of that trip. I learned that:

·         The settlers at Jamestown starved to death because the gentleman farmers who settled there knew nothing about survival in the wilderness. (We almost starved as well…there’s not a restaurant for miles and miles.) Editor's note: no wonder I can't remember anything. I was malnourished!
·         George Washington had his soldiers dig trenches at Yorktown…something the Civil War generals should have remembered instead of sending their troops charging down a hill into the line of cannon fire.
·         When you hear the beeping signal in the Washington D.C. subway …it means the train is about to leave so get on!  Craig did…. and Ariel and I didn’t.  We waved as Craig’s train left the station without us.
·         If you are driving to see the Lincoln Memorial you will end up in Arlington whether you intended to go there or not.
·         If you see something that you want to eat at the Carousel Cafeteria, do not hesitate.  It will be out of reach and you will have to wait for it to come back around, like luggage at the airport baggage claim.

It was a memorable vacation…otherwise we wouldn’t be writing about it.

Oh…by the way…the North, under General George Meade, won the battle at Gettysburg.

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