Thursday, June 13, 2013

Mourning at the Old State Capitol Living History

David and Anne and I had a very pleasant time at the Civil War living history held in one Springfield's most interesting historic sites - the Old State Capitol. There was an encampment on the grounds around the capitol building all weekend but we chose to just go down for the day on Saturday. It is not a large event but it is nice that it is rather local.

We had perfect weather, really. After an unusually rainy spring David was anxiously watching the forecast for the week up to the event. We were blessed with sunny skies, low humidity and very comfortable temperatures for mid-June in the mid-west.
We did not have any particular activities to do. We just went down to visit and to see the event. The surgeon David generally works with did not plan any demonstrations since his wife is currently experiencing some serious health issues (please pray, if you will, for her full recovery!)

The capitol building was lovely, as always. Cool and dim and beautifully furnished, it was nice to escape inside when the glare of the sun became too hot.

The Metamora Courthouse Civil War Dancers were there and performed a collection of period dances for the spectators. Some of the dances they pulled some of the spectators into.

There was much laughing and smiling and brisk movements. The whirl of brightly colored skirts and spirited music filled the lower floor of the capitol building and it was wonderful.

A wonderful couple were present with some of their fabulous collection of original Civil War-era artifacts. David was keenly interested in the original medical tools that were on display.

On the other side of the room, tables full of original clothing and accessories captured my attention. So many lovely things! Little shoes and baby gowns, fans and jewelry. A little boys suit. There was even an original mourning brooch. I did not, however, get photos of this side of the room.

Upstairs an Abraham Lincoln impersonator gave a presentation and there were talks throughout the afternoon.

A group of ladies presented a very fine image of a period Soldiers Aid Society. It was beautifully done.

One of the nicest parts of the event was being able to see old friends. I was able to see my friend Christina, whom I have not seen since last summer, and we spent part of the afternoon sitting in the shade of column-supported porch.

Our friend Larry entertained us with amusing tales. I am afraid I laughed a bit more than was proper for someone in mourning. I blame Larry entirely. It's impossible to not laugh when he is around.

The baby was so good. She held up wonderfully throughout the morning but did become very tired in mid afternoon. She desperately fought sleep.She held out for a while but at last succumbed and napped for a half hour or so.
photo credit Cheri Fry

How she regained so much energy from a short half hour nap I have no idea. . .but it is certain she did. She flirted shamelessly for passer-bys and hammed up in front of the numerous cameras pointed at her.

She drank from Daddy's canteen.

She loved playing with the children who came to visit her from time to time (she would never do well as only child. She missed her brothers horribly.)

And generally was half brat, half angel.

David took some pictures of Christina and I. We do not have many of us together.

Christina is a Writer.

One of the best parts of the afternoon was listening to her talk about the novel she is currently writing. Although I dabble in small stories from time to time I could never write a novel and it was fascinating listening to the overview of her plot. Wow! Look out for her name in the future - this girl has got talent!

And so how was Mourning?

It was therapeutic. It was relieving. I do admit I was a little self conscious at first. When we walked up to the building along the city sidewalks I received many curious looks. Soon, however, people began to ask me if I was in mourning and who I was mourning for. They seemed genuinely sorry to hear I had, in fact, yes, really lost someone and expressed their condolences very sincerely.

I was able to share with some of them some of the mourning customs of the day, the various articles of clothing I was wearing and the significance of them. All the while in the back of my mind I had the comforting knowledge that this was for Grampie.

It is interesting how donning such attire can influence ones behavior. I automatically felt I needed to be quieter, more sober, gentler, to move more slowly.

On our way home we stopped by the little Mount Zion cemetery that is located in the middle of the country about a mile from our house. It is where I took the boys a few days after Grampie's death and we held our own little "memorial service" for him there, since I could not make the trip back to Rhode Island.

Here we had talked about Grampie and I had played songs on my guitar. It is here that I closely connect those first days of sadness with him. Though his body is not here, it seems his spirit hovers closely and this is a place I think I will go often to think of him.

Through mourning I think I feel better because it is a physical way I can somehow say to Grampie "I still think about you. I am still sad that you are gone. I remember you and love you. I miss you. I am always conscious of you."

Mourning for grandparents was, according to some etiquette guidelines of the day, a period of 6 months. For lighter mourning I think I will remake my purple lawn sacque and petticoat from last year into a day dress style and retrim it with black instead of the green it is currently trimmed with. It will work quite well for the last stage of mourning before one resumed colors again. (and I never did have a chance to wear that sacque and petticoat outfit last year. . .it definitely needs to see some use in some form!)

So all in all, my first venture out in mourning went well! I pray it will be a long while before I need to don it again once this period is over. I have one set of grandparents left and I do hope they will be around as my children grow up. No one can really take the place of grandparents! They enrich a child's life so much. They are so different from Mom and Dad!



  1. I think your mourning ensemble looks wonderful. So glad to hear that it is helping you remember and honor your grandfather.

  2. Your mourning is exquisite, and such a contrast to the way things are done now! Your mourning attire is an open, glaringly honest declaration of respect and reverence. It speaks for you.

  3. The photo where you're lying on the ground is just so beautifully emotional...

  4. I am sorry for your loss. My children have lost all their grandparents and mine were gone long before their birth. I wish they could have known my grandparents. They were such interesting people! Your mourning attire is really beautiful. I enjoyed looking at all the photographs. You and your husband are wonderful photographers.

  5. The whole concept of mourning clothes, makes me think about the Jewish tradition of saying Kaddish. There's a lot of similarities, the imposed reminder on ones daily life, a sort of working through the grief externally to aid with the internals. I think a lot of these external traditions that our modern culture writes off as artificial, were there to help the internal stuff get sorted out inside, somehow...
    And that picture of Anne drinking out of David's canteen about killed me with cuteness :)

  6. Your morning looks very elegant. When I saw it I thought of Scarlet o'Hara when she dances at the ball in her morning clothes.

  7. So many young people have no idea how to mourn someone they love. They are angry for themselves, and frustrated at all they have to do. People used to focus on what that person may have meant in the mourner's life, how they lived their life, and how they would be missed. They viewed preparing for the death and/or burial as a service and an act of love or ministry to the deceased. Trying to cushion our children from all sadness or pain has helped lead to that, I think. Love your period clothes and the fact you love to sew. Sorry about your grandfather, too.

  8. I loved your story of the Medical Encampment at the Old State Capitol. I appreciate your presentation of mourning. I hope to see you again this year.


Thank you for your lovely thoughts!