Monday, July 18, 2016

Living History in July

I can't believe it's already been a week since Heritage Village. It took two days for laundry, mending, ironing and putting away this last week. Before next time I need to make Benjamin a new gown and set of unders. He's shot up since early spring and is getting tall and skinny.

It was truly a pleasure to get out once more and get to see some more local history, renew acquaintances and make new friends. That's something very cool about reenacting - reenactors seem to be pretty much the same no matter where you are. I am so happy to be part of such a diverse yet friendly and passionate community. You know how you hear that music is a language the whole world speaks? A love for history is like that, too. A deep respect and appreciation of where you came from and how far you've come.

I loved to see the kids have such a great time exploring, asking questions and absorbing everything around them. The older boys vividly remember often going to "the tent place" (their toddler term for reenactments) but it's still pretty new to the younger set. Little David, now almost 10, was the least enthusiastic about going. Since he was diagnosed with a mild form of autism a few years ago I have tried to be more sensitive to his personal preferences and his desire for predictable routine and structure. He also doesn't really enjoy wearing all the period style clothes.

He's too little to leave home by himself though so he had to come. And after a little while he was very glad that he did! He discovered a train station and although its been many years now since he has been obsessed with trains he still loves them and soon was enjoying himself hugely exploring the length of (inactive) track in front of the station and the hand car. Later, he rolled up his trousers and discarded his stockings and shoes to wade in the creek with a bunch of other kids.

Judah is almost nine but seems much older - he often gets mistaken for a sixth grader.

He loved being responsible enough to run little errands for me, visit the sutlers and shop for trinkets (he coveted a dagger most passionately, but we decided he was a bit young for such a knife) and enjoyed playing games with other children.

Judah took this picture of a macaw that a lady brought to the event. Judah got to hold it
three times, he said, and now he wants a macaw. 
Macaws are too expensive, I told him. So he's going to get one when he's an
adult, he decided. The kid loves birds. 
He was a cheerful and willing help with the two babies and never tired of running after little Benjamin when he'd stray too far ahead or making Rose laugh.

Malachi was full of fire about the infantry and I had to constantly answer his questions about when he'll be old enough to get a rifle and become a "soldier".

His insatiable curiosity and deep regret that he is still, after all, only seven really struck me as we walked together and I listened to him talking.

How many mothers had sons who similarly desired to go off and join the army during the 1860's? Now, in 2016, reenacting is a fun hobby but back then the Civil War was so real and terrible. We do not reenact a fun era of history.

The horror, weariness, despair, and intense suffering our historic counterparts experienced is not present in living history today. I cannot imagine the choking fear a mother would have felt when thinking about her sons leaving home and taking up the life of a soldier.

Little Anne danced and twirled her way through the day, chasing butterflies, talking to everyone she encountered and helping me with little tasks with great pride.

She helped me pack the lunch baskets the day before and at noon carefully helped carry them to our picnicking spot to hand out food to her brothers and sister.

 Even though she helped me make the meat pasties, she decided they weren't good. For them we cooked up a big pork roast and shredded it and cooked it again with onions, grated carrots and a little apple juice. We filled circles of pastry with the meat mixture and after glazing them with an egg white we baked them til brown.

Wrapped in wax paper they made a nice portable lunch along with hard boiled eggs and a jar of pickles. Anne ate the eggs and pickles.

Benjamin enjoyed running everywhere, finding sticks and rocks and going up and down stairs into the various historic buildings.

Like his older brothers were at his age he was extremely fond of the fire pits and he loved going close to them and exclaiming "Hot! Hot!"

He was really very good. In the afternoon he lay down and rested with Rose and then watched the progression of ants in the dirt with great interest.

Although he was mistaken for a girl several times he did not mind. He got to meet a gentleman portraying our beloved General Grant and the good General spoke kindly to him and called him by name.

Little Rose also enjoyed herself, perhaps too much as she was too excited to take her after noon nap. While she allowed me to carry her from place to place, as soon as we were stationary she had to wiggle down and explore for herself by crawling everywhere. She batted her eyelashes and smiled flirtatiously with her toothy grin at everyone, many of whom stopped to talk to her or asked to take her picture. At lunch she devoured a whole pie on her own, and two eggs.

During the battle I was apprehensive about how she would take the artillery fire but I was proud to see she did not even flinch.

She disinterestedly gazed at the field of battle, crawled over to a nearby tree and happily started scratching in the dirt with a stick. Her little white dress was completely covered in mud by the time we went home but she was happy and exhausted. Thankfully, bleach does wonders (there's a good reason baby clothes back then were often white!) and the little white gown is back to a pristine state of cleanliness. It's uncertain though if it will fit her for much longer. She's a little peanut right now but she seems to have hit a growth spurt lately.

I had a wonderful time and am really happy to be part of such a great group of people. The good folks of the 48th Ohio are hospitable, funny and so kind and are so wonderful with the children. I'm so very much looking forward to a new chapter of events with them!

We live right in the middle of what was, in the pre-1860's, a large abolitionist center and a frequent stop on the Underground Railroad. What a lot of history! I am only starting to discover just how much.


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