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Memorial Day Weekend Down by the Bay

I feel so very blessed to have a family outpost in the Northern Neck of Virginia on the Chesapeake Bay to call a weekend home every now and then. The summers I’ve spent there with family and friends for the past four or five years have been rich with joy and an occasional sunburn. So it was nothing short of fitting to kick off the summer at the Rivah.

I only had my camera out for one day, but with Jessie’s help, we documented Sunday pretty well.

We tend to make a waterfront camp by the dock in front of the house.

Some awesome people, keeping cool with a beverage. Hugh got that hat for $5 from Eastern Market a few summers ago… I just use sunscreen.

We had two unplanned but totally welcome visitors show up Saturday evening. We had to cram a whole weekend’s worth of fun into Sunday for Jessie and Troy, so we took a spin on the jet skis, did some swimming and jumping off the dock, and took them for a thrill ride on the tube.

Jessie was grinning this big her whole time on the tube, because I’m that good of a driver.

It looks like Mom took some pictures, too. I’m going to need to see those pictures, Mom!

The adults hung out on the boat, where the radio was turned up.

Harry was a trooper, hanging out with us old folk while Dylan was MIA for a while. Hey Harry!

Troy did some serious kayaking — you’re making wake in a no-wake zone, Troy!

I didn’t get Saturday night’s seafood fest on camera, but it was epic. Mom and Dad went to a local shop and picked up tuna steaks, shrimp, scallops, mahi mahi and oysters and I made pasta salad and cole slaw. De-lish.

I also don’t have action shots of the skiing that happened Saturday — Clayton is always the most fun to watch, especially when he asks to be towed back sans skis. I got up on my first try and Dylan took me for  a quick ride out of the cove, across the channel and back again. Since my back was already sore after that, I quit while I was ahead and let Hugh take a turn (he also did great).

Foot note: my back was still sore from skiing when Hugh talked me into the 10K. Something must be off kilter in my brain.

I probably need more vacation.

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The Sesquicentennial

Sesquicentennial is a real English word. It is a 150th anniversary. The American Civil War began 150 years ago this week at Ft. Sumter, South Carolina. I’m pretty proud of my timely visit to the fort a week or so ago.

The sesquicentennial is a big deal to someone who enjoys Civil War history, voluntarily read and re-read Gods and Generals and The Killer Angels, and who was raised in a family which, in many respects, revolves around the Virginia of 1861-1865. It is also a big deal to my hometown, Manassas, which will celebrate the sesquicentennial of its first involvement in the war this July with no shortage of fanfare.

I began my celebration with a screening of [the first half of] Gone with the Wind last night. Given that I enjoy reading, especially classics, and I enjoy the time period in which the story is set, it’s somewhat surprising that I’ve never seen the movie or read the book before. Rebecca has been trying to sit me down to watch it for a while now, which is some feat since I usually have a pretty short attention span for movies. And this one is four hours long. Having paused on the Intermission screen, I can say that so far I find Rhett Butler dreamy and Scarlett O’Hara is my favorite kind of leading lady — non-conformist, energetic and self aware. I also enjoy her dresses.

To continue celebrating, I am of course re-inspired to visit nearby battlefields and soak up some history. Yes though I probably threw fits as a child when Mom and Dad declared an afternoon battlefield adventure, I rarely pass up a chance to visit one these days. During the spring break of my senior year of college, Dad and I took a little day trip to visit the Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville and The Wilderness battlefields. Yes, spring break.

At Fredericksburg, we toured Chatham Manor which served as the Union headquarters on one side of the river.

Then we saw the Confederate perspective from Sunken Road and Marye’s Heights on the other side of the river.

We saw the trenches of Stonewall Jackson’s line, still visible in the ground surrounding the battlefield.

And it doesn’t look like much here, but we saw the spot where Stonewall Jackson was shot by friendly fire during the Battle of Chancellorsville.

On our way home from a wedding in Virginia Beach recently, Hugh and I stopped to see where Jackson eventually died. In this bed:

During a brief stint teaching with a youth leadership conference, I visited Harper’s Ferry, WV, once a week for two months where we taught youngsters about radical abolitionist John Brown’s raid on the armory there in 1859. It’s where the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers meet, as do the borders of Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia. Fun fact: West Virginia was not its own state until the Civil War. Fun fact #2: It’s beautiful during the Fall.

On the way home from a family wedding in New York one summer, the parents, Dylan and I made a pit stop at Gettysburg. If you can look past the hoards of tourists, it is such a haunting place. I took this, I believe, from Little Round Top looking out toward Devil’s Den and the Peach Orchard.

Most recently, on our nine-hour drive home from Charleston, Jessie let me stop at the Petersburg battlefield.

More than anything I wanted to stop to see The Crater, the result of one of the most interesting tactical blunders of the war. But alas, it took us too long to get into the park so we could only stop to see one thing. This:

And this, where the Confederate Army was poised to deflect the Union’s first attempt to seize Petersburg and thus be able to seize the capital of the Confederate States of America in Richmond.

As the sesquicentennial marches on, I’ll be making time to revisit Manassas, a battlefield I’ve grown up underestimating. And I hope to either get to Richmond (and make a second attempt at The Crater) or Antietam in the near future.

Oh, and I also hope to watch the rest of Gone with the Wind.

“Good heavens, woman. This is war, not a garden party!” – Dr. Meade

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