Yesterday we decided to take the Pict grandparents on a trip to Gettysburg. This represented the second trip the kids and I have taken there since we emigrated to America in October and it was the third trip Mr Pict has taken there since September and at least the sixth trip he has taken there in total. I think it is fair to say that Mr Pict is obsessed with Gettysburg. He’s a Civil War geek generally but Gettysburg looms large in his geekiness in particular. He was, therefore, keen to act as a guide to my parents and share with them the highlights of the battlefield site.
As well as being of particular significance to the way in which the battle unfolded, Little Round Top was an area the boys had especially enjoyed when we visited in April so it was to there that we headed first. While Mr Pict explained the importance of Little Round Top to the Union’s victory to my parents, the boys scampered off and began leaping from rock to rock. I have vertigo and also don’t like the thought of my kids smashing their little bodies off rocks so they were making me wig out quite a bit. The youngest one, for all that his legs are short, was making daring leaps from boulder to boulder. Meanwhile the middle two were standing on the edge of a precipice and leaning forward to see the slope below. And all the while the oldest was balancing clumsily on one leg at a time. Every last nerve in my body was being shredded. Like Achilles safeguarding my heel, however, I do try to avoid letting my kids know that they are freaking me out lest they take that modicum of success and run with it in order to defeat me entirely. I don’t need them challenging their strength, balance and even gravity just to determine my breaking point. I, therefore, avoided even looking at them as much as possible when they were doing anything especially precarious, even turning my back at times, and any time my neurotic dam was in danger of being breached I would just herd them on to the next location where they could seek out new hazards. Nevertheless they had a lot of fun while – between Mr Pict and some docents in authentic costume – my parents were crammed full of knowledge about the defence of Little Round Top.
Having done Little Round Top, it was only natural that we should proceed to Devil’s Den. This time, however, my husband and children did not scramble through thorny thickets to get from A to B. Instead we all took the car. The large rock formations of Devil’s Den – which had provided such excellent cover for snipers – obviously enticed my mountain goat children to leap and bound and scale and scramble once more. And once more I had to turn my back as they stood on the edge of sheer drops and crawled up steep slopes of rock. Ironically the only injury happened when my 5 year old – who had just ascended a boulder with a pretty challenging gradient and had then leapt across a gulley between boulders – tripped over nothing on a flat-as-a-pancake footpath. Among other things, we found the scene of Alexander Gardner’s now controversial photograph known as ‘Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter’. Since I have an interest in the history of photography and my own interest in the Civil War is mainly to do with photography, that was one of the major highlights of the trip for me.
After a quick nip around the Visitors’ Centre to use the bathroom facilities and absorb the air conditioning, we headed out to walk to the National Cemetery. On my previous two excursions to Gettysburg, I had never made it to the Cemetery so I was determined to go this third time. This was partly because I just happen to like cemeteries but mostly because it was at the dedication of the cemetery that Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address. All eight of us started off on the trek to the Cemetery but my Mum decided to pause and rest up near the memorial to Maryland’s soldiers. Mr Pict and the boys made it as far as the Cemetery but then decided to pootle around on the grass. Therefore, only my Dad and I actually ventured far enough into the cemetery to see the monument that was the site for Lincoln’s profoundly moving and eloquent speech.
The final leg of our Gettysburg tour was a quick stop off at the Pennsylvania Monument. Mr Pict, Grandpa Pict and the 5 year old did ascend to the top. I not only don’t like heights but I don’t like confined spaces either so the narrow, enclosed staircase wigged me out enough that I could not compel myself to go to the top even to capture some great views on camera. Maybe next time. Because being married to a Gettysburg geek means that it is inevitable that there will be a next time.