Later this summer we are heading to Gettysburg, PA. I visited Gettysburg when I was around 12 and had no intention of returning – ever. However, when my husband and I were looking for a place to go on vacation Pennsylvania for some reason came to my mind and I started researching it.
We had just bought our new travel trailer and wanted to go somewhere with a nice campground and things to do. I thought I’d found a good one and had even talked my parents into joining us. Then I started reading reviews of the campground and things looked dicey. Unfriendly owner, etc.
I go on vacation to relax and being potentially yelled at for a bunch of tiny issues did not appeal. So, I started researching again. I was kind of committed to Pennsylvania at this point, but the actual city was open.
Seriously, of all the campgrounds in the state, I only found four that really fit what we were looking for: 2 in Hershey and 2 in Gettysburg. But Gettysburg offered a lot more variety of activities than Hershey, and my parents are majorly into history sooooo… I am forcing myself to face my fear of Gettysburg. (We are also spending a couple of nights in Hershey to hit factory/park/etc.)
Fear isn’t maybe quite the right word, but as I said, the place and I have a history.
As a child I was obsessed with Abraham Lincoln. I really don’t know why. As I said, my family was/is history obsessed but more with the Revolutionary War period than the Civil War period. Still I grew up in Southern Missouri, knowing we had been a split state in the war and having visited various battle sites, etc.
So, when my family had a reason to go to Pennsylvania for my father’s hobby going to Gettysburg was an obvious choice.
We arrived in the late afternoon and left as soon as we could the next morning.
It was… horrifying. I know that sounds melodramatic, but as soon as we entered the town and I saw the first monument standing in the middle of a field, I panicked. I felt trapped, like a huge heavy fog had settled over me and I couldn’t get out from under it.
I told my family we had to leave. HAD to leave. They said it was too late that night, but we canceled the next night’s hotel room and scurried out of town right after breakfast the next morning.
I even remember the breakfast and sitting there wondering how all of those people could sit around being all cheerful when that fog was all around us.
I have never been happier to leave any place in my life, and now I’m going back.
In addition to this experience I have one more related to Lincoln. If it wasn’t for this second happening, I could probably completely convince myself that the first was just a child too excited about going to a place she had built up in her mind, but this other one was just… odd.
A couple of years ago I took my kids (again with my parents) to the Abraham Lincoln Museum in Springfield Illinois. (If you haven’t gone, I highly recommend it.)
Part of the museum is a walk through the Civil War and Lincoln’s life during his presidency. It starts with a heart-shredding bang – slave children being torn from their family. And moves on to Lincoln at his son’s (who later dies) bedside. I made it past all of these disturbing visuals as you would imagine, moved but not in any way emotional. I was fine. But then something happened. I was past all of these emotional scenes and in a more political/dry part of the exhibit and something hit me. Hard. I started sobbing. I couldn’t stop.
I felt like an idiot and my kids thought I’d gone insane. I thought I’d gone insane.
I had to leave the display, and it was hugely embarrassing.
There is, by the way, a movie on the Gettysburg battle at the museum. Guess who refused to see it?
Is a ghost from Gettysburg haunting me? Or am I just suppressing emotions that I don’t know I have and all of a sudden lose control? I don’t know, but I do know I am once again looking forward to my upcoming trip to Gettysburg.
Honestly, I don’t know what I believe. I just hope this time I can make it through more than one night’s stay.
How about you? What do you believe? Would you go back to Gettysburg?