In Which Mama Plays Pretend

Pretending to be Scarlett O’Hara in 95-degree high humidity heat with four children along, is never a good plan. But good plans are not my strong suit and I’d just finished reading Gone With the Wind. So, the idea of Civil War Reenactments complete with period costuming and real cannon firing, on a REAL LIVE Civil War Battlefield, was too much to resist.

I packed enough lunch to feed the little troops, because surely a picnic would be great fun as well (and yes I had completely lost my mind). Then loaded the very excited (maybe they’ll blow someone’s arm off) “troops” into the car and drove the 45 miles to Vicksburg.

Upon arriving, I had to admit to myself that it was not exactly my vision of Tara, the one including hoop skirts and chivalrous, slightly scandalous gentlemen with the faint sound of cannons firing somewhere way off in the distance. Instead, my armpits were sweating (this activity is only OK if one is on the beach, under a pretty umbrella, drinking strawberry daiquiris). Plus, whatever they were cooking on the “this here is authentic folks” cook stove was giving off enough toxic fumes to make my eyes water. And we were uncomfortably close to the real live cannons, which were set to go off in five minutes and counting.

But it took the re-enactors stuffing en masse big wax plugs in their ears and warning the crowd to place their hands over their own ears, for the reality of the situation to dawn on me.

“Make sure and cover those ears now. We wouldn’t wanna deafen y’all,” one of them yelled with a chuckle.

I didn’t find it funny, nor did Nicholas, who is inclined to lodge complaints about the noise level of the vacuum cleaner.

“Mama, I really don’t like loud noises,” he said.

“It won’t be so loud,” I reassured him while attempting to wrangle the younger two further away from the cannons. God forbid they wind up deaf and I have to confess to people that I fancied myself Scarlett O’Hara and was traipsing around Civil War Reenactments with four children.

“Mama, I really, really hate loud noises,” he said again, poking me several times in the arm to get my attention.

I weighed my options and directed him to the car. “It’s unlocked and I can see it from here. They,” I said, pointing to the two heathens who were just then doing the limbo under the rope some ingenious chap, who obviously never had children, had set up to keep all gawkers safe, “are never going to leave.”

Taking the keys from my hand, he hurried off and I focused on demonstrating proper ear protection techniques to the other children. Soon after, the cannons fired. I had not listened well to my own instructions because I couldn’t hear one thing and had to resort to lip reading (definitely an acquired skill). And decided perhaps this was God’s divine wrath for my fantasizing over mint juleps and oversized verandas.

And where was Nicholas? Nicholas, who was not in, under or around the car. Nicholas, who was not among the deafened and shell-shocked crowd. Nicholas, who was not in the gift shop, or the restroom, or watching the movie they play on the hour and half-hour.

“Nicholas,” I said, quietly at first, looking in the obvious places for a second time, getting what I think was louder as I go.

Until I was in tears and confessing all to the park ranger.

“I read Gone with the Wind and went a wee bit crazy, then read about the cannons and now my child is lost and I’m deaf,” I wailed.

Of course, the moment this spilled from my mouth and the park ranger was looking at me like I’d grown a horn from the center of my forehead, I heard the children screeching happily from the one ear that was now working. I turned to see Nicholas ambling up the walk from the park entrance. He looked like he was whistling.

“Is that him, M’aam?” The ranger asked and I shook my head yes and ran for him.

I wasn’t sure whether to hug him or scold him, so I did both.

“Why didn’t you answer when I called?” I asked, hugging him so tight he was squirming away.

“I was answering, Mama. I was hollering!”

I felt more than a bit ashamed that I was half-deaf and could not hear my own lost child calling out to me. Not to mention the sideways glances the park ranger (who was decidedly not deaf, and probably trying to determine if I needed to be committed) was giving me. But I pushed them aside in favor of hugging my boy.

“Fiddle dee dee…I’ll think about it tomorrow.”