I let the girlchild sleep in a bit Saturday morning before we checked out of the hotel and continued on our travels.
Our first stop was Magnolia Hall.
I’ve never toured this particular home, located in the heart of downtown Natchez. We were the only two tourists for that hour, and thoroughly enjoyed having a much better tour guide than the previous day.
One of the reasons I selected Magnolia Hall was for the museum within it that holds clothing from the period itself, as well as costumes worn by previous kings and queens of the Natchez Pilgramage.
The house itself is definitely interesting, and one of the daughters of the original family was quite a revolutionary of her time: she was an author.
Suffering from what they now believe was M.S., and not wanting to be a burden to her family, this young woman penned many novels before her death at the age of 49. Earning her own illegal income (because she was a woman) she wrote under the pen name “Theta”, and was only posthumously recognized for her literary work.
From Magnolia Hall, we set off toward Vicksburg, and stopped first at Church Hill.
If you aren’t looking for it, you’ll miss it as you round the curve. The old general store also still stands, looking as though it holds many a memory of cold soda pops and stories of local gossip undoubtedly told, now hidden somewhere within the weathered walls.
We headed on toward Rodney, and stopped for a moment at the Windsor Ruins. There is now a fence surrounding the site, as the Department of Archives and History work to preserve it before her spectacular columns collapse.
Once we arrived in Vicksburg, we collected our good friend, LaRue, and took a driving tour through the Vicksburg Military Park.
You could literally spend all day in the park, reading every plaque and monument. We chose to simply cruise slowly throughout the winding roads and rolling hills, making a few photo stops along the way.
The Civil War, to me, as a woman with southern roots, represents such a dark time in our history. As I drive through a park like Vicksburg’s, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with the sheer enormity of the conflict. The lives lost. The families forever changed. Northern and Southern. Black and white. Male and female.
On a hot August afternoon, the monuments with the likenesses of army generals and commanders begin to all look the same.
But they were all different.
Each man. Each with a family. Each with a story. And that begins to become overwhelming again when you reach the cemetery itself and see row after row of stone. It is even more somber when you realize that there are other battle sites like Vicksburg dotted across the nation.
For six long weeks, the city of Vicksburg lay under siege, eventually surrendering to the Union on July 4, 1863. It would be over 80 years before Vicksburg would celebrate Independence Day again.
When you view the terrain of the city, the idea that people retreated into caves and bunkers in the hills is entirely plausable. Along with the stories of the soldiers on the battlefield, men, women, and children became refugees in their own landscape. Hiding and, no doubt, praying for an end to the hell surrounding them. I should think that such a history would make us that much more sympathetic to those who seek asylum in our borders…..
The southern United States often stirs many negative connotations. Many of them true, some of them distorted, as is all history, in actuality. But I do not run from the history of my state, or her sister states. I simply try to learn what I can, remembering all the while that, despite the blots on her past, she has had many a triumph. Many progressions. And more on the horizon, I believe.
I try to learn the individual stories of those, not just with southern roots, who lived and died during this tumultuous time in history. Because each one is unique. And valuable. And I often wonder what those individuals, on both sides of the battle lines, would think now. Of the nation we’ve become. Was the conflict worth the terrible price? I suppose that would depend on who you asked.
What would they think about the lines that now divide us? What advice might they offer? Humbling questions, with unclear answers.
As we headed out of the park, we drove downtown and had a bite to eat, before returning our friend to her doorstep.
From there, Reagan and I made our way to a late, late showing of Ant Man and the Wasp, before finally crawling into our beds, shortly after 1 a.m.
Our trip was a quick one, but saturated with beautiful landscapes and fascinating history. And a few superheroes sprinkled on top, for good measure.
Traveling with a teenager is much different than it was making these types of trips when she was younger. It’s hard to tell sometimes if the time spent together still holds the same weight that it used to, when just the thought of staying in a hotel was all it took to excite her.
But she said she enjoyed it. I did. I don’t know that she’ll ever know how much taking these opportunities with her means to me. Stepping away from the norm, setting aside day-to-day routine and responsibilities, just to focus on us, and make a few memories.
I won’t have these opportunities forever, so I try to take them when I can. I hope they give her lots of happiness when she looks back on them. That one day she’ll see that they weren’t just road trips. These moments of time spent together were the reinforcement of the bonds of our relationship – preserving it, growing it, expanding it.
And one day, if she has children, I hope she’ll take the time to do the same.