“Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”
– A. Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address”
The American Civil War has been, and will always be, my historical topic of choice, one nearest to my heart. My research resides there, and my mentor Dr. Robert McGlone lived there with his writings about Abolitionist John Brown. When I visit a monument, memorial, or battlefield, I take the opportunity to explore and understand that historical moment. It makes sense then that I have visited Gettysburg, PA, twice during my life. While exploring those two travel adventures, this post will offer insight into my fascination with Civil War history and where it all began. Join me as I get personal, but with a pointed look at my core historical topic, and the trips that illustrate that tether, tied, and fixed by people, places, and time.
“We all come from somewhere. We carry that place with us wherever we go. That never leaves our hearts. Not entirely.”
– Doug Jones (Saru) from Star Trek: Discovery
My hometown matters to me. Yet, I rarely go back to the town I called home for nearly 25 years. It’s not that I don’t want to go back; it’s more that there is little calling for me to return. My parents no longer live locally, and they sold my childhood home years ago. Each time I return, there are fewer reminders of who I once was. Many of my posts situate my hometown as a consistent backdrop. Avoiding the town, therefore, is impossible. I love my hometown. I no longer want to position it on the periphery. But returning home is emotionally challenging and brings forth pleasing and unpleasant emotions; fear, happiness, and uncertainty. It’s a conflicted feeling, but I have attempted to work through these complexities. Fairhaven, Massachusetts, is ultimately home. I may not return for some time, but home will logically always be merely a drive away. After Corinne and I purchased a 2003 Jeep Wrangler, I felt the urge to explore the town I took for granted and left behind nearly two decades ago.
“Most men, they’ll tell you a story straight through. It won’t be complicated, but it won’t be interesting either.”
– Albert Finney (Senior Ed Bloom) from Big Fish
I love to tell a story. Spinning tales about travel, personal dislike of snow, and even craft beer crusades allow me to narrate the story of my life, but hopefully, in an entertaining fashion. It reminds me of the film, Big Fish. I constantly think of the line Billy Crudup delivers, as William Bloom, “Have you ever heard a joke so many times you’ve forgotten why it’s funny? And then you hear it again, and suddenly it’s new. You remember why you loved it in the first place.” That is how writing posts on this blog makes me feel. I have forgotten the central meaning of so many stories that I see those events from a fresh perspective as I dig through photos or retread old roads. This fact became clear during a recent trip Corinne and I took to Newport, RI.
“Living is like tearing through a museum. Not until later do you really start absorbing what you saw, thinking about it, looking it up in a book, and remembering – because you can’t take it in all at once.”
– Aubrey Hepburn
I continue to reflect on those things that brought me joy, whether toys or food. One thing I have not discussed is museums. There is no need to worry; I won’t put on my historian hat today, but instead recall those places filled with artifacts, history, and have inspired, moved, and awoken me to the larger, more complex world. As an adult, I have both different and similar viewpoints about those museums or historical sites I traveled to and observed as a child and adolescent. It is interesting to remember those places I went at a young age with the lived experience and the years of museum visits I have since stockpiled.
Today, I seek to engage in nostalgia once again, but with “field trips” as my focus, as well as those museums that I cannot forget, like Battleship Cove in Fall River, Massachusetts. One foot in the past, the other in the present, I hope to respect the educational pursuits that inspired me and the various museum visits that moved me. Sure, I won’t discuss every trip or visit a historical site or museum but rather build a narrative of the moments I think of most often. As the pandemic continues, diving into my nostalgic past has brought great comfort. Like my post on food and toys, and to an extent, music, and movies, here I take on public history.
“Here in New England, the character is strong and unshakable.”
– Normal Rockwell
In 2015, my wife Corinne and I finally took a weekend trip to Nantucket Island, located off the South Coast of Massachusetts. There we celebrated our anniversary but did so in a distinctive style. Although the weekend followed no primary schedule, we took in the history, scenery, and beauty of this fantastic island. When we left, we were not surprised by how wonderful the trip was, but wondered why it took so long to visit in the first place. We knew we found a place where we would travel again. If for no other reason, to feel the majesty of the island environment and be taken aback by the splendor of the ocean water as it crashed onto our feet as we walked along the lovely beach.
I am a born and raised New Englander, one who grew up able to see the local harbor from the bedroom window. I do not feel calm or at peace if I am without access to an ocean. This need to live “oceanically” is one reason I found myself living in Hawaii by 2010. If I was going to work towards a Ph.D., I thought, why not study on a gorgeous tropical island surrounded by water. After my wife and I moved back, we found ourselves living in Salem and, once again, had a window with views of the ocean and a sense of peace. The ocean is essential to me, and being as close as possible to it, is vital to who I am as an individual. Nantucket is the perfect example of a location that can instantly recharge my core emotional battery in that way. Just by setting foot on the island, feeling the ocean breeze, and observing the ocean’s vastness from the roof of the Whaling Museum or coastal road, I appear centered.
“Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.”
– Robert Frost
It was over a year ago that my wife and I sold our home. I am sure anyone can tell you, selling a home is stressful, annoying, and probably the worst thing in the world. Ok, that might be overdoing it, but it sucks! While our realtor organized an Open House for one weekend in late June last year, my wife and I needed to escape the process and reboot. As the weekend drew near, the thought of getting away seemed more and more necessary. As I am from Massachusetts and my wife is not, she asked where I would like to go. I answered…home.
I had not been back to the town I grew up in for several years. The closest I had come to going back was when I visited my aunt and uncle when I got married in 2011 and ran the New Bedford Half Marathon in 2015. Now was June of 2019. So…it…had…been…awhile. But this seemed the perfect time to go back and reset after a terrible home selling experience. So, with the dog staying with family, my wife and I set out for the South Coast of Massachusetts. We were heading to New Bedford!