Sunday, June 22, 2008

The 2008 Re-enacting Season Thus Far and What Is Has Done For Me

Well, the re-enacting season is now in full force. So far, this year alone I have participated in 7 events - not including the period dress 12th Night/Christmas Party held in January.

And there's more to come: A mourning presentation in Waterloo, a living history encampment in Dearborn, a battle and living history encampment at Historic Fort Wayne as well as in Hastings, Jackson, and Wolcott Mill. Plus a couple of extra's that we enjoy, such as a "pioneer day" at a local school, a period ball in Lansing, a 21st Michigan full-dress meeting in early November, and a few re-enactments with the Michigan Soldiers Aid Society.

And it's still not enough.

At least, not for me.

I could do re-enacting pretty much every weekend if I had the chance (and the gas money!). I cannot wait to throw on my period clothing and step back in time at an event and be amongst others who have a love for this sort of thing. I especially love it when my wife and children also don their period clothing and join me (which is usually at most of the events that I attend). To have my family have the same passion for this hobby that I have is nothing short of a true blessing, and I do continuously thank God for that blessing.

I mean - think about it - there are not too many families out there that I know of that get together nearly every weekend - that WANT to spend their weekends together - like my family does. And, to top it off, my eldest son's girlfriend also willingly enjoys the opportunity to wear clothing that her great great great great grandmother would have worn. My wife and this young lady spend quite a bit of time together during the cold months of winter sewing period authentic clothing for themselves and for others. This picture directly below are three dresses that Patty and Ashley (left and center) made.

I guess the neatest thing is when my kids will fill their calendars with their own personal activities only after they know the dates of all the re-enactments.

Some people think we're crazy. Others feel we live in the past.
I think they're correct on both counts. We are crazy and, yes, to a certain extent, we do live in the past - how can you not when making the attempt to accurately portray one from the mid-19th century?
But, we are also very contemporary people as well. If we weren't, well, I guess you would not be reading this blog now, would you?
OK - now I'm going to go off on a tangent for a bit - reader, beware---------
This is not to say, by the way, that other families don't spend their times together. I know of a few that do - sports families (those that go to Red Wings and Tigers games together), activity families (biking, hiking), and of course, cottage familes, in which I used to be. But, because I have four other siblings who also have multiple children, well, we all kind of out-grew the weekend cottage trips. Oh, we still go up for the family visits a few times a year, just not as often as we used to. I guess we all just spend more time with our own families.

Back to reenacting: As this is my 5th year as a Civil War reenactor. I've also noticed a personal change in my attitude toward modern society. For example, Memorial Weekend was, to me, known as the weekend that summer began; the weekend to meet with friends that I haven't seen since the previous Labor Day; the weekend to open up the cottage and have a barbecue. Now, because of Civil War reenacting, it means so much more to me. I now find myself remembering those Americans who fought and died - not just in the Civil War, but in all of the wars that we, as a country, have been involved in, including this latest war on terror. Whether or not you agree with our involvement in this current war, you should still remember those men and women who have died serving their country. I

I have also become a bit more, shall we say, prudish. Yes, I find myself getting embarrassed when I see young women wearing the skimpy bathing suits at the beach. I mean, is it necessary to show all that skin? Yeah, you think I'm crazy I'm sure. Maybe you think I'm lying, either to myself or to you.
But I'm not.
By the way, I'm not embarrassed for myself when seeing these thonged bathers, but for the girls themselves who feel the need to show more than necessary. Sorry, but I'd rather see them in their hoop skirts where they look and act more like ladies. In fact, my son's girlfriend has mentioned more than once how she enjoys the way folks - especially men - treat her while in her period clothing. She has stated that she is treated "like a lady," and she enjoys that.

Now, when I have mentioned these opinions during conversations with non-reenactors, invariably it is brought to my attention that I must be a sexist that would love to see women as subserviants. Oh, and that I'd also probably want to bring back slavery for blacks. Nothing could be further from the truth. But, I do like to see women dressed as women and men dressed as men, and so does my wife.
But, I suppose, we'll leave that for a future blog.

Anyhow, Civil War reenacting has engulfed our lives in more ways than I believe we could have imagined. We look at life a little different...maybe a little slower...taking it all in. We have learned to be less (sometimes ever-so-slightly-less, but less nonetheless) materialistic.
And some of us (read: ME) have even learned to watch our language, especially around women (oops! There I go again, being sexist. Sorry!). Yeah, as funny as George Carlin was, swearing didn't make him funny. It was his take - his GENIUS - on modern society that made him funny. I don't need his seven words that can't be said on TV, radio, or written in the newspaper. He had better, more intelligent things to say.

Modern folks tend to think of the Victorian way of life as backwards. I believe differently, and the more reading and studying and living history I do - and the more true, die-hard living historians I meet - the more I feel that it is, in fact, a great way to live.
Ah - that's my take on what Civil War reenacting has done for me and my family.
And I thank God for it.

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