Somehow or other today is our 17th wedding anniversary. I'm not sure how it happened precisely, but it checks out both mathematically and calendrically. As is our modus operandi, we planned absolutely nothing in advance.
People warned us about that, you know—getting married in a hurry during finals week.
"Every anniversary will fall during finals week," they told us. "You'll never catch a break."
I don't remember who those prescient people were, precisely, but I do remember that Andrew and I laughed off such remarks. He'd graduate in a few years and then we'd never have to worry about finals week ever again! Semesters wouldn't always rule our lives! Silly people!
How did they know we'd be sprinting to the finish line each and every fall semester before looking at the calendar and going, "Oh, yeah! Our anniversary!" every year for the next...foreseeable future?!
Did they peg him as a professor so young? Before he even realized a PhD might be a thing he'd do?
Whatever the case, they were smart and we were dumb and in love, and so we got married in December in the middle of finals week. And now here we are, just as dumb and in love as ever (and just having finished finals week for the 17th time as a married couple)!
Anyway, I was thinking last night that we should do something, so I started looking up hikes and things while I was nursing Phoebe before bed. And then I was so unbelievably tired that—in a most romantic and magnanimous gesture—Andrew insisted I go to bed, too. At 9:30!!
For the record, the other night it started raining, but I wasn't sure whether it had started raining or whether the heater had kicked on, so I asked, "Did it just start raining really difficult?"
I meant "hard."
My children will probably never let me live that down because while those words are synonymous, they also aren't synonymous (at least, not in this sense of the word). But it's a wonderful illustration of how absolutely fried my brain is.
And then not only did he put me to bed, but he helped Phoebe back to sleep every time she got up (which was several times because she's a stinker lately) between 9:43 pm (when she got up the first time) and 6:00 am (when I finally heard her and relieved Andrew so he could get some rest).
I...honestly don't know what we're going to do with her. But...she's learning more and more every day so I have hope that she'll eventually learn to sleep through the night as well.
Anyway, somehow or other we settled on hiking at Sweetwater Creek State Park before I went to bed last night because I knew I had to get up to get everything packed up to go after Andrew's morning meetings. So while he was in his meeting I rushed the kids through their morning routine and then made 8 peanut butter and jam/honey sandwiches and we were out the door by 11:15 (11:00 had been our goal).
Grandpa came with us and his carload beat us to the parking lot at the—award winning!—visitor's center (one of the most environmentally responsible buildings in the country (the children weren't terribly impressed by the pit toilets, but, having visited some rather rank pit toilets, myself, I was—they didn't smell at all!)). The kids thought the animals were cute in their little Santa hats. Phoebe was especially excited to see all the animals, which was an exciting change to see in her (the last time I took her to a museum with such animals (in September when I visited Utah) she was completely underwhelmed).
Here are some pictures of Phoebe getting all excited about the animals:
Alexander sneezed (or something) in his mask while we were inside the visitor's center. As a testimony to how unstinky the pit toilets (which are technically composting toilets) are, they are inside the visitor's center. And you would never know they were pit toilets. Like, I'm used to going into pit toilets and holding my breath and having flies buzzing all over and it's altogether a rather unpleasant experience.
Not here. These toilets were just fine. Put them everywhere, I say.
Except that Alexander was terrified of them. It took him a few tries to agree to use them when we arrived. And he wasn't thrilled about it.
Anyway, after using the facilities (such as they were) we toured around the museum, learning about the local wildlife, how a mill works, how to spin cotton, and how people lived in the antebellum period.
And at some point Alexander must have sneezed.
Because when we left the building and the kids all handed me their masks...oh, my goodness...Alexander had the biggest boogey in there!
I call them boogies now rather than boogers (which is what I grew up saying, but Andrew says "buh-gers" rather than "boo-gers" and...that's just another little thing we couldn't agree on how to say, so instead I say "boogies" now (boo-gees) because if Andrew says it like "buggies" it doesn't bother me).
Anyway, I just gagged a little, folded it up, and put it in my pocket. And it wasn't a big deal until we were on our way back from our hike, passing the visitor's center to head home. And of course we had to stop to use the facilities before getting into the car(s). That's when I remembered that Alexander's mask was out of commission.
It ended up being okay by Alexander.
"I'm not using that toilet again!" he announced. "I can just hold it until we get home. How far is it to home?"
About an hour? That's nothing. He doesn't even need to go. He certainly doesn't need to go on those potties! No, thank you!
We had spare masks in the car, but...we decided not to fight him about going potty again. So he just waited until we got home. And it only took an hour. So...it was fine.
Here's Alexander admiring this festive fox:
Now back to Phoebe for a brief second:
And here are the kids plunging their hands into "plant wool." They were calling this to make fun of Andrew, who I believe referred to wool as "animal cotton" in a recent conversation (further evidence of our level of sleep deprivation).
Phoebe meanwhile wanted to keep looking at the animals:
She'd admire one, sign "more," and point to a new one. Daddy was shuttling her all over the place so she could say hello to more and more animals.
Sweetwater Creek State Park has more film credits than either Rachel or Josie. IMDB doesn't offer all the films boasted on the sign: Avengers: Infinity War, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, The Hunger Games, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The Hunger Games: Mocking Jay (part 1), Hindsight, No Good Deed, Resurrection, Killing Season, MacGyver, Cobra Kai, and Atlanta (TV series).
Our kids were particularly excited about the Avengers and Hunger Games. The trails were beautiful!
Here we are heading to the creek:
And here's Benjamin having found the creek (it's a mighty large creek, in my opinion):
The boys seemed to be my hiking buddies this trip, while the girls clustered around Grandpa and Andrew. And that's just fine (it just also means I have more pictures of the boys than the girls).
Here's Benjamin on a rock:
And here's Alexander checking out a hollow tree:
We hiked to this bridge, which Alexander was particularly excited about because he really likes bridges:
But this was really a detour from where we really wanted to be heading (which was the ruins). We only came to the bridge so that Alexander could walk across it (twice)!
Here's Andrew with sweet Phoebe on his back:
Here's Zoë posing by the water:
Keeping the kids out of the water was quite the chore; they pointed out a number of times that it's not as cold as the Chattahoochee (and therefore they should be allowed to go in, never mind the fact that they had nothing to change into).
Here are the boys swinging on a vine (you've got to be careful of poison ivy, even in the winter, but these vines aren't hairy so they should be safe):
Here's Benjamin heading up some mystery stairs (it was a high road, low road instance, where the paths met together after a short time. Also, I just looked up the meaning of that song and now I'm all choked up because I'm not sure that I ever realized it was entirely about death being the faster route to get to Scotland.
Speaking of which, Andrew likes to tell the story about how I "cried and cried and cried" before we got married. The way he tells the story, we were sitting in the Celestial Room of the temple, waiting to be brought into the sealing room for our marriage ceremony, and I started sobbing uncontrollably, so he just kept passing me tissues while I bawled my eyes out. He was certain I was going to bolt from the altar but wasn't sure what to do about it, so...he just gave me a little "there-there" pat and a tissue.
He told that story again at lunch—with three "cries"—so I had to offer a rebuttal.
"I did not cry and cry and cry!" I said. "I just...cried and cried."
Just a "two cries" cry. Not a "three cries" cry. That's getting carried away.
And they were delicate and dignified cries. I was not openly weeping. I was just so very nervous.
Here I was, signing my future away at age 20, and he wants me to go into that decision with complete confidence?! Ha!
He's since learned that I can cry while deciding how dark I want my toast in the morning, so the fact that I cried before our wedding is, like, no biggie. Making decisions breaks my brain. I'm fine once the decision is made. But, like, making the decision?! That part kills me.
And, I guess, I had decided that I was going to marry him before I actually married him (obviously, since I said yes when he fumbled through his proposal), but screwing up the courage to say, "YES! Yes, this is what I want." That particular part is difficult.
It's difficult in the McDonald's drive through.
And it's difficult at the wedding altar.
It doesn't mean I don't want a chicken sandwich. It just means that if I have to tell you that I want a chicken sandwich I might cry before telling you that's what I want.
So I married Andrew. After crying—a distinguished, refined, ladylike cry.
And when we go through the McDonald's drive through and I say, "AHHHH! I don't know! Just get me something!" He...just gets me something. To keep me from crying.
(We went to McDonald's on our way home from Chattanooga last month, which is why McDonald's is on my mind as a stressful situation.)
(We went to McDonald's on our way home from Chattanooga last month, which is why McDonald's is on my mind as a stressful situation.)
All that is to say, that The Bonnie Banks o' Loch Lomond has me choking up a bit (but not crying, so we're fine). We've been measuring things in x-number of cries all day. Like, we watched Klaus when we got home because Grandpa had never seen it before (and we all needed dinner—so we had a pizza movie night) and we warned him that we all (well, me, Rachel, and Miriam) always cry when we watch it. But it's, like, not a three-cry movie, or even a two-cry movie. Just a one-cry movie.
Here's Benjamin on a rock:
All the kids wanted a turn up there. Here's Zoë:
And Rachel (with Alexander crawling to look over the edge; he's a cautious child and may very well cry on his wedding day and that will be fine):
Here's Benjamin attempting some freestyling:
And here he is sitting on a bench by the river:
This part of the hike was another little detour, on an island between the rapids of the creek, so we sang, "This is my island in the sun!" (from The Muppet Christmas Carol), since this was (more or less) a Christmas hike:
Here's Alexander by some Christmas ferns to further link our hike to Christmas:
Here's Andrew with Phoebe:
And here's everyone at the dead end of our little detour spur (at which point we turned around and hiked back to the main trail to head to the ruins):
More hiking, hiking, hiking:
Here's the picture I took when I figured that I should probably nab a picture of the two of us since it was our anniversary:
Here's Miriam along the trail:
And here you can see that we finally made it to the ruins!
It's closed to the public for now (for safety reasons). According to The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation,
this structure was constructed in 1849 as a five-story water-powered mill for production of clothing and other materials. During the Civil War the mill produced uniforms for the Confederate army, until General Sherman’s troops burned the building in 1864. The ruins were left unchanged until 2015, when erosion of the area made it too dangerous for visitors. Beginning in 2016, steps were taken to preserve the ruins and prolong the life of the structure, including repointing mortar joints, adding caps on horizontal surfaces to alleviate standing water, bracing brick headers and free-standing piers, and installing new steel lintels and architectural steel plates for support where needed. The ruins reopened to visitors in fall 2017.
Evidently, whatever they did to stabilize it wasn't enough since it's once again closed (for everything, including guided tours and school field trips).
The mill belonged to New Manchester Manufacturing Co. but just upstream from the cotton mill, was a buildings supply mill, belonging to Angus Ferguson. We thought this map of New Manchester was interesting, mostly because someone decided to edit it out a little bit.
Ordinarily I'm opposed to vandalism. But in this case...I think the sign makers should have perhaps been a little more judicious about their telling of history. You can see that certain details about Angus have been scratched out: "Angus was known for being ki.... and many....ith him until his death in 1892."
Reading the book Sugar (by Jewell Parker Rhodes), in my recent memory of books that I've read, does such a wonderful job explaining why formerly enslaved people may have stayed to live and work in place rather than leaving at the close of the civil war. Not everyone was fit for traveling! Sugar is an orphan, too young to really set out into the world on her own. Her adoptive parents are more like adoptive grandparents, too old to do anything else. The plantation is all they've ever known and they're too tired to want more. I'm sure there are many other reasons people decided to stay. And maybe the kindness of their former owner played a part in the decision to stay. Had Angus Ferguson been a particularly harsh slave-owner, perhaps fewer formerly enslaved people would have "decided" to stay (as much as it's possible to make a decision with no money, no education, and with a bunch of outlandish laws heading your way to make your life difficult).
But! Here's the thing...slavery wasn't (isn't) kind. Full stop.
It's rather difficult to be a kind slave owner. Saying that you aren't as bad as other people engaging in an objectively bad behaviour isn't really that much of a flex. Like, I'm sorry. But if you could talk yourself into owning other people...you weren't kind to those people.
It's possible they were kind to each other. And kind to their neighbours. And kind to the school marm and to the pastor and so forth.
But they were not kind to their slaves...because...they stripped them of basic human rights...and no matter what way you spin that it always ends up...not kind.
So in this case we'll say this sign was edited, not vandalized.
Anyway, here's sweet Phoebe:
I remember learning about Sherman's March to the Sea in US History Honours (in grade 10). I think that's basically been my entire context for Sherman (aside from what I've learned here and there at various Civil War sites) for my whole life. I just knew he...went on a rampage through the south, burning anything of value. It was kind of interesting to stand next to the ruins of a place his troops destroyed...that has just sat there, gutted, for the past 158 years.
Is that all?
That doesn't seem so very old to me now that I'm thinking about it.
WWII ended 77 years ago. The Civil War was only 80 years before that.
Nicholas Barfield (1826–1904), my fourth-great grandfather, served in the Civil War (as a Confederate soldier). According to Find-a-Grave:
N. Barfield, also listed as Nick Barfield in the paperwork , has a pension application on line under Early County in the GA Archives. He gives his date of birth as 7 Oct 1826 and says he enlisted 9 May 1862 in Savannah. He served until the surrender in April 1865 with Co. G of the 13th GA regiment. He had some property, but seems to have lost it. He was almost blind and had heart trouble. B. R. Doster of Early County was his witness from the same unit.
(Perhaps one of these days we should head to Early County and poke around.)
My sister Josie likes to joke about how on one side it's our fourth-great-grandparents who were alive during the Civil War and on the other side of our family it's our second-great-grandparents who were alive during the Civil War.
I mean, I can laugh about that, I guess, since I shook things up and went and got married at age 20, keeping our generations nice and even. I must get that from my dad's side of the family because my mom's side of the family. Oh, boy! One of my fourth-great-grandfather on my mother's side was born in 1745! That side of the family has tended to get married later in life than age 20 (and that's okay).
My four-great-grandparents are 80 years apart!!
Anyway, when we (Josie and I) think about how our second-great-grandparents were alive during the Civil War...it makes it feel not so long ago (again, we were just talking about this when she was up here last month and we went to Chickamauga).
Here's me with Benjamin:
Grandpa with Zoë:
Benjamin not getting into the water:
Phoebe laughing at Grandpa:
Miriam clinging to a tree (that is not hanging over the rapidly rushing river):
Benjamin, Zoë, and Alexander:
Me and Rachel:
Alexander sitting on a log:
Alexander pulling out his trusty finger guns:
It was a lovely outing!
The traffic home was horrendous, but Phoebe chose to sleep through it rather than scream through it, so that was a win! We'll need to be better about getting out for adventures next year (we've slacked off these past few pandemic years, but there are still so many outdoorsy things to do that are open now (they were all closed at the beginning of the pandemic) that we really have no excuse)!