The Day My Suitcase & I Were Suspected As Being Terrorists (includes a giveaway of a patriotic children's book)
I love audio tours and historical plaques. I love house tours and docents. I love brochures and museums. If you have read this blog for a while, you may be familiar with my interest in people who live on top of cemeteries. You may also be familiar with the time a bird popped a squat on top of my head while I was on the phone with my grandmother and I didn't realize it until about an hour or more later, which was well after my boys and I had gotten back from a really old local cemetery. (We had been wanting to check it out for a long time.) I thought it was an acorn that had hit on my head. Once my husband pointed it out, I was still on the phone with my grandmother and she didn't want me to hang up to wash it out. I even have picture proof. If it hadn't been for my obsession with history stuff, I wouldn't have walked around with bird breakfast in my hair for so long.
Liking history can be a very dangerous thing. That's my point.
This point was proven yet again a week or so ago when I went to Baltimore for the Blog U convention. I could not imagine going alllllllllllll the way up to Baltimore from Houston, Texas for a conference and not hitting a single historical spot. If I hadn't made any attempts, I would still be annoyed with myself at this very minute.
I had to hit a spot.
The thing is...conferences make it hard. The point of going to Baltimore was to attend Blog U, which was awesome and fun and worth all the time I had given it. I was in Baltimore, though. I had to show Baltimore some respect. My original plan was to rent a car, so that I could visit every place I wanted in the city before heading back to the airport for my 6:22 p.m. flight on Sunday. That would have happened had I not seen Andrea from The Underachiever's Guide To Being A Domestic Goddess, Tara from You Know It Happens At Your House Too and Jessica from Four Plus An Angel right there in the airport when I arrived. It was MUCH more fun to ride with them to the College of Notre Dame of Maryland. I would figure out a way to get back to the airport on Sunday. They were totally worth it.
But, how would I be able to visit anywhere on Sunday??
The stress of being a history nerd...
When Sunday arrived, we wrapped up the conference and I called a cab.
I was going to make this happen somehow some way.
When "Best" arrived, I asked him to take me to Ft. McHenry, which is located in downtown Baltimore not too far away from the aquarium and the Museum of Industry and other tourist-y things. I wanted to see Ft. McHenry because this was the place that Francis Scott Key was near when he wrote The Star Spangled Banner. He was in a boat on the harbor. As you can imagine, the place was all about the flag. Flag pens, flag magnets, flag shirts and flag flags were everywhere.
I was going to get my flag fix.
Even if I was trailing my gigantic suitcase behind me. What else was I supposed to do with him? I was on my way to the airport. Suitcase had nowhere to go.
As I maneuvered its gigantic butt with me in the crowded line, I prayed that the guys at the register would tell me there was somewhere I could tuck it while checking out the fort. Surely there was a stroller room or some type of closet where I could stash the ding dang thing.
"Hi, sir. I need one ticket. Also, do you have a place I could place my suitcase while I take a quick tour?"
"Um, no, ma'am. Just be sure you don't leave it by itself when you go into any of the rooms. Keep it with you at all times."
"Oh, I would never..."
"How many tickets do you need?"
The man had already moved on to the next customer. I looked at my suitcase and my suitcase looked at me. It was just going to be the two of us. Best had already scurried off. He had to do his thing for a little while until he returned to get me. He wanted my trip to the airport to happen in his taxi. I guess it would have been better if I had known my suitcase better. We had basically just met a few days ago, though, as he belonged to my mother-in-law. I wasn't sure if suitcases even liked history, but I wasn't about to ask him. He had no choice. He was coming with me.
"You could've asked if I needed a ticket. You acted like I didn't even exist."
"Oh, I know you exist. I'm the one lugging your big behind everywhere."
(This was going to be a long excursion if Suitcase was going to give me attitude.)
As we left the Visitor's Center to make our trek to the fort, I repeated to myself, "You'll never see these people again. You'll never see these people again. They are more interested in the fort than they are in your suitcase. They are more interested in the fort than they are your suitcase."
The two of us quietly made our way up the smooth sidewalk (he was still mad at me) and stopped here and there to read the historical markers that flanked the path. We both calmly looked out into the serene waters where bombs had exploded in the air during September 1814, the month Francis Scott Key watched the flag waving in the air as the British attacked Baltimore. I think Suitcase may have even teared up.
"This wasn't just any flag," I quietly whispered to Suitcase, trying to make amends. "It says here this flag was 30 feet by 42 feet and had 15 stars and stripes. It was made my Mary Young Pickersgill and her 13-year-old daughter, Caroline, at No. 60 Albemarle Street. Well, part of it. They had to finish the gigantic thing at a warehouse down the road. It's now at the Smithsonian. Major George Armistead said that he wanted the flag to be so huge that the British would have no trouble seeing it from far away."
Suitcase didn't mouth a word back. (I think he fell asleep during my history lesson.)
|Here's Suitcase posing in front of a replica of a portion |
of the gigantic flag that was made by the Pickersgill girls. (He refused to smile.)
All was going relatively well, however. Suitcase was pretty quiet and not too many people stared. Oh, I got some strange glances thrown my way, but I tried to hold my head up high and convey that I cared more about history and America and "Oh, say can you see" than I did about my image.
We were making it as a team.
Until we hit the brick pavement.
Gosh dang it to heck. WHY DIDN'T THE EARLY AMERICANS KNOW HOW TO MAKE SMOOTH PAVEMENT?!
The looks were becoming more frequent. I was being offered embarrassed smiles.
DON'T OFFER ME EMBARRASSED SMILES, PEOPLE. SUITCASE AND I ARE JUST FINE!
"Do you see how they are all looking at us?" Suitcase mouthed to me as we stopped to look at the guys dressed up as soldiers. "Why did you have to do this to us? Do you care about historical stuff that much?"
"Zip it, Suitcase. Zip it."
|Suitcase didn't even act impressed at these guys one bit, which was absolutely low of him. These guys did formations and stuff and turned at the same time. Suitcase is never going on a vacation with me again.|
I maintained my composure as I examined the big cannons.
|"These cannons are awesome, but did you see the really big cannon over to the right, Suitcase? It turns on a track so that it can go boom-boom-boom in whatever direction it feels like. Suitcase?"|
I took deep breaths as I peeked into the gun powder warehouse.
It was almost like Suitcase was embarrassed to have me around when I was the human! The longer Suitcase and I walked around, the more bold people got.
"Coming to stay here for a while, are you?" An older gentleman bellowed out as he chuckled at me wheeling bumbump-bumbump-bumbump past him.
"Well, we just might! I'm thinking about staying in that old soldiers' bunk tonight! HAHAHAHAHA!! HAHA! Ha."
The absolute worst moment, though, was when the park ranger approached me in his official clothes.
My heart dropped.
Suitcase and I were just admiring the extra large cannon on a track when the park ranger said, "Ma'am, may I ask you why you've got a suitcase?"
"Oh, this suitcase? Oh, well, I was on my way to the airport. I was here for a conference and didn't rent a car. There was nowhere to keep the suitcase in the visitor's center, so I decided to take it along."
"Well, it kind of makes people nervous. You know, it's not every day that people look around the fort while trailing a suitcase behind them."
I got a knot in my throat. I felt like I was being scolded by a teacher and I was in the first grade.
"Yeah, I'm sure this is an odd sight. I can promise you there is nothing in the suitcase." I plopped that sucker flat on his back so that the park ranger could look through it himself. ("Ouch!" I think I heard Suitcase yell out.)
"Oh, no, ma'am. It's fine. I see that you have United Airlines stickers still on your bag from the airport. I understand what you're saying about your situation. Just keep your suitcase close."
"Oh, I don't think I could keep him any closer."
"Okay, ma'am. Enjoy your stay."
He walked off with his thumbs resting in his belt loops while I stood there feeling even more dumb than I had before.
I could still the retiree asking if I planned to stay overnight ringing in my ears.
I had to get off of those bricks.
Once Suitcase and I were smooth rolling back up to the Visitors Center, I collected myself. Even though I had scared a few people and gave that park ranger something to investigate, I thought the effort was worth it.
I don't look at the flag the same way anymore.
I definitely don't hear the Star-Spangled Banner the same way anymore.
I'm pretty sure this plaque below was my favorite part about the whole visit.
The tune of the Star-Spangled Banner was to a song called "The Anacreon in Heaven". It was a very popular song originally written for a gentlemen's social club in London. Many people, including Francis Scott Key, had already written alternate lyrics for the tune. It was a tune that most everyone already knew. That is why when Francis Scott Key penned the lyrics for the Star-Spangled Banner, it caught on so quick. Everyone already knew the tune. They knew how the song sounded. It took no time for them to learn the lyrics, which is why it spread so fast and became so popular. It reminds me today of things that go viral based on parodies of something already familiar to the masses.
The Anacreontic Society, which the writers of the original tune were a part, was dedicated to "wit, harmony and the god of wine". When the Star-Spangled Banner was written to the tune of one of their songs, people were opposed to it. They didn't want this song to become the National Anthem, as they felt it was sort of like a drinking song.
Isn't that funny?
Would you ever think of the Star-Spangled Banner as a drinking song?
You see, information like that is why I go out of my way to visit places like this one.
Even if I have to bring grumpy Suitcase with me.
**If you are interested in winning a copy of the book The Biggest (and Best) Flag That Ever Flew, just leave a comment here or over on the Kelley's Break Room Facebook page. I bought this book for my boys (and me). I was so inspired by the trip, that I want to give one of you the book, too! I will pick the winner this Friday.**