My husband and I were both looking forward to our five day getaway in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
We both welcomed a break from our two chatty daughters. Our hearts yearned to revel in some peace and quiet.
We both considered ourselves students of the American civil war. We had already travelled to the battlefields of Vicksburg Mississippi, Franklin Tennessee, and the site of Confederate General Lee’s surrender to Union General Grant in Appomattox Virginia. We had also been to Gettysburg many times and knew the Holiday Inn that we were staying at well. We would probably get something on the second floor, facing the pool, with a forest for a backdrop.
Our idyll would be complete.
Imagine our deep concern when we saw a bus full of young schoolgirls pull into the hotel. They were there to participate in statewide basketball championships.
We spent the next three evenings and mealtimes listening to the same chatter we experienced at home. This, however this seemed multiplied by a factor of twenty.
However, my horror was not yet complete.
One early afternoon I was catching some quiet moments in the sun as I sat in a wonderful little garden terrace on the left side of the hotel. This same spot on the second floor of the hotel also overlooked the Jenny Wade House.
Jenny Wade was a young girl who was baking bread in the kitchen when a sniper’s bullet pierced the main door, then immediately killed Jenny Wade as it shot her through the back.
At the time, Jenny had been engaged to be married to a Union soldier who was also killed within a few days of his fiancé.
Jenny Wade was the only civilian to lose her life during the battle for Gettysburg.
My daughters and I had toured the Wade House on a previous visit to Gettysburg. It was a rather small house filled with the furniture of that era. Upstairs, you could see where a cannonball had ripped through the wall.
There is a local superstition that any unmarried woman who slides her ring finger through the bullet hole that pierced the door, will be married within a year.
As you begin the tour and enter the door to the side of the house I was facing, you are met with many framed testimonial letters from women who obligingly slid their own ring finger through the door, and were indeed married within the following year.
Like I said, I was having a quiet moment in the sun, when I began to hear voices coming towards me.
Looking to my right, three teenage girls had just crossed Baltimore Street and were climbing the steps that led to the Jenny Wade House. They were accompanied by a male teacher. The chatty girls hardly let their teacher get a word in edgewise until they were alongside the house.
That was when the teacher spoke up saying:
“Wait a minute, before you rush by his place, let me tell you a little about it..
Then he commenced to tell the girls who Jenny Wade was, and how she was tragically killed.
Then, the teacher began to tell the girls about the fable of the bullet hole through the door and the superstition that surrounds it.
He did a good job in relating the story as he had evidently done his homework.
To my horror, the male teacher then suggests to the girls:
“Go ahead, stick your ring finger through the door and maybe you’ll get married within a year.”
Dear Lord, what was that man thinking?
Now I was married at eighteen, which I admit is an incredibly young age to get married, so I have a thing or two to say about the subject. Mind you, I’ve been married almost forty years now.
At eighteen, girls should be going to college, university, travelling.
Suddenly, in my mind’s eye, I saw myself jump up into action to save these poor girls.
Springing to my feet, and catapulting myself into the air I would yell out to the girls in slow motion:
“Nooooo…. don’t doooo it.”
Then, I could see myself leap from the balcony on the second floor to the first floor bypassing the stairs entirely just to stop the girls in time before they committed themselves to their fate by sliding their finger through the bullet pierced door.
Planting my feet firmly back on the ground I would have wasted no time throwing myself between the girls and the fabled door which held the cursed bullethole.
What on earth was that teacher thinking?
Without even thinking, a visible shudder went through both the girls as they quickly walked past the fabled door without stopping. One of them even held out her hand as if to ensure that the door stayed away at arm’s length.
Well done girls, I thought to myself as the teacher ran to catch up with the girls. They sure showed him what they thought of his ideas of them getting married within the year.
All the while, of course, I was still sitting on the park bench, quiet, unobtrusive and minding my own business.
But oh, if only they only knew how close I had come to stopping them had they tried to test their fate.
I would have made Wonder Woman proud.