In Lieu of Chocolate

How do you even spell “lieu”? Is that right? Spellcheck, help me out. Ok, spellcheck isn’t underlining “lieu” but it is underlining “spellcheck” three times, as well as “ok,” as well as the misspelled “underlinding” that I just corrected. Therefore I’m assuming “lieu” is indeed correct, and I am proceeding from the title on to the actual post.

Just kidding. I’m not assuming anything. Hold for a moment while I go double-check that word.

Yeah, it’s right. Now we can proceed.

Actually, I don’t really have a lot to proceed with. I’m in mourning right now. I want chocolate to sooth my grief. However, as it isn’t readily available, and as it isn’t exactly healthy to drown one’s sorrow with food, I’m blogging instead.

“Awwwww, Betsy!” I hear you solicit with deep concern. “Why so down? Is your cucumber crop poor this year? Did you break your wrist, setting you months behind in your journey toward your senior recital? Did your sewing machine give up the ghost?”

Firstly, I thank you deeply for your angst on my behalf. Rest assured that the cucumber crop was remarkably fruitful this year (my diligent mother has a kitchen full of freshly processed pickles of the bread-and-butter variety as we speak–err, type?); both of my wrists are in fine form, enabling me to plod on toward the not-so-far-off senior recital; and my sewing machine, last I checked, still purrs quite merrily.

No, no. My sorrows spring from quite another source.

Books.

Now, before you roll your eyes at me with a “seriously-girl-it’s-all-pretend!” look, know you that I have finally finished The Last Full Measure, the last of Jeff and Michael Shaara’s trilogy about the events and people of the Civil War. So my sorrows are not over fictional characters. REAL PEOPLE DIED OK?

I read The Killer Angels first–the original book by Michael Shaara. It’s some 400 pages which are solely concerned with the events of the battle of Gettysburg. I decided to read it because 1) Ben and Ruth are major fans; 2) my entire family has seen the movie (like four times, I think) and love it, and I didn’t follow any of it when I watched it, which is also probably because it was Christmas break and I simply didn’t want to concentrate on anything; 3) I got to visit the Lincoln Musuem in Springfield earlier this year, and it made me curious about the events of the Civil War; 4) I have some southern friends who describe the Civil War much differently than I, a northerner by birth, have ever heard of; 5) I just wanted to read this summer. With these motivations, conscious and subconscious, in my mind, I set to it, not expecting to enjoy it–maybe not even expecting to understand it. Wars and battles and politics are not my thing. I don’t really care. But Shaara did such a masterful job pulling me into the character’s lives and explaining the troop movements and the politics comprehensibly, I couldn’t help but like it.

Like it? I loved it. I cried over Hancock and Armistead. I yelled at the general who ordered Chamberlain’s brigade/division/okay I still don’t understand those differences/whatever he commanded to the middle of the line where Lee was about to attack. I finished it and promptly began the prequel Shaara’s son Jeff later wrote, Gods and Generals. Here I became even closer to Lee, Hancock, Chamberlain, Longstreet, Jackson. I shook my fist at the poor decisions of the Union generals. I cried at the massacre of Fredericksburg and the wanton destruction of homes. I sobbed with Stonewall when little Jane died, and with Lee when Stonewall died. I finished Gods and Generals, and knew that I wasn’t yet done: I had to know the end. I loved these dirty soldiers in blue and in gray, these crabby generals, these men who suffered and bled and died for the causes they believed in. I had to read The Last Full Measure. But looking at the 600 densely-penned pages of even more battles–well, I couldn’t bring myself to slog through it right away.

Soon enough, however, I started. A friend warned me it was more depressing than the other two. “Faugh,” I thought. “How can this get worse?”

I was wrong. I was so, so wrong.

The Last Full Measure was different than the other two. The war changed. The mighty south, Lee’s impregnable forces, the “glorious cause”–was slowly picked apart by Grant’s much more numerous army. They were starved, barely able to keep marching, the land desolated by the battles. The men were overcome by frenzies to slaughter. So many were killed. I’m not exactly a southern sympathizer–but I couldn’t read about this devastation, this despair, this slow, anguished destruction of an entire army without hurting for them.

It would have been better, a little, if the conquered army had been “bad guys.” But–they weren’t.

And then Lincoln died, and I know not everyone is a fan of Lincoln, but his death was pretty stinkin’ sad, ok?

Anyhow, I finally finished The Last Full Measure, and now I’m depressed and longing for chocolate.

On top of that, my mother is creaming me in Words with Friends because I had an overwhelming amount of i’s.

On top of that, I went down to the basement to get Mom some jars for her pickles, and I grabbed one from a dusty box and it was full of dead cave crickets. And so I grabbed another and it also had dead cave crickets INSIDE OF IT.

I asked Mom if we could burn the house down but she said “no.” BUT WE’RE LIVING IN UNCLEAN TERRITORY NOW MOM.

I have no consolation save for blogging and craisins.

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8 thoughts on “In Lieu of Chocolate

  1. “Just kidding. I’m not assuming anything. Hold for a moment while I go double-check that word.”
    ^This is why I love you so much.

    I really was worried about you for a minute. *hugs* Don’t scare me!

    Sooo…. I felt enough pain reading Gone With the Wind about fictional characters that I didn’t even like. The Civil War is an extremely painful setting. I am like you were… I don’t like technical war stuff in my books… But if I ever want to read about it, I will definitely check out these books.

    Seriously, that house needs to be burnt. *shudders*

  2. Take a deep breath. In… out… I sympathize deeply. : ) You should’ve seen me after A Tale of Two Cities. And can I just say I have massive respect for someone who makes their own pickles? We used to before the great Carolina cucumber famine of ’09. You’ve inspired us to get back to the habit!

    • Oh my word. Tale of Two Cities kills me every single time. Maybe that’s what I need to cheer me up! And seriously, if you need pickles/cucumbers, just let me know. They’re everywhere in this house and it’s starting to get a little frightening. Come on over if you want some. 😉

  3. Glad to know you’re cucumber crop is don’t well so you at least have that to smile over. I weep with you. Not that over read those books, (which are now my to read list), but I to have mourned over books. I cried during the great escape and really any other book that deals with WWII. Take consolation my friend in the fact that you are presently creaming me in words with friends due to the prevalence of L’s my cache (I just had to look up the spelling on that one). Hang in there. There will be brighter days ahead and less depressing tales to read 🙂

  4. I feel your doubt of spellcheck and Historical grief. Ever since spellcheck has decided Lemony is a real word and Snicket is not I’ve had my doubts.
    Historical grief, even in a fictional setting, can be some of the worst. I still tear up over Dr. Warren dying. So, I understand. I am here beside you often going into mourning for some of the same. And chocolate is a must in times like this.

    • …should I know who Dr. Warren is? I feel like I should and I don’t and it’s a turrible feeling.
      A church friend who kindly deigns to read my various ramblings bought me chocolate upon perusing this post, and thus my life was made significantly less depressing.

  5. Shaara is a great author.
    Congratulations, also, in winning the Glass Slippers contest! I’m entering the Beauty and the Beast one this year and found you. 🙂

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