Geeking Out in 1812

In some circles (such as this one), there’s a lot of periodic hype about the Civil War’s sesquicentennial, which we’re about halfway through at the moment. But this weekend, I had a chance to immerse myself in the War of 1812, America’s “forgotten” war, which celebrates its bicentennial starting this year.

I admit that I don’t know a whole lot about the War of 1812. *gasp* I have a working knowledge: It was between the British and Americans, the majority of the action was naval in nature and really focused on the Great Lakes area due to the proximity to Canada, which at the time was a British possession. It lasted from 1812 to 1815, but on the world stage it was a bit of a blip, since most of Europe was busy, you know, trying not to be taken over by Napoleon Bonaparte.  Here in America it was a pretty big deal, as American sailors had been getting press-ganged into service aboard British naval vessels for years, among other issues. And then there was the whole burning down of Washington and the White House while Dolley Madison fled with a portrait of George Washington and some other important people and papers.

Around my neck of the woods, since I have a Great Lake in my own backyard, the War of 1812 was a rather big deal. A battle in 1814 marked the third time Fort Ontario was attacked and destroyed (once by the French, once by the British, once by the Americans). I’m looking forward to learning a lot more about this “forgotten” war in the next couple years. But in the meantime – GEEKERY!!

War of 1812 Reenactment

The Genesee Country Village Museum holds an annual War of 1812 reenactment, alongside a Jane Austen Weekend, in which the beautiful historic village transforms to display aspects of civilian life during the War of 1812 and the Regency Era (which we Americans would call the Federal Era, incidentally). The village itself is amazing, if you ever have a chance to visit. All the buildings are either reconstructions based on historical evidence, repurposed buildings that were originally something else, or actual historical structures that were moved to the village from all over New York State. It’s pretty amazing, and I’m planning/hoping to go back in a few weeks for their annual Civil War weekend, which boasts one of the largest reenactments in the Northeast.

Anyway, the reenactors, who had come from all over the country, depicted life in 1812 through military encampments, demonstrations, and just generally “populating” the village to give you a feel for the time period.

Genesee Country Village Museum

Genesee Country Village Museum

War of 1812 Encampment

They even held small arms demonstrations with flintlocks, and, of course, artillery demonstrations.

My visit, however, had a totally ulterior motive. You see, I’ve been friends with Katie Jacobs for about twelve years. We “met” when I was in college and she was in high school, through an online writing group that may or may not have had to do with a particular anime show both of us enjoyed. *ahem* Anyway, since she lives in Michigan and I live in New York, we had never actually been in the same room together.

Until this weekend.

12 years of friendship. First time in a room together. Ever.

(Sorry for the super blurry picture. Sometimes self portrait shots are hard!)

As you can see, Katie was at the Jane Austen Weekend being her amazing reenacting self. She and the group of ladies she was with were doing Regency hair demonstrations. Did I already say amazing? And I was so pleased and lucky to have Katie style my hair!

Basically all she did was pull the top half of my hair into a bun, then made two braids in the bottom half, which she then wrapped around the bun. She finished it off by adding some papillote curls to the front.

Regency Hair Style

Regency Hair Style

Now, the idea of getting into some low-level reenacting has been percolating for a while. But now I’m stoked at the idea. Except for the fact that sewing is, like, the one thing I don’t know how to do at all.

Rekindling Old Friendships

I think it’s happened to all of us, to some degree.  We have these amazing friends in college, the people we do everything with, and we vow to stay BFFs forever.  And then we graduate, and after a few years, you’re really not in touch with them anymore.  And it’s sad, especially when you come across old pictures of your group hanging out in college, and you get all nostalgic for the “good old days.”

My two best friends in college were amazing people.  My very best friend and I met at our freshman orientation.  In fact, we were roommates for freshman orientation.  We didn’t live in the same dorm until our sophomore year, and then we roomed together junior and senior year – until she graduated a semester early and I moved home for student teaching during my last semester.  But we were joined at the hip.  Our other very best friend lived in the room next door to us in a single, and it was perfect.  We contemplated requesting that an adjoining door be cut in the wall between our rooms – we spent that much time going back and forth.  On Thursday nights, my roommate-best-friend and I would watch NBC (you know, back when “Friends” and “Will & Grace” were on?) until our next-door-neighbor-best-friend got home from art studio.  Then we would gather for an 11:00pm tea party and “ER.”

We were like the Three Musketeers.  Or Charlie’s Angels.  Or any other famous trio wherein you see two of them together and know the third can’t be far away.

After graduation, we did a really good job of staying in touch.  We lived within two hours of each other, for the most part, and there were lots of visits back and forth.  Still the Three Musketeers, just spread out.

But once we all finished grad school, things started to change.  We called each other less and less.  Fewer visits were made.  Eventually, my two best friends moved farther away, and for a couple years, we stopped contacting each other all together, except for sending birthday and Christmas cards to each other.

And I was beyond bummed out.

Oddly, it seems like the loss of contact with my two best friends sort of coincided with the decline of AOL Instant Messenger.  And to be perfectly honest, during that time, my contact with other friends from college really started to lag for about a year or so.

Not that I was friendless.  Not by any means.  During that year or so, my group of friends was made up of people I’d gone to high school with who had resettled in our hometown (yeah, I’ve never moved, even during college).  Most of them were even people I was friends with in high school.  Not the people I was best friends with in high school – strangely, that group dissolved sometime during college – except for one guy I’ve known since first grade.  I even had a new best friend – and she’s still my best friend.  These are the people I count on, and even though we’re all spread all over New York State, we call each other and all still manage to get together a couple times a year when everybody’s back in town.

But my college friends?  My very best college friends?

There are a lot of people who point out social media as something of a downfall in our society’s ability to communicate with each other – replacing face time with computer time.  But in this case, social media, Facebook in particular, totally saved my most valued college friendships.  Because everybody is on Facebook.   The college friends I’ve kept in touch with through Facebook aren’t people I see all the time. For the ones I’ve stayed closest to, it’s about three years on average for seeing each other.  There are a couple people I haven’t seen since graduation.  But thank God for Facebook!  We can still chat periodically.

But my two very best friends…  Well, I am admittedly not the best when it comes to keeping in contact with people.  And life gets busy.  People work.  We move.  We have families.  Priorities change.

I’m very sad to say that my very best friend who I roomed with for a year and a half in college has completely fallen off the map.  It didn’t even happen slowly.  All of a sudden, she just wasn’t there anymore.

Do I have you totally crushed, thinking of all the friends you’ve lost over the years?  Well, don’t worry, I’m about to cheer you up.

My other very best friend and I reconnected a bit on Facebook.  She had moved downstate after she finished her grad work, and both she and her husband worked in Manhattan.  Well, she’s back.

And by back I mean she and her husband have moved back here, in my hometown, our college town, after she accepted a teaching position at our alma mater.

*wild cheers and applause*

When she told me, I was speechless for a full five minutes.  So speechless, my brain would not form words so my fingers could type a message in response to her email.  One of my very best friends ever is moving back!  Visions of Thursday night tea parties flitted through my mind.  I knew it wouldn’t be exactly like college – impossible regardless, because we would still be missing a Musketeer.

We met yesterday for lunch, and it was fantastic.  We ended up “lunching” for two hours, and it was like we’d last seen each other maybe a month ago.  You know how when you get together with those really solid friends, even if you haven’t seen each other in ages, and it’s like you’ve never been apart?  Yeah, like that.

It’s a wonderful feeling to rekindle those old friendships.