Tonight was one of our signature events here in Washington County: the annual lighting of the luminaries at Antietam Battlefield. Thousands of paper lanterns — candles in brown bags full of sand — are lit, one for each fatality of the Battle of Antietam. People come from far and wide to drive through the battlefield and take it all in. It’s a pretty big deal.
Such a big deal, in fact, that people were already lining up on the shoulder of the road outside the battlefield when Ashley and I drove by before three this afternoon. They didn’t start letting people in until sundown, so these guys still had hours to go. And it was cold as shit today. People were parking in a line and getting out and going off to explore the battlefield until the sun went down.
Where were these people going and what were they going to do for three hours? The visitor center was at least a mile away from where they were parking, and that’s if they knew exactly where they were going. Everything else was open to the air, and I’m afraid I must repeat myself here, because it was motherfucking cold as shit today!
When I was young, my parents took my brother and me through one Christmas to see the luminaries. It was a memorable experience. I treasure the memory. Now I’ve lived in Sharpsburg for three years. The closest I’ve come to driving through on the night of the luminaries was the first Christmas Ashley and I were together, when we drove up, saw the line of cars snaking back for several miles, and quite wisely said “Fuck it” and went off to do something else.
It’s a beautiful sight, and I’m all for anything that draws people to the battlefield or inspires them to think on what happened there even for a few seconds. But fuck sitting in the car for hours on end waiting to drive by a field full of candles, and fuck going out for a hike on all that frozen tundra in the middle of goddamn December.