Scott finally exited the plane and walked into the terminal at Harrisburg International Airport in Pennsylvania’s capital. He had been planning this vacation for a year now and at last, tomorrow, he and his wife Kathy would drive the short distance to Gettysburg to spend a couple of days. Then, they would head east and south to Bel Air, in Maryland, where Scott grew up and they would drive past his old house. In fact, Scott intended to stop and knock on the door in the hopes that whoever lived there now would allow him to look around.
Scott had met Kathy in Texas where he had worked for the past 24 years and this was Kathy’s first trip East. She had heard repeatedly about Scott’s trips to Gettysburg when he was a boy, especially about the Gettysburg Wax Museum, which Scott began to describe—again—while they walked out to find their rental car.
“It’s the coolest thing, Kathy. There must be 100 exhibits in there. . . . Seventy-Five, anyway. The final scene where they narrate Picket’s Charge and wax figures are fighting on three sides of the room—well, they make ‘em look like they’re fighting—while little miniature explosions go off that produce real smoke . . . it’s just the coolest thing! You’ll love it!”
Kathy smiled. She wasn’t sure she would love it, but she loved seeing her husband turn into a little boy at the very thought of returning to the scene of one of his most precious memories.
They didn’t even eat the Continental breakfast offered by the hotel the next morning, but instead headed immediately to Gettysburg where they dined at the General Lee Restaurant and then headed straight to the Wax Museum. Scott told Kathy that starting here would give her a proper introduction to those great events from long ago. He browsed about the souvenir shop in the lobby and looked intently at a set of toy Civil War soldiers before announcing to Kathy that he thought he’d get a post card when they were finished with the tour.
The little light above the entrance door blinked green and the attendant at the curtains announced that those waiting in the lobby could now enter the museum proper. He unhooked the velvet rope and Scott and Kathy started down the darkened hallway that would tell them the story of America’s Greatest Conflict. They paused in front of the first exhibit.
“It doesn’t look like they’ve dusted John Brown since you were a kid,” whispered Kathy.
Scott’s nod went undetected in the dark.
Several exhibits along, Scott noticed that the tip of General Meade’s sword was broken. Just a little further down, General Lee was surrendering to General Grant and in no time at all they were in the big room, where Pickett’s glorious charge was recreated in glorious wax. They took their seats and faced the stage upon which several darkened figures stood frozen in their desperate poses. Somewhere above them a speaker crackled and a solemn voice began to narrate the events of July 3, 1863.
When the battle commenced, there were no explosions, except those heard on the tape playing over the loudspeaker and smoke did not fill the room. Only a handful of figures played out the greatest charge in American military history as lights from various angles flashed upon them in various combinations.
Except for the fact that General Pickett was once again defeated, everything was different.
Suddenly, the desire to visit his old house vanished. He wouldn’t ruin that, too.
The lights came up.
Kathy took Scott’s arm. “Is it just like you remembered?”
“No. It’s just like it’s always been.”