"'C' is for Christ, who was born in a manger, to Mary and Joseph"
Many years ago, when I was in public school kindergarten (yep public school) that was my line in the school Christmas play. Nine of us had sandwich board like signs with tissue paper letters forming the word CHRISTMAS on stage and we with the rest of the class all sang carols (sacred and profane) to celebrate the holiday season.
Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas this day. May it be filled with much joy, love, happiness and peace. And may the true reason for this observance (though probably not in the right time of year of course) be on your mind and in your heart.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. ~ John 3:16
This is the true reason for the season. We commemorate the day of His birth, but Jesus the Baby is no more. Jesus the Son of Man and the Son of God still lives, having paid the due penalty for the sins of all mankind -- those who accept Him as Savior as well as those who refuse.
Won't you accept Him in your heart in spirit and in truth and truly know joy this holiday season.
Last year on Memorial Day I posted about three of my direct line grandfathers who died serving their respective countries during the Civil War (Memorial Day Observance). Little did I know that later on that year, I'd be playing a game representing one of them in battle.
I'm sure many long time wargamers already have connected their ancestry to their game tables, but this one caught be by surprise. I'd planned to shared this at some point, but figured Memorial Day would be the best time to remember my 3rd Great Grandfather, James M. Mercer.
James was born in Georgia in about 1835 and married Margaret Ellis around 1859. Just a couple of years before the Civil War broke out, James and Margaret had their one and only child together, Joseph William Mercer.
During the winter of 1861-1862, Colonel Thomas Hardeman, Jr. began forming the Georgia 45th infantry regiment and in April 1862, James Mercer enlisted into Company C, the Dooly County Volunteers. This all I had known before along with the fact that James would die a little over two years later in May 1864 during the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House in Virginia.
However, what I didn't know was that the 45th Georgia also took part in many other historic battles, including one I'd never heard of before until the excellent game Stonewall's Sword: The Battle of Cedar Mountain was released. Hermann Luttmann's game covered the battle which occurred in August of 1862. I saw the counter in the game, but never made the connection until I was gathering some additional information on James for a family reunion. When I looked at the list of battles in which the 45th had taken part, Cedar Mountain leapt off the page at me. "Wait a minute, I know that battle!" I immediately went back to the counters and sure enough, there was my grandfather's regiment plain as day, under the command of General E.L. Thomas.
Let me introduce you. James M. Mercer, everyone. Everyone, meet James M. Mercer.
Here, in some small way, was a tangible connection to my grandfather Mercer... as if some tiny fiber in that little piece of cardboard was the man himself.
It had always struck me as tragic (and providential) that James, shortly married, managed to have one child, a son, through which I descended. Looking backwards it all seems so silly in a way, but to know that without that one marriage, that one child, I would not have been here to have my marriage and my children. It's like when they say that to win the Super Bowl, a team has to win 3-4 straight games in the playoffs. Sounds difficult looking forward, but then looking backward, it's simply what had to happen -- since all the losers get eliminated anyway, it's impossible not to happen. (That makes complete sense to me, but I don't think I worded it correctly, sigh)
As I looked over the battle list for the regiment, more games I had or would have covered those themes.
Battles of the 45th Georgia Infantry Hanover Court House, Virginia (5/27/62) Seven Days Battles, Virginia (6/25/62 - 7/1/62) Cedar Mountain, Virginia (8/9/62) Second Bull Run, Virginia (8/28/62 - 8/30/62) Harper's Ferry, West Virginia (9/12/62 - 9/15/62) Antietam, Maryland (9/17/62) Fredericksburg, Virginia (12/13/62) Chancellorsville, Virginia (5/1/63 - 5/4/63) Gettysburg, Pennsylvania (7/1/63 - 7/3/63) Williamsport, Maryland (7/6/63) Bristoe Campaign, Virginia (10/63) Mine Run Campaign, Virginia (11/63 - 12/63) Wilderness, Virginia (5/5/64 - 5/6/64) Spotsylvania Court House, Virginia (5/8/64 - 5/21/64) North Anna, Virginia (5/23/64 - 5/26/64) Cold Harbor, Virginia (6/1/64 - 6/3/64) Petersburg Siege, Virginia (6/1/64 - 4/1/65) Weldon Railroad, Virginia (8/18/64 - 8/22/64) Fort Stedman, Virginia (3/25/65) Appomattox Court House, Virginia (4/9/65)
There is Blood Before Richmond: Gaines's Mill from Tom Russell, part of the Seven Days battles. Unfortunately, that does not get granular enough to have a counter for the 45th specifically. Also my copy of Antietam: Burnished Rows of Steel covers the September 1862 battle in Maryland. Of course my copy of the Eric Lee Smith classic pentagame Across 5 Aprils contains a Bull Run scenario as well as the full Gettysburg battle. So all these games depict battles in which my grandfather fought, only to die on May 18, 1864 at Spotsylvania, Virginia.
But the counter for Stonewall's Sword somehow seemed to bring me just a little closer to this man. Just one man. Just one soldier among many soldiers among many wars among many countries. All of whom have a story to tell, a life that was cut short, and a legacy left behind.
Yesterday, Sunday, at my church, our four remaining veterans of World War II (that number gets smaller every year) placed a wreath in our Memorial Flag Garden (video below). It was a very moving close to our service and as I watched these men, I thought of the WW2 wargames I enjoy and how those cardboard counters ultimately do represent real people of our past. Most now gone and many who never even made it back home.
It is their sacrifice in their honorable service, that we remember on Memorial Day.
As Elaine from Seinfeld related to us in the classic episode "The English Patient", some things just don't work. I found this week that includes in many cases gaming in the hospital. Of course that depends on the reason for and length of your stay, but in my first experience as a patient it was a big fat zero.
All day Sunday was experiencing pain with an umbilical hernia I've had for many years. I'd dealt with lesser incidents before, but this was the first time it didn't abate after an hour or so. Finally at 10:00 that night I had my wife (what a trooper) drive me to the local Emergency Room where they wasted no time getting me admitted and added second in line to the immediate surgery schedule. At 2:00 am I was taken to the operating room and a one hour minor repair became a two hour semi-major affair with part of my intestine having to be removed.
My crack surgical team at work. Thanks all!
So now I was facing 3-5 days of recovery time in the hospital. As the initial anesthesia wore off, I thought to myself I'd have such a long period of downtime I'd either be watching television (!!!) or perhaps I could play some games? My room was nice enough, it was private. There was even a long counter/desk area I might have pulled up to if I really wanted to spread out.
What would I play?
My bedside tray table would easily accommodate a game of Friday. Perhaps even a small wargame with low counter density would be good and then I could make a few moves, rest, make a few more.
I even considered my iOS collection. Perhaps I could enjoy some of the longer running board game conversions like Eclipse that I normally eschew in favor of the lighter filler fare.
Maybe even I'd just read PDF rulebooks of games waiting in the queue at home...
What did I play?
Perhaps the dream of boardgaming during my recovery period was an hallucination created by one too many presses of my morphine drip button (seriously, I didn't press it much after all and then it was only for my NG tube irritation -- don't look it up -- not my healing wounds). But in the end, I kept current on my already running iOS games of Lost Cities and Patchwork and barely managed to do anything else. The hospital room for me was just not conducive to the thought required to keep interested in anything for very long. I wasn't depressed or down or drugged. Just disinterested. My wife brought my Kindle reader to me as well and read not a page.
I was primarily focused on doing what I needed to do to get home. And read BGG from time to time in short bursts.
So last night, I was released and slept in my own bed and today I feel much better, though still in recovery and under severe restriction until these staples are removed. However, it's amazing the difference in location and environment will do for you. So slowly over the next few nights, I hope to get back into my collection... my interest is back up, it's more a matter of deciding which one to tackle next -- providing I can sit or stand at the game table.
I'm very blessed that I went nearly 50 years without being a hospital patient and in the grand scheme of things what I dealt with was nothing compared to the struggles many -- even many of you -- have faced, are facing, or any of us might face. I thank the Lord that we have such a wonderful health care system here in the US and I was able to get seen and served so very quickly. It turns out had I waited it could have been life threatening (PSA to those with umbilical hernias: get them fixed in advance if you have the means to do so. They can turn on you quickly.).
Hope you all have a wonderful and happy and meaningful Easter/Resurrection Sunday weekend.
Christmas Eve... In my childhood years, today would be a day preparing to go to my grandmother's house for our annual family Christmas celebration. When my mom and her sisters starting having kids, they decided to get together on the 24th, so their brats (all sons) could stay at home on Christmas day. Fortunately, we all lived close to each other and the one roaming family of Aunt/Uncle/Cousins would make it back most of the time. If not, it was a big event when they'd call that evening.
As I got older, I'd shop at a local department store that stayed open 24 hours (unheard of back then) starting like December 22 and then spend the entire day wrapping my gifts for others and anyone elses that needed wrapping. I never was able to buy much, but for me it was a rite of passage to be able to at least give my own gifts (albeit cheap and small) to my family members. Today people get too caught up in a gift having to be "worth" getting like some fancy electronics or gift card. As always, it really is the thought that counts.
Sears Wishbook Catalog 1978
Board games always figured prominently into the gifts I received in the 70s and early 80s. Milton Bradley and Parker Brothers were always regular guests bringing with them classics like Clue (received twice in three years from the same person!), Connect Four, Family Feud, Mastermind, Comp IV, Tripoley (What??? I'm a kid!), a Cribbage board (wish I'd learned how to use this one) and deck of cards, The Winning Ticket (hook kids on the lottery!), Laser Attack, Othello (a minute to learn, a lifetime to master -- if it takes a lifetime to realize TAKE THE CORNERS!) and one I still own: This Game is Bonkers! (it's fun... it's nice... it's never the same game twice!). The one I had that got away and became my grail game at estate sales (and everyone else's too) was of course Dark Tower.
Of course many times we'd tear into the package before we'd left my grandmothers and lose pieces before getting home or break something leading to our family phrase "Ain't even had it one day and you done tore it up."
I'm also reminded of this old Coke commercial from then, playing on their whole "teach the world to sing" campaign of the 70s. All these people of different cultures coming together to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. No one singing or hearing was offended. It was Christmas and the odds were most people were celebrating it -- whether they were Christian. But people weren't as uptight back then believe it or not. There are two sides to Christmas: the religious and the secular. And for years they got along just fine even with the title of the Son of God so prominently in the holiday's name. But then people on both sides decided the other side just wasn't different, they were outright wrong.
The only ones wrong were the ones attacking the others, trumping up a battle where none should have existed. Christmas is many things to many people. It can encompass all or some of faith, family, food, friends, and fun.
It's a time of peace.
So whether you celebrate in secular fashion, a Christian fashion, or don't celebrate at all, the fact remains that December 25 (and the surrounding days) ARE the Christmas season and no one means you ill by wishing you a happy one.
So with that...
MERRY CHRISTMAS to you and your family from me and mine
Unlike Veterans Day, Memorial Day is the time we (in the US) remember those who fell during military service to their country. It was originally known as "Decoration Day" when the ladies of a town would decorate the graves of fallen soldiers on both sides of the Civil War.
These are my direct grandfathers who fell during that war.
James M. Mercer (father of Joseph Mercer, father of Emma Katherine Mercer, mother of James Eugene Kitchens, father of Alfred M. Kitchens, my father.) James was born in 1835 and served the CSA in the 45th Infantry Regiment Georgia. He was killed on May 18, 1864 at Spotsylvania Courthouse, Virginia. He had one son, Joseph, just three years before he went to war and without him, I wouldn't be here.
Jackson Taylor Carpenter (father of William Hyman Carpenter, father of Emma Sarah Carpenter, mother of William Harry Anderson, father of Frances Dee Anderson, my mother.) Jackson was born in 1834 and served the CSA in the 62 North Carolina Infantry. He was captured in Cumberland Gap in September of 1863 and imprisoned with his brother Benjamin at Camp Douglas, Illinois. He died in the camp in July of 1864. His brother died there as well just before the war ended. From what I understand, Camp Douglas made Andersonville look like a picnic. He had four children, Hyman, George, Mary Jane, and Margaret. Without him I wouldn't be here.
Daniel H. Nichols (father of Mary Catherine Nichols, mother of Emma Sarah Carpenter, mother of William Harry Anderson, father of Frances Dee Anderson, my mother.) Daniel was born around 1834 in North Carolina however his views on slavery led him to join the Union in the 3rd Tennessee Cavalry. He was captured by the south and imprisoned until the war ended. However, he was being repatriated after the war on the steamship "The Sultana" when it exploded and sank on the Mississippi. It is unknown whether the ship was overloaded or perhaps a bomb made to look like a lump of coal was snuck onto the ship and then tossed into the boiler. He had three children, Mary, George, and Rosie. Without him I wouldn't be here.
Thank you to the families and descendants of all our military who fell during service. Without them, would we be here?