I have a family heirloom. It is an antique pitcher, designed to resemble a pine cone. It was made in England and brought into the South on a blockade runner during the War Between the States. Its contribution to the Confederate war effort is a little uncertain, but it is a beautiful work of craftsmanship. It came to me from my father's mother, and so is a symbol of the blood ties that ground us in a place and ethos that shape who we are.
And all of that is lost on me.
See, I'm somewhat shallow. If I am going to display a symbol of my heritage, I want it to be an object of lethal force, something that shows that heroic, warrior blood flows in my veins. I want to have something like the three .54 caliber Burnside bullets that were pulled from my great-great-great grandfather after his fell deeds at Antietam. I want a sword that led a desperate charge against Sherman's legions. I want a bayonet that was wielded in the Wilderness.
And that's not just to ease my insecurities. The bayonet and the sword would come in very handy if I were to find a neighbor throwing his grass clippings into my yard or if I needed to strictly enforce bedtime rules on young children. "Yes, this sword was repulsed at Cemetery Ridge many years ago. But it shines in victory after the battle of 3546 Spring Haven Drive! Never again will this hallowed ground be sullied by the clippings of 3544 Spring Haven Drive!"
I suppose I could invent a story in which the pitcher is somehow pivotal to Rebel success. I suppose I could tell people that during the Battle of Chancellorsville, General Robert E. Lee was pacing anxiously in his tent, his mind unable to focus on the task at hand, his subordinates worried. "Just look at this tent," Lee would say. "It's decor is just hideous -- almost tacky! And no Persian rugs or throw pillows will change that! How am I supposed to lead an army from such a ghastly domicile?!" Just then a courier comes up with a bundle under his arm. "General Lee, sir," the courier would say, "I have the parcel from Charleston that you sent me to get." "Oh, thank heaven," Lee would say, "I hope it is what I think it is. IT IS! Just look at this pitcher! Isn't it fabulous! Let me put it right here, and ... THERE! Doesn't my tent now just look amazing?! And that pine cone shape gives me an idea ... yes ... YES! Tell General Jackson to attack the Yankee flank through the forest. That should fix them!"
Or something like that.
If I find a group of re-enactors that's as gullible as Florida real estate virgins, I might be able to bootleg the pitcher into a mock battle. Just how I'll do that would require handful upon handful of psychoactive drugs, but I can just see it now: An officer in gray stands before his troops, exhorting them to glory. "Gallant soldiers! Now comes the time when our valor must be summoned! The time when we must endure the perils of battle to protect our homes, our families, our wives and our children. We must throw back the invaders, or see all that we hold dear be destroyed. What lies before us is the sting of combat -- the haze and acrid smell of gunpowder, the screams of the wounded and the dying, the blood of comrades. But should the haze, the smell, the screams and the blood become to much for you, I want you to remember that behind you Corporal Parnell will carrying a pitcher of his delightful margaritas that might give you just enough refreshment and liquid courage to fight on."
Such an act would have a pretty short life, unfortunately. Sooner or later, a more conscientious and savvy band of re-enactors would come along. They might first observe my contribution with the bug-eyed bemusement that Warner Brothers cartoon characters do so well. But inevitably, their leader would bellow in a voice that would stifle a cannonade, "Boys, we finally get to do a live-fire exercise! I want you to put real ordnance in your muskets, and I want you to shoot the pitcher ... and shoot the man holding it!" Or perhaps he would just insist on a firing squad for me and the pitcher.
But the pitcher does not belong near a battlefield. As I said, it is a beautiful work of craftsmanship. I suppose the only hope left for me is to see whether I can finagle a set of silverware from the family treasure. You know, something that can be melted down and turned into a sword or bayonet.