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Chris's Pennsylvania Travels

Reflections in a Gettysburg Hotel Lobby

Journal Entry: Wednesday, November 22, 2006, 8:20 a.m.

I am sitting in the lobby area of the Holiday Inn, right in front of the registration desk in a carpeted area with plush chairs in front of a gas-faux fireplace. I can feel the warmth from the fire before me — it’s roaring and the faint smell of holiday potpourri fills the air.

Above me a ceiling fan slowly turns, casting a moving shadow complementing the fireplace’s dancing flames. It’s very comfortable here right now at 8:25 a.m. I notice the dark wood trim around the marble fireplace, wood which turns into dark oak shelves lining the walls on either side of the mantle. Gold-trimmed encyclopedias populate a few of the dozen square-shaped shelves filled with turkeys and other late-November Thanksgiving fare.

A short wall interrupts this sitting area I am reclining in — on the other side is the hotel’s complimentary coffee bar with brewed regular and decaf coffees, sugar packets, milks, creams, cups, lids, and plastic stirrers. I already had my coffee this morning — we ate in the restaurant down the hall. I had an egg omelet with broccoli and cheese in it.

At 9:00 a.m. my brother-in-law and I are going to tour the Jennie Wade House situated right next door to the hotel while our driver (my husband) catches 50 more winks. I hear the front desk clerk softly humming. Hotel personnel are engaged in their early morning tasks. Another hotel patron just whisked by for free coffee — the tear of a sugar packet reminds me of today’s other tour we are taking to Hershey, Pennsylvania. That’s why 50 more winks are needed.

The two elevators behind me ding as people step on and off, going up and down. I gaze at the fire before me. I don’t want to get up — I’m so comfortable I could close my eyes and rest for an hour.

An older businessman just walked into the carpeted area and stood in front of the fire for a moment while sighing loudly and taking a deep breath. He must be in his late 50s. As quickly as he came in, he left. I wonder what’s on his day’s schedule. Did that moment give him what he needed?

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day and the news reports that the airports are geared up and busy. I’m glad we made this trip by car.

I look up above the dark oak bookcases again and see two Civil War battle pictures hanging on the wall. The one to my left shows three bearded men in dark uniforms standing in front of a leaning tree. One of the men is pointing straight ahead in planning fashion. I can just imagine him saying “We need to position our men over there.”

The picture on the right is another painting of Civil War soldiers (troops, men?) and a General on horseback. In the middle of the scene a southern Confederate flag is proudly raised. The men are looking out of the picture towards me. I wonder what they’d say about it all today.

Tomorrow we will drive through Gettysburg and visit some of the famous battle sites. Being Thanksgiving day, everything else will be closed except the roads. We can always drive on the roads. I read through my self-guide tour book of the town last night and noted several battle places I wanted to see. One is the Wheatfield.

The haunted orphanage/soldier’s museum tour we went on last night was interesting and cold — but not scary. I’m sure the hype of hauntings through Gettysburg makes great tourism dollars. There is so much notorious history here.

I snuck away from our hotel room this morning and slipped into this cozy hotel lobby area to have some quiet reflective writing time. What a wonderful place to write from, the infamous Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. I am mesmerized by the fire and its warmth. In a few minutes I must get up for the Jenny Wade House tour.

The comforting spice smell in the air is so delightful. I am so thankful for this moment — these quiet moments in time — to be present and experience life fully in the now.

So many thousands of men lost their lives in battle in this town 143 years ago. I am not a supporter of the destructive nature of war, but the history is fascinating nonetheless. This town may or may not be haunted, but its history is certainly haunting. I am thankful for life. I am thankful for this moment where I can breathe and feel life pulsing through me. Across the street is a soldier's cemetery.

Another hotel patron is pouring coffee. Another elevator door opens. Another guest asks a question at the front registration desk. I breathe in one last deep breath of the spice-filled air and gaze again towards the warm fireplace. I have to get up now and start my day.

I just heard laughter in the air. A man is stirring sugar into his coffee. I say a quiet goodbye to the warm fire. This is life right here. •

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