Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Twilight's Last Gleaming: His Version

We’d lived in Baltimore three years without having visited Fort McHenry, one of the city’s most historic sites, and one of the places where Baltimore turned the British back during the War of 1812. So when good friends visited last month, we suggested a trip.

It was a warm day, hot when the wind quieted, and we all wore hats and carried water bottles, wondering as we entered the visitors center whether anyone inside would enforce the “no drinks” sign posted at the door. Not at all. The ranger, an elegant man with old world manners, directed us to the counter to answer our questions and take our money.

As Sheri wrote in her most recent post, “Politely, the ranger … asked whether any of us had an America the Beautiful senior pass, or whether we would like to purchase one for $10.” We asked for details, and he allowed as how the holder of such a pass would gain free access along with up to three guests to any national park in the country.

It’s almost as if that’s the only thing I heard. I love the national parks, and Sheri and I have enjoyed some of our finest times in them: watching wild horses at Theodore Roosevelt in North Dakota, hiking in Acadia in Maine, Glacier, Yellowstone … The idea of getting into all these places for free with my wife seemed to me a great gift, a reason to be happy with my government and country, and to cheer. I did cheer ­– a whoop or holler befitting a fort where soldiers endured a British bombardment and sent the King’s men on their way. Free admission! Great news!

We’re on the same side, Sheri and I. Yet at Fort McHenry, even though we won, we suffered a casualty. Now and then, I forget Sheri’s older. She makes it easy to do.

So as I whooped, she reached into her wallet for her driver’s license, and she glanced at me as she handed proof of her age to the ranger, her smile tight and false.

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