This weekend is my wedding anniversary, so I suppose I should be writing about that, but earlier this week I had a dream where I was telling someone about my first Pennsic War, and I feel the need to write about it.
The Great Pennsic War is a very large SCA event which happens annually in Pennsylvania (Thus the “Penn” in the name.) I found the SCA my freshman year of college, thanks to JenBo, who lived a few doors down from me in our dorm and who enthusiastically recruited me.
That summer, between my freshman and sophomore years of college, we decided to attend Pennsic! JenBo, Lynda and I. It was to be my first REAL SCA Event (our college group had had a little feast thing in the spring.) We had a tent. I scurried to come up with something to wear. JenBo took me to a thrift store shopping. I bought a pink prom dress which I altered by taking out the zipper and putting in metal grommets for lacing, pounding them home on JenBo’s porch stoop. Ah, silly me! I also had a white 1970s romantic dress with puffed sleeves and lace (it also zipped up the back). And my first sewn garb; a black broadcloth tunic and blue polyester drawstring skirt to go with it. We had gone to the closest fabric shop to campus, which was in Amish country. Lots of choices of blue and black. The neckline was too big, the sleeves too wide, I pinched and stitched the waist in a couple spots to try to give it some shape, and it was entirely hand sewn, of course, as I had no sewing machine or access to borrow one.
JenBo and Lynda showed up at our house in Perry to pick me up. My meager offerings were added to the spacious trunk of Lynda’s car (or was it JenBo’s car?). I remember I brought a frying pan, this becomes significant later. I had almost no money beyond the entry fee.
We got to the War, and I signed up to be a full member of the SCA right there at the gate (You got a discount on the entry fee!) It was Pennsic War 22. August, 1993. It was hot. I didn’t have a hat or sunscreen that I remember. I had a summer sausage and a chunk of cheese and a frying pan. We had a green tent, similar to the sort I remembered camping in in my youth. I had made a sign for it on poster-board with our SCA names. JenBo was Tatziana Yuriovna, Lynda was Gwyneth Falconne and I decided to use Margaret… I knew it was a medieval name (thanks to the Medieval history class I had just taken last semester!) and it had the benefit of being my middle name already. We attached our poster to the side of the tent facing the road so everyone would know we were there. 🙂 (The poster-board poster did prove impractical, it fell down, got rained on and generally did not last, but I was terribly proud of it for its short life!)
There were a few others camping with us from our small college SCA group, including our seneschal Konrad Fuchs, who was also a fighter. (We were so excited when he went off to battle, we ran around camp to find something to tie to him as a favor, poor lad walked off with ribbons streaming behind, heh.) I remember finding all sorts of classes to take, learning to belly dance in our camp from one of the other ladies who had taken a belly dance class. A passing man on the road gave us each a bangle bracelet. (I still have it, by the way, a simple thin bangle, not expensive, but it was a big deal to me at the time!) I went to the Barn nearly every night to join the dancing.
Our seneschal said we should all try to volunteer, so I went to water bear for the Wood’s battle. When I got there, they said they had enough people on the Midrealm side, and sent me over to the East. I was so eager to please and do a good job; I remember jumping up and rushing forward whenever the hot fighters came out of the woods. I was probably frickin’ adorable. Two Eastern ladies who had been water bearing with me decided to adopt me. They were from Clan Ochoda, an Eastern household. They marched me back to my camp to collect my things, telling my friends I was now Eastern property. It was all very amusing. Our seneschal said they could have me, but the dress I was wearing belonged to the Midrealm! ha. Much laughter was had.
The Clan Ochoda ladies said I was now Pillage (They discussed other names, Booty was rejected as people may want to ‘shake the booty’) apparently they had kidnapped a young lady the last year who had a similar name. Anyway, it was all good fun. They set me up with a spare pup tent and lent me a cloak and fed me and generally treated me well.
I checked in with my camp the next day and Lynda said she was going to run home to shower and wash clothes. It seemed a great idea so I joined her. Lynda lived in Ashtabula, not a long drive. Unfortunately, we had a car accident on the way back to site, a fellow ran a red light in front of us. Lynda’s car had a bench seat in the front, and she is considerably taller than me, so her knees were smashed into the dash, and mine only got bruised (though the red paint of the dashboard got onto my white dress making me think for a moment that I was bleeding!) While we waited on the street corner, there in who-knows Youngstown, a random lady asked me if I was in a cult. I had to laugh! The police arrived and we were wisked off to the local hospital to be checked out. My collarbone was x-rayed. The police officer noted that he always knew when people actually were wearing their seatbelts by the bruised collarbones. We ended up back at Lynda’s house and somehow JenBo was contacted (not easy in those days prior to cell phones!) to pack up the rest of the belongings and transportation was arranged. I know JenBo had a car too, maybe they both drove down? Anyway, I was sad I didn’t get to go to court and wear my fancy pink dress. Also, my dad’s frying pan was never recovered. (He was quite irked by that!) I did not know the value of a good cast iron skillet. Mea culpa.
However, that Pennsic lives in my mind as a happy time. I have to think part of it was just being 19, on my own, and… feeling valued. Wanted. Accepted. I was impressed by everything, everyone was so cool and smart! I was hooked. Sadly, our seneschal did not come back to college the next semester and so the little group almost fell apart (I took over as the seneschal, desperate to keep it going!)
I regaled my sister Marie with tales of how awesome Pennsic was and dragged her back with me as soon as I could; her first Pennsic was even less well planned than mine, we had no where to camp and no tent! ha! Anyway, I did try to re-connect with the Clan Ochoda ladies, but it was awkward and the magic of that first Pennsic was gone.