All my life, I’ve wanted to live in a castle or a house with a name. Well, this summer, I’ve accomplished both. My life in CW has been remarkable, unexpected, unforgettable and crazy-insane cool. Seriously. I don’t know if I’ve changed all that much, but I’ve certainly discovered new things about myself.
First, I’m unafraid to ask, be it for directions or help or what it’s actually like to be an interpreter. I kind of already knew this, but it was nice to confirm it. Second, I am entirely capable of amusing myself without the help of others. Thanks to a copious amount of nail polish, the Williamsburg Regional Library, the programs of CW and yoga, I never had a dull evening. Thirdly, I don’t like microwave couscous. This actually did surprise me. I never thought I’d hate something I made in the microwave. But I really despised this couscous. Although I discovered I can eat raw broccoli if I have no choice. Fourth, I can do laundry without the help of a washing machine. It’s a pretty good skill, if I do say so myself. Fifth, no matter how much I claim to hate change, I can deal with it. The thrill of seeing people in 18th century clothing in the grocery store is much better than the comforts of what is familiar. I’m just as comfortable in my own skin alone as I am surrounded by my family or my friends. I can (and will) survive when I feel like the time-traveling Connecticut Yankee Mark Twain wrote about, and if I can live in the 18th century, I can live in the 21st.
When July rolled around, the words of the Decemberists’ song “July, July!” popped into my head. To quote: “There is a road that meets the road/That goes to my house /And how the green grows there/And we’ve got special boots/To beat the path to my house/And it’s careful and it’s careful when I’m there […] July, July, July/It never seemed so strange”. My July? So strange and yet so normal, just like my June. After a week in Williamsburg, it felt like I had never been anywhere else, nor was I ever going to leave. And now that I’ve left, my July feels even stranger. Even my most memorable summers have had a lovely sameness to them—sleeping, reading on the porch, taking a family trip, spending as much time as possible outside. This summer has had many of those elements, but the change of location and everything I’ve learned and seen has made my summer infinitely richer.
To summarize, I’ve compiled a list. Living in Colonial Disneyburg definitely has its perks.
Top Seven Things To Know About Living in a Tourist Attraction
1. You might live next door to a celebrity.
I basically lived in Thomas Jefferson’s backyard. And everyone wants to meet Thomas Jefferson. If Colonial Williamsburg is like Disneyland, then Thomas Jefferson is Mickey Mouse. Everyone wants to see Mickey Mouse. The Mouse rules the house. It’s the highlight of the trip. Same here. When Thomas Jefferson makes an appearance, the crowds are bigger. And louder. Because Thomas Jefferson is amazing. He’s kind of like the stepfather of our country, and he’s surely one of the Fathers of American Independence. Also, Williamsburg is Jefferson’s playground. So, therefore, to be in the presence of Jefferson is to be in the presence of knowledge and fun. And living in a kitchenless laundry is totally worth it.
2. Your neighbors may think it’s 1769.
This is just a hazard of the life. I once had a conversation with a slave named Juba who informed me that (1) He had just repaired a bucket, (2) the Declaration of Independence isn’t going to do squat for slavery and (3) that the Raleigh Tavern is the place to go to get the news. So with neighbors like these, I was always up on current events. Actually, throughout my entire time in Williamsburg, I completely lost track of the real world. I have no idea who won the World Cup, I missed the fact that Amanda Bynes is retiring from acting, and now I’m hearing a bunch of stuff about Russian spies just when I was starting to believe that the Cold War might actually be over. But this complete absence of real life was actually sort of liberating. I got to focus on history, the one thing that doesn’t undergo a daily change. I learned so much, simply because the people around me recited the Declaration of Independence every other day. Such is the delight of living in the country’s largest outdoor museum.
3. Following the mob is a good thing.
It’s common knowledge around CW that if you follow the mob, you’ll find something interesting. Maybe you’ll get to meet Martha Washington. Or you’ll discover a man playing the bagpipes. Perhaps the British will have taken the town for the weekend. Normally, I’m a “march to the beat of your own drum” kind of gal, but following the crowd is never more interesting or fun when you’re in CW. In this town, forget all the Thoreau you knew and live by the whims of the mob. You never know what you’re going to find.
4. The junk mail people will still find you.
I live at a temporary address that was longer than my full name. It’s in the middle of (duh) a major tourist attraction. And yet, Domino’s still wants to give me pizza coupons and the AARP wants to join. I noticed that my other neighbors seemed to receive these flimsy reminders of a consumerist life weekly as well. Even as I was trying to live a life bereft of the internet, real food and Wal-Mart, the destroyer of small businesses everywhere, the real world keeps dragging me back. So much for living the colonial life.
5. People do yardwork for you…at 7pm.
I’ve never been one to voluntarily cut grass or rake leaves, except as a part of a service project. And I wouldn’t have really done it in CW unless required by my lease. I’m just saying. But let me tell you, it’s a real treat to wake up in the morning and have to coordinate your breakfast and getting dressed without being seen from the windows. My house was in a pretty high tourist-traffic area, so having it look nice was a must. Also, if I wanted to have a garden or potted plants or window boxes, they had to be period appropriate. And since all my plants would probably die from neglect anyway, it wouldn’t be worth the effort. Normally, I’m all about being period appropriate, but I really appreciated the John Deere lawn mowers cutting my grass every Tuesday morning.
6. Sometimes your favorite heroes of fiction get their origins from your favorite heroes of history.
Every week, Patrick Henry would hold a public audience in my backyard. Let me tell you: the man can project. So I heard his speech many times and it ingrained itself in my brain. The main points: men should strive to achieve things that are important to them, God is behind us, and “the battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave.” Actually, I once heard him use the phrase “constant vigilance”. Yes, that’s right. Patrick Henry and Mad-Eye Moody may be the same person. George Washington looks like Bill Murray. Not even kidding. Our founding fathers are with us even in the present day…even if they are deranged aurors and renowned for a sketch involving cheeseburgers.
7. The secret to having the time of your life? Embracing the moment.
This one has more to do with things learned from living in a tourist attraction. But I’ve seen “Dirty Dancing”, and know that having the time of your life doesn’t necessarily have to involve Patrick Swayze and avoiding corners. But taking yourself out of the corner and into the spotlight of an once-in-a-lifetime experience is even more incredible than previously imagined. Like Marty McFly, I’ve been to the past in a car and as cheesy as it sounds, I know my life will never be the same.
Skipping all the roads,
“It’s a magical world, Hobbes, ol’ buddy…Let’s go exploring!” –Calvin, “Calvin and Hobbes”