Saturday, July 5, 2008

Williamsburg on the Fourth

Yesterday, on a whim, we decided to drive to Williamsburg to celebrate the Fourth of July--Williamsburg being the former capital(after Jamestown) of the Virginia colony and a hotbed of the American revolution. The traffic was horrid on the freeway, so we left that main drag to take the country back roads. Don't know why we ever bother with the freeway anyway.

On the back roads we were privileged to see families setting up for their picnics, houses tucked into the thick woods, woodchucks, deer --and all that the back roads offer. So comfortably American.

In Williamsburg we walked the main street--a street planned after the great fire of London, so it is wide to form a fire break, and long--set out purposefully to bridge the mental space between the Colonial juridical powers at one end, and the intellectual seat of power, the College of William and Mary at the other end. The colonial church, Bruton Parish is halfway inbetween, with another broad road which leads to the Governor's Palace. This is the Gov's Palace.

Now, mind you, since most folks (black and white--the overwhelming majority) lived in little dwelling places with hard-packed dirt floors that were about 600 square feet of living space, perhaps with a loft, this was truly a palace. So, this place was fitting for a Vice-Roy, --a person whose presence held the full-force of the King.

The gates emphasized this presence.



Interestingly, these same royal standards were a required presence in all the churches too.

Mr. Witty loves Williamsburg. He pities the big dogs that are hitched to the wagons and carts, and refuses to bark or even look at them. He bears with the fawning and doting people who are convinced that they are going to be his new best friend. And he puts all the squirrells in their proper places --up a tree.

Of great interest to me are the kitchens in these old places--the big houses anyway. Because of the heat and danger (chimney fires, --and the second most common cause of death among women was death by fire because they worked in such close proximity to the open hearth in garments with lots of fabric....), most of the kitchens were separate from the homes.

So, I visited the kitchen at the Governor's Palace, and they were fixing a common dinner of roast goose, lamb's head, and cinnamon chocolate-filled cake. The tourist children were fascinated by the lamb's head, as was I ---herbs stuck in the mouth and cooked whole--brains and tongue and all. The children refused to think of eating such things, but the cook told them that hotdogs contained much the same types of meat.

Needless to say, I only ate ice cream for dinner.

We listened to a speech by the Marquis de Lafeyette--in person of course. Mr. Witty became very bored with the fake French accent and the cheers whenever the Marquis said something patriotic.

We left Williamsburg before the fife and drum corp did their thing (the shrill sound of the fifes and the loud syncopation of the drums terrifies Mr. Witty) and way before the fireworks (which terrify me). Just as well, as huge storms began to sweep in and dump rain like crazy and fill the sky with lightening and thunder and wind.

I do wonder, though, what the little people who lived in the dirt-floor places thought as the plots of war unfolded. Were they convinced? Did it matter to them who was in charge? Or for whom they had to unfold their oaths of loyalty? Or who used their labor at no real benefit to themselves.... just survive, survive, survive and, God willing, a little joy to keep them going and hope that their children will survive.....

I just wonder.

5 comments:

BooCat said...

When it comes to the little people and what they think or might be thinking, I always think of Morning Prayer, Suffrages A: "V. Let not the needy, O Lord, be forgotten; R. Nor the hope of the poor be taken away."
Our former Rector, Fr. Fields, used to remind us that this prayer was not necessarily only for the benefit of the needy. If those on the lower end become so downtrodden that they have little or nothing to lose, they become the very stuff of which rebellion is made. Those who dwell in the lofty heights should make sure the needs of the poor are seen about, and if they can't do it out of Christian duty, they should consider it self-preservation. Perhaps the Crowned Head and his representatives forgot that in their dealing with the colonies. Perhaps the powers that be in our own country should also pay greater heed

BooCat said...

Sorry about removing the post the first time. I saw a big honking typo just as I hit "Publish."

it's margaret said...

Amen Boocat. And when we pray for the poor in the Prayers of the People, when we pray for the poor --I always include (sometimes silently, sometimes aloud) a prayer for the rich.... we're all in this together. Woe to us if we forget that!

Padre Mickey said...

I'm having lamb tonight, but the meat is from the leg. Of all of the parts of the lamb to eat, the head has never been on my list!

I saw a (frozen) goose for sale at el Supermercado last week for $55.00. I've never had goose, and at those prices I probably never will.

Thanks for sharing Mr. Witty's adventure with us.

it's margaret said...

I am with you padre --probably won't ever eat the lamb's head, and I've never eaten a goose, probably never will.

now leg or rib of lamb --I'm in line! Yum!

Now, Mr. Witty --he would eat anything....betcha.