Wednesday, June 11, 2014

charlie's puffy shirt and ostrich plume

This past November, we took the children to Colonial Williamsburg.  I know I eluded to our trip in subsequent posts, but I don't think I ever shared pictures of our visit, nor the outcome of that fantastic adventure that took us back in time to the late 1700's.


I was prompted, tonight, to write about our trip from seven months ago, because my immensely talented friend, Holly, shared pictures on her blog, of the adorable colonial outfit that she made - with her own two hands - for her daughter.

(Remember that, please, because it'll be important later in this story.)


So we took off for Colonial Williamsburg to celebrate Charlie's birthday, while enjoying autumn in a beautiful area that is vintage 18th century.  It's hard to say who was more excited about our visit, me or the children.  I'm a huge American history buff and was so swept up in being there, I had to make sure that we had the full-on colonial-experience.

To that end, we put the children in the stockade... and went out for a romantic candlelit dinner.

(Just kidding!)


We watched the Red Coats advance across the green...


We went for a ride on a horse drawn carriage ...


We visited the 18th century apothecary and thought of my father ...


We visited the 18th century jeweler and thought of my brother-in-law, Michael ...


And we visited the 18th century milliner and thought of my mother's mom, Margaret...


We followed the militia down the streets...


We watched a re-enactment of slaves who were desperate for their freedom...


And we participated in a re-enactment with colonists who were rallying to rise up against the British. This man in particular was so convincing, "Liberty or Death!"


We visited a colonial-era farm and watched how people plowed the fields, built the homes, grew the gardens, churned the butter, made the candles, and smoked the beef.


We observed young men playing flutes and drums...


We saw little children, the same age as our children, wearing colonial garb...


And we never would have been reminded that we were in the 21st century, if not for the colonial dressed mothers .... holding their iPhones and live-streaming their experiences to the internet.

(I would later learn these people were there for a party and had rented their costumes.)


I'm sure I've mentioned before that our children have vivid imaginations and love to play dress-up. So after day three of being in the middle of Colonial America, surrounded by people who were playing the part - our children were begging me to buy them a costume.  Begging might not be a strong enough word.  Especially from this one, my most wonderfully imaginative child...


While I'd entertained the thought of buying them each an article of clothing, I reconsidered when I saw the price tags. For the price of one pair of genuine "colonial knickers" for the boys - I could have bought them 10 pairs of pants.  But the children, being children, continued to beg and plead, and all these unusual "signs" started happening.  Actually, just one sign.  It happened when I silently asked the Universe whether or not I should buy the kids colonial clothes ("If it's meant to be, the oxen will do something unusual, and just like that - one stuck out it's tongue. I'm fairly confident this means YES, BUY THE CHILDREN A PAIR OF KNICKERS.)


Then I started thinking about how next year, when the triplets are in fourth grade, they'll celebrate Colonial Day at school, so *if* I were to purchase them clothing - it would be very well used because I know they'd wear it to play dress-up, and they'd have it for school, next year.


And then I was thinking how we were celebrating Charlie's birthday and he'll never turn 47, again. I thought how life is short and what good is money if you don't use some of it to buy original colonial clothing for your awesome husband and children? And how totally fantastic would it be if the whole family matched? AM I RIGHT?

Of course it would be even more fantastic if I was a gifted seamstress like my friend, Holly, but I'm not, so I confided to the children I was geeking out and would buy their father an outfit, SHHH IT'S A SECRET, but I'd also buy them something, and they literally burst in to song.



While Charlie went hunting for 21st century coffee, we snuck down to see the tailor...


And I came to realize that the reason everything was so expensive, is because everything is hand-made.  


But I'd made the decision I was making a purchase, that in the end would be nearly the equivalent of a mortgage payment, so there was no looking back.  I picked out knickers, waistcoats, trifold hats, and socks for the boys. Oh, and toy rifles.


And I picked out dresses, bonnets, sashes and undershirts for the girls.


Then I picked out the full ensemble for Charlie.  The knickers, socks, waistcoat, puffy shirt, George Washington style trifold hat with a 18-inch ostrich plume.   I wish I had a better picture to show, but recently, I inadvertently deleted more than 250 pictures from one of my cameras that I'd snapped off from December through February.


Last but not least, I bought the full ensemble for me. The petticoat, sash, apron and bonnet.  Sorry, there's no picture of that. It seems I'm always behind the camera, never in front of it.

Charlie was stunned, shocked, dumbfounded that we bought him genuine colonial clothing. And then being the fantastic sport that he is, he wasted no time getting changed.  Once we were all dressed, we walked as a family around Colonial Williamsburg and we couldn't go 10 feet without people stopping us and asking if we could please pose with (and without) them in photos.  So although I don't have a picture of our entire family available for my blog, I'm sure there are a few of them out there on Facebook or elsewhere on the internet, somewhere.

Now because of the huge expense to purchase these clothes, and the fact our children are growing like weeds, we've tried to seize opportunities to wear our colonial garb.  For example, we wore them at Thanksgiving...


And we wore them when we had friends over for a Gingerbread House building party.


We wore them around our neighborhood to deliver our annual apple crisps for the holidays.  As we were walking up one neighbor's walk way, their grown son was walking down and he said, "Wow, that's quite the costume."  I happily replied, "THANKS!" until Charlie whispered, "He didn't say it was a NICE costume. He just commented that it was one."

All the while, I've watched the children's imaginations TAKE FLIGHT as they try to re-enact life from nearly 250 years ago. Here's Elizabeth pretending that she's washing clothes and hanging them on the line to dry, while her brother was fetching water from the creek.


When the girls had their annual Father-Daughter Dance in January, I thought HOW WONDERFUL of an opportunity for them to wear their colonial clothes!  Carolyn and Charlie agreed that it would indeed be a WONDERFUL OPPORTUNITY, but Elizabeth vehemently shook her head and said, "No Way Jose, there is absolutely NO WAY I am going out to a dance with all my friends wearing that get-up."  I tried to convince her, I really did, but she wouldn't have any of it.  In the end, Charlie and Carolyn wound up wearing their colonial clothes, while Elizabeth wore a snazzy black sequined dress.

(Again, SO disappointed I don't have photos to share since these too were inadvertently deleted. I might have to have them recreate the scene so I can take a picture for posterity.)

Charlie and the girls took off for their date and within 30 seconds of them arriving at the dance, my husband called me at the house, frantically.  "Jen, this was a BAD idea.  Oh my gosh, I feel so out of place. I've never felt so out of place in my LIFE. All of the men here are dressed in tuxedos, fine suits, or are wearing their full military uniforms and I come in dressed like GEORGE WASHINGTON.  The women at the front curled their noses and were eyeballing me from head to toe and now Carolyn, who looks like she should be churning butter, is so horrified she is cowering behind me. We're driving home RIGHT NOW and getting changed."

I was disappointed and told my husband that he needed to EMBRACE the awesomeness of the past, but I think we were accidentally "disconnected" because all I heard in response to my plea was a dial-tone.  Within 15 minutes of them leaving the house the first time, Charlie and Carolyn returned home, changed in to more modern clothes, and went back to the dance where a great time was had by all.

Fast forward five months.

A few weeks ago, we were at a Cub Scout event and some man that I don't even know, but who apparently has a daughter that is in Girl Scouts with our daughters, approached me and said, "I've been wanting to meet you." I gave him a curious look until he added, "My daughter is in Girl Scouts and I was at the Father-Daughter Dance with your husband this year."  I replied, "Oh, that's nice. Did you have fun?" And he said, "Yes, I had a great time. But I have to ask, your husband is such a nice man - how could you have EVER let him go out of the house dressed like that? Why in the world did you set that poor man up?!"

Well, I never!

Me? Set up Charlie?! I was taken aback by his question.  So I told him that it was partially Charlie's idea (even if it was a very small portion ... like maybe 0.005%) and next year, I'm going to encourage Charlie to wear the colonial clothes again, because we really need to get our money's worth out of them and the kids are growing like weeds.  I'll try to go to the dance, too, and of course I'll be sporting my colonial clothes with PRIDE. I'm sure we'll start a whole new trend!  Although next year, my suggestion is that Charlie also bring his sword so that if anyone gives him trouble or looks at him sideways, he can whip it out of its sheath and with a swish through the air exclaim, "HOW DARE YOU SMITE ME! OFF WITH YOUR HEAD!"

Yes, I'm sure our girls would just love that.