Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Because I Enjoy Torturing my Children.

So I dragged my three kids and husband and (much more willing) mom to a celebration of the Twelfth Night of Christmas at two local historical sites.

Because I enjoy torturing my children.

But come on... the publicity for the event promised games, period-correct food, reenactors, tours of the sites and live music.  It ran from 4-7pm, and I promised that if it was really awful, we'd stay for an hour and then leave.

So after de-Christmassing the house that morning (funny how I have so many wonderful memories of putting the Christmas tree up every year, but no warm, happy memories of taking it down. It's like every year it's a new experience. How do all these ornaments fit in this bin? How does the tree go back into the box again?  Where do we put all this stuff?) we all got ready and left for the UNENDINGLY long (according to my girls) 15 minute drive across the Hudson River to Crailo Historic site.

We had gone there over the summer without Michaela and I think everyone kind of enjoyed it in a way that was uncomfortable for them to admit... like, "Hey! That was fun, right?" and they answered quite hesitantly, "Yeah, it was ... good."  It was nice to show my mom around to the cool displays they have set up, and even the house itself is pretty fascinating.  It is all about the Dutch who came and settled here and gives a very different perspective than my usual English/Pilgrim historical haunts.

They did have music, but it was just one lady playing a pretty instrument I had never heard before, and some crafts that the kids enjoyed doing upstairs.

Alec in his Three Kings Hat

But the real excitement for me was going into the basement kitchen, where two women dressed in period clothing were cooking in the open hearth and had displays of holiday breads and cookies.  Because I eat that stuff up, both literally and figuratively.  I even took one of their cards which promoted their group: Scions of Patria: Recreating the everyday life of the Dutch in North America 1650-1675.  Because you know what a dork I am.  I was apparently so overwhelmed with dork-ness that I forgot to snap any pictures of this amazing sight.  But here are a few from when we went over the summer, just to give you an idea:

 That stone foundation and heavy wood ceiling beams are original, and they are massive.  You can breathe in the history in that space.

 Over the front door heading outside... I love decorations with citrus fruits.

Front of Crailo/ Van Rensselaer House

When we left, the sun was just going down over the river and the light was beautiful.  I am so connected to the Hudson River and when I see sights like this, I can never imagine living anywhere else. (And then late January storms come and drop a foot of snow with windchill in the negative numbers, and then I can't imagine why I stay here. It's all relative.)

Then we headed over back to our side of the River to go to Schuyler Mansion in Albany.  I am ashamed to say that I have lived here for 40 years and have never gone inside.

When we got out of our car and started walking towards the house, we were greeted with a bonfire and a man playing a fife.  I just about passed out with giddiness.  (No one else I was with appeared to be as lightheaded as I was with historical glee.)

 Now, Crailo was pretty low key... lots of visitors, nice food... but this event at Schuyler Mansion was a PARTY.  It was wall to wall people and the period music was cranking.  There were tons of people in period clothing, eating and drinking and playing games and giving tours.  I was breathless.

The dining room table in this room was set for a holiday feast.  It was gorgeous.  On the wall are portraits of the house owners: Catharine Van Rensselaer Schuyler and her husband, Philip Schuyler.  Catharine was from the family who lived in Crailo.  See the connection there?  The Schuylers were quite well-to-do and the house was magnificent and filled with history.  Alexander Hamilton got married in that very house.
 The grand staircase was decorated with live greenery.

Upstairs bedroom

 In the upstairs grand hallway, musicians were set up and playing. 
 Being there at night, it was amazing to imagine what the parties they hosted there were like.

 In the downstairs hallway, this huge table was set up with period correct food and drinks.  
It was gorgeous.

 In the front parlor room. I couldn't stop looking at the woodwork on the fireplace.

 Alec and Michaela watched the kids play Shut the Box, which is a game my mom brought home for them from Colonial Williamsburg last year.

 My kids don't look too tortured, do they? 

There were two little girls there, both wearing period dresses.  I talked to the older sister about her dress and she blew me away with her vocabulary and familiarity with clothing of the time.  I examined the hem and detail work on her dress and couldn't believe how beautifully done it was (Eleanor Roosevelt's dress was a poor, poor, poor cousin of this type of sewing).  I later found out that the girls' mom does costume work for a living, and that made me feel better.

Love this picture and the light and shadows.  

The other highly entertaining thing that happened while we were there was that a king or queen was chosen every half hour via random drawing.  Alec happened to draw the paper with the picture of the king on it, and when Michaela called attention to the crowd that he was the king, he promptly burst into tears.  So who stepped in but my handsome husband, who was then officially crowned King of the 6:30pm hour at the party.  He donned a crown and a red royal robe and had to walk around the round table in the picture and waved his royal hands and we all yelled, "Huzzah! Hail the king of the 6:30 hour!"  He was embarrassed but I think secretly enjoyed it.  I of course took pictures of it but will refrain from posting them.

For the next few weeks, he identified himself to me as "Daniel, King of the 6:30 hour!"

After awhile, the kids indicated to me that their interest in all things 1700's had waned and they were ready to go back to the 21st century.  So, we travelled back to modern times and had dinner at our local Chili's.  And they breathed a sigh a relief.  The torture was over.

I, on the other hand, enjoyed every minute.  I have poked around online and found some groups about historical reenactors and the clothing they wear.  I have also discovered that a living history museum in Western-ish NY is doing a three day commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War in July, complete with two battles a day!  Tons of reenactors! Games! Food! Activities! History, history, history!

I am planning my scheme to torture them some more.  Bwah-ha-ha-ha-ha!!


Anonymous said...

Your description is totally accurate! What fun it was to be there and see history come alive AND hail King Daniel! Love, Gammie

Anonymous said...

AH HA! Sounds like it's time for a trip to Williamsburg! We can always throw in a day at Busch Gardens if the "torture" gets too intense! Love, LW

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