History Repeats Itself, Costumes and All
Last weekend I spent time with my three-year old great-niece. Friday, she dressed as a princess. The next day she arrived at a family party in a clown costume with a fabric birthday cake perched atop her tow head. How happily she grabs a costume each day and enters the world of imagination. Costumes and make-believe aren’t just for children, and they aren’t just for Halloween. Serious make-believe makes for serious history.
Visit Colonial Williamsburg, and you are transported into one of the most exciting periods in American history. This 301-acre historic area recreates in authentic detail both the life and the spirit of 18th America: “The Colonial Williamsburg story of a revolutionary city tells how diverse peoples, having different and sometimes conflicting ambitions, evolved into a society that valued liberty and equality” (Source: Colonial Williamsburg official website).
|Williamsburg Cobbler Shop|
I didn’t fall in love with Williamsburg for its historical significance. I was 10 years old the first time I walked up The Duke of Gloucester Street and saw costumed people promenading, working in shops, tipping hats as they passed by. After we watched the cobbler pound heels on a worn leather boot, I begged my parents to go into the Post Office, which also housed the Printing Office and Book Bindery. I had a little money, so I bought hand-made stationery, a stamp and sealing wax. At Bruton Parish Church, I sat in a pew close to where Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry would worship while they were planning for Revolution. I knew I wanted to come back to Williamsburg, but not as a visitor. I wanted to BE one of those people who got to make-believe every day at Williamsburg.
I did go back to historic Virginia, this time on our cross-country motorhome trip. The experience lived up to my childhood memories, and I still imagined coming back someday as a volunteer, living a make-believe character I had created and researched myself. Of course, Megan and her brother don’t remember that trip, but I like to think a little bit of the fun of make-believe mixed with history rubbed off.
|Agoura Renaissance Festival|
Several years later, I took them to the Renaissance Festival in Apache Junction. I had spent several weeks combing the local thrift stores and sewing costumes for the four of us. It was no fun going without costumes, and it was more fun if we could dress as nobility. Years earlier, I had taken my students from a Shakespeare class to the Festival in Agoura, California and we learned the etiquette of social class. Dressed as a cook with wooden utensils hanging from my belt, I had been obliged to do a lot of bowing and kow-towing. In Apache Junction, let the peasants do that to us. Did we have fun? Absolutely. But, I was the only one in the family who was ready to trade in my day job for a career in costume.
|Marshall and Megan, dressed for the Faire|
Planning a trip, with or without kids? Thinking about hitting some of the big name, big bucks theme parks (D-Land, 6-Flags, etc.)? Try something a little different. Visit a living history museum instead. Walk the dirt compound of Old Jamestown. Stick your head into Iron-maker’s foundry at the Pioneer Arizona Living History Museum. Buy a newspaper at the Williamsburg Printer’s Shop on Duke of Gloucester Street. Just look for me. I’ll be the older gray-haired lady with the ink-stained fingers and the food stains on the bib of my blue gown.
Image: A recreation workshop on Duke of Gloucester Street in Colonial Williamsburg. Wikipedia.
Image: Main Stage at the Renaissance Pleasure Faire, Agoura, CA 1986. Wikipedia.
People Who Can't Control the Make-Believe
As we’ve established before, I have a very active imagination. When mixed with a certain amount of insecurity (the normal amount, I think), there sometimes results a weird sort of paranoia. For example, last night I noticed that my friend Kelly had mis-dated our year of graduation from college. I commented on it, implying she’d made a mistake, but for the 15 minutes it took for her to respond, I questioned our friendship.
Had she, I wondered, quietly failed a class without telling anyone? Had the college agreed to let her walk at graduation on the condition that she complete the missing credits over the summer? Had it taken longer than she planned and when they finally printed out her diploma it had 2005 instead of 2004? All of this did happened to our roommate who had some health problems, but we’d all known about it. Was that the reason Kelly didn’t have her college diploma hanging on the wall at her office? Was this a Kelly-conspiracy going back years and years? And if so, did it mean our friendship wasn’t as strong as I’d believed?
So, when she said it was a typo and quickly corrected it, I was relieved, but my rapid descent into over-imaginative paranoia still leaves me a bit suspicious. It was just so real.
But it doesn’t just work with insecurity. If you mix an active imagination with delusions of grandeur, suddenly a celebrity death becomes your big break. Last week, Elizabeth Taylor died and we experienced an unprecedented spike in visitors at The Daily Theme.
Before I say what happened, let me explain a little about our regular readers according to what the in-built (and inconsistent) Blogger statistics tell us. We have a core group of regular and devoted readers who most likely know either my mother or me in person. I know this because most visitors follow the links I post on Facebook (which makes them my real-life friends), or they search for us by name.
We have another group of visitors who probably only come once, but they all come for the same reason – they are looking to steal an essay. We get a lot of searches for “essay on making excuses” or “essay on childhood” or “Chinese bound feet.” My guess is these are high school kids, who quickly realize that the only essays worth stealing were written by my mother and she’s way above the high school level. Plus all she ever talks about is history, retirement and genealogy (I love you, mom).
But then Elizabeth Taylor died. Our numbers spike actually started the day before she died, so maybe there were some news articles about her children rushing to her side, because “Elizabeth Taylor’s children” became the only search term showing up in our stats. I was curious, so I searched our site for pictures or reference and found way back in our essays about chickens, mom had used those 3 words together when talking about one of her movies. The children referred to where the ones in the movie, not her real life kids. But no one knows that until after they click through the link, and suddenly The Curiosity of Chickens is our most popular post.
Instead of having some perspective that these new visitors were all gawkers, wanting to see pictures of Ms. Taylor’s grieving children, and who probably left our site frustrated by the chicken talk -- I thought this was our big break. These visitors would become regular readers, and then! agents and publishers would be calling! with book deals! and we would be famous! And out of gratitude, we would dedicate the book to all our loyal readers (like you!) and also to Elizabeth Taylor whose final act would have been to shed some light on our little corner of the Internet.
Cuz things like that happen all the time.
Anyway, the stats have settled back down now. But I still have the graph that proves it.