Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veteran's Day

I didn't ask for today off, but I got it anyway, because Veteran's Day is a federal holiday. So I'm sitting at home, feeling weird for taking advantage of a holiday that I did nothing to earn--but of course, I take advantage of rights that I didn't earn every day. Rights that were won for me by countless generations of veterans.

So thanks, vets. For everything you've done for America, I salute and honor you.

One of the things I did accomplish today was the first step in bayberry candle making. I had picked about a pound of bayberries (that took over an houhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifr) and I'm hoping to get about four ounces of wax. Which will be enough to scent some candles, but I'll have to supplement it with beeswax or something. I felt slightly giddy when I was straining the boiled berries and my hands came away covered in wax...I mean, I knew in theory this was supposed to work, but hey--it actually does!

I'm glad that I got to sleep in today, because last night was my first night on the Ghosts Amongst Us storytelling tour. I was a little, okay a lot, nervous about performing...firstly because I haven't done it in so long, secondly because the places where the stories are performed are actually, honestly haunted. (Oh, and thirdly, because I was going to be wearing stays for four hours and can I just say that they are the devil's own creation?! People will ask me why I like to cross dress in the eighteenth century and then laugh when I tell them I don't like stays, but I am being completely serious.) When I got to the historical area, however, I discovered that I was going to be performing in the Wythe South Office. George Wythe was a lawyer, teacher and mentor to Thomas Jefferson and his house still stands in CW. It is haunted. Next door is the south office, a small, one room building.

Normally there are three people involved at each site: a storyteller, an attendant, who sits outside and warns the storyteller when people are approaching, and a tour guide, who takes people around from site to site. But when I got to the south office, there was no one there. When I opened the door, my heart sank. I had been expecting to perform in a house, so that I could exit dramatically from the room at the end of my story, but here there was only one small room with a large fireplace, two tables with burning candles, an uneven brick floor and a few small windows. Oh, and a staircase leading up to a second story--not a proper staircase, but a narrow eighteenth century affair with a tricky turn after three steps.

Ooookay. There was nothing for it--I was going to have to make my dramatic exit up this staircase. But there was another problem: no lights upstairs. CW can be pretty casual about authenticity sometimes (machine stitched hems, anyone?) but other times they are spot on. And some buildings are wired for electric lights, some...are not. The south office is not. Happily I found an extra lantern, lit a candle off one of the ones burning downstairs and set it on a wooden box up in the attic so I could see somewhat. Then I practised hiking my skirts and making a dash up the stairs, trying not to kill myself in my eighteenth century shoes in the process. It wasn't easy, but I got through it, although I daresay I showed more ankle than was strictly proper.

Telling the story itself was the easy part. The first two groups were school groups, scrawny twelve year olds who thought they were too cool for ghost stories, but I quickly had them shaking and paying very close attention. The most awkward group included the man who kept smiling and nodding as though he were saying "you're doing good, keep going!" when my story doesn't exactly call for smiling.

Overall, I had a lot of fun. Now I know why everyone brings knitting though...sitting upstairs, waiting for the next group to come through, I had nothing to occupy me, so I resorted to singing. Eighteenth century British naval songs, so not exactly correct, but at least they were of the time period. I had a lot of fun, especially when we got our break and could hang out with some hot cocoa--in addition to not having lights, the south office also has no modern heat. The Wythe house may be haunted, but it also has a damme nice breakroom, complete with sofas and back issues of "People." I'm on the schedule again for Friday, and I'm looking forward to it...now that I've got my feet wet, I'm much less nervous. Although, maybe next time I'll be in a haunted house and have OTHER stories to tell.

1 comment:

Laura said...

Congratulations on telling your story!I wish I was there to see it, and bring you flowers. do you have to make a dramatic exit after your story or could you bring a random blanket or a shall and wrap yourself into it and gaze into the fire?
I'm so far behind in my knitting now that I don't have a computer where I can watch TV. I'll never finish that scarf before December now.