Monday, May 31, 2010

This is the day we stop and remember this thing

I always feel vaguely guilty about having national holidays off, when the historic area is open three hundred and sixty five days a year, so my interpreter friends are out there regardless. I was determined to make the most of my time off.

This morning I participated in a Memorial Day parade, honoring the fallen war dead who are buried throughout Williamsburg. As we lined up near the Palace, the temperature was hovering around ninety...I can't complain though, I wasn't wearing a woolen Continental uniform, nor carrying a musket with a fixed bayonet. (the muskets we carry are about twelve pounds unbayonetted, about fourteen with) After laying a wreath at the Palace, to honor the Continental soldiers buried in the garden--Washington used the empty building as a hospital--we marched down the Palace Green to Bruton Parish Church, where more soldiers are buried. Three volleys there, and then the long march to the French cemetery, a tiny, out of the way, peaceful plot of land where some of Rochambeau's men were laid to rest. Far, far from home, probably not understanding exactly why the King of France would take the side of some upstart colonial rebels, but loyally here doing their duty. We had a good turnout--a large amount of guests who were attentively solemn, some who were more interested in getting a picture with the militia, a few locals who skirted the crowd with their dogs, and one idiot jogger who ran straight through the rope barricade, missing the yells of "you can't go there, there's live firing!" due to an iPod firmly screwed into his ears.

I sweated straight through my linen shirt and hunt frock. When I got home, I looked like I had jumped into a pool fully clothed. I had lunch, started some laundry and began packing. You see, loyal readers, I am going to be moving in with Jeff, so once again I find myself putting my life into boxes in preparation for another jump. Most of the books I have with me were lovingly packed before I went to London. The boxes still have "Books!" written on them with little hearts around the word--I have kept them, flattened and tucked behind my dresser for two years. They won't all fit into the three boxes I brought now. "Nelson and Napoleon" was bought as a present to myself for getting an apartment, and it sits weighty on the bottom of one box that contains all my maritime and English history books. A bag of winter clothes and a serious debate about whether or not to get rid of some of these sweaters. I love these sweaters. But I don't wear them, winter being so short in Virginia. A small pile of things to be got rid of or given back to their rightful owners. I think to myself that I must be in America for good...I would never have let my possessions get so out of control, so permeated throughout this apartment otherwise.

Then the grocery store. A friend has told me her husband went to the emergency room, and they are waiting on test results. Her family, his family, a sister, all are coming to help out with the kids, with the emergency, there's nothing I can do to help but pray, but Midwestern genes dictate I must make a casserole. I have never done this sort of thing before, so I fall back weakly on a Betty Crocker recipe for macaroni and cheese. I add a lot of cheese.

Folding clothes, walking the dog. I am hurrying to get everything finished by four so I can take a nap before working the evening program. The march through the historical area has taken it out of me, and I am fighting off a weird headache. I succumb to the joys of high thread count sheets and the AC blowing directly on me. A fan wafts beagle farts into my face as Kismet joins me in a nap.

Then, getting dressed again, this time in girl clothes. I must wear stays to fit into my gown, but it's not the stays that are hot tonight, it's the linen petticoat and gown skirt. They absorb the humidity in the air and stick to my legs, I feel like I'm wearing wool. Not much I can do, except pin my kerchief loosely, slightly immodestly, around my neck. I carry the mac n' cheese to work with me, cleverly hidden in an extra piece of fabric as a disguise. My friend and her family live next door to the Randolph House, where I work. At the break, an older man is sitting on their porch...I go up and introduce myself--he is the father in law of the sick husband, and he tells me that it's cancer. What the next step will be they're not sure yet. I lamely push my mac 'n cheese on him, answer a guest's question about the gardens behind the Randolph and then walk over to the office where the ghost tour leaders meet, to tell another employee what's going on. She hopes he's not at a certain hospital. I tell her he is. She starts telling me horror stories about her husband's experience there. I let her run on, then make sure she's okay and pat her hand before I leave.

As I'm walking back to the house, a little boy comes up behind me, crying. Sometimes they do this, the kids, they are having hissy fits or they are overtired. But he is overwhelmed with tears and looking frightened. I stop him and ask if he's okay. "Nnno," he says, hiccoughing, "I'm lost." So I take his hand and we go back to the office where I hand him over to one of the counter people. Luckily the little boy knows his mom's cell phone number. And, at the end of the night when I call my manager to let him know I'm leaving, he tells me the boy found his parents.

On the way home I stop for ice cream. I want a peanut buster parfait from Dairy Queen, but I will settle for a hot fudge sundae with peanuts. Rita's--the frozen custard stand on the way home--does not have peanuts. But I do not learn this until after the nice man behind the counter has triumphantly presented me with a scoop of vanilla custard slathered with hot fudge. I am disappointed. But I eat it anyway. It tastes cool.

My roommate has turned the AC off. I suspect she's had her window open all day--she is constantly cold--but by now it's cooled down enough that the fan will be enough for tonight. Tomorrow is a Tuesday--traditionally the slowest day of the week--but I feel rested knowing how much I have accomplished today. A hot day, a long day, a day for remembering and a day for doing.

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