“Why don’t we just go up there and say, ‘This was our last weekend together, and we didn’t feel like going to Fort Sumter and touring goddamn colonial homes. We wanted to go to the beach and meet boys and go to wild parties and dance’? I mean why can’t we tell them the truth?” –Carson, from the movie Shag
I never tour a colonial home that I don’t think of that immortal line from Shag (the greatest slumber party movie of all time). Of course, like any other fun loving Southern former sorority girl, I make it a point never to miss an opportunity to go to the beach and meet boys and go to wild parties and dance. Unlike Carson, I’ve never considered those activities mutually exclusive with touring colonial homes.
I was the kind of child who enjoyed that sort of thing, and I still do. Colonial Williamsburg is my Las Vegas, and I love the party atmosphere in New Orleans almost as I love the French Empire antiques on Royal Street. Wandering through M.S. Rau or Ida Manheim, and then picking up a Hurricane in a go-cup is pretty much my idea of a perfect day.
I admit I was hesitant at first to let my own children in on the fun. The last thing I need is for one of my precious angels to break a piece of the historic wedding ring Limoges in the dining room of My Old Kentucky Home. But they have to learn good taste somewhere, and now’s the time–otherwise they’ll be 30 years old and standing completely bewildered in the middle of a Pottery Barn, with no clue where or how to begin. They’ll be the sort of people who can’t look at a chair and decide immediately if they like it or not, and so they have to search for a year for the right chairs, and constantly discuss their exhaustive search with bored friends and family. That is something I simply cannot abide. I feel sad for people who have no idea what their tastes are; I won’t let it happen to my family.
And that brings us to our day trip to My Old Kentucky Home, which I never would have attempted without the help of my gracious parents. Can you imagine taking these people into a 221-year-old house without reinforcements?
It went well though. No one broke anything. The worst thing that happened was that Bea touched a marble top tea table just because I told her not to. I’m lucky to have an eight-year-old who does not suffer fools, or put up with any shenanigans from her sisters; she immediately laid the smack down. The girls got to hold some authentic sugar snips (they know how obsessed I am with sugar chests), and got to see a gorgeous old piano with mother-of-pearl keys and one of those creepy portraits where the eyes follow you. Our tour guide led us in a rousing chorus of My Old Kentucky Home, which my girls know by heart; it made me proud to hear them sing along. When Anne Miriam noticed the matching trumeau mirrors in the front hall, I had one of those rare transcendent parental moments where I knew I’m doing something right–which probably means that karma will be knocking me back down soon enough.