Making Colonial Memories

When my husband’s cousin informed us that they were driving down from D.C. with their young boys to visit Colonial Williamsburg for the weekend and asked if we want to meet them, I leaped at the chance.

“YES!” was my enthusiastic return text message.

It was a two-fer, for sure. We would get to visit with some of our favorite family AND finally take our girls to Williamsburg. At ages 3 and almost-6, we hadn’t given much thought to visiting the historic site. There is no carousel to ride on, no crafts to create, not even a playground in sight. For those of you that may not know, Colonial Williamsburg is a recreation of what life was like before the Revolutionary War. And if you recall from your high school American history class, kids back then had only a stick and a rock to play with. Was it worth the one-hour drive just to listen to whining for an entire day? After all, I could very easily do that at home. On any given day of the week, no less.

But two-year-old cousin Alex would be there, and his brand new baby brother, so if the princesses don’t have a fabulous colonial experience, the trip would still be worthwhile!

The kids, the in-car movies, and the snacks were packed, and we were on our way!

The first stop was to the visitor’s center to purchase our tickets. On the way in, we passed the bench that Hubby and I had taken a picture on the last time we toured Williamsburg - back before he was “hubby.” Of course, we had to take a picture of all four of us on that exact same spot. Between that and waiting in line to purchase our tickets, the girls were bored. VERY bored. They didn’t know much about what this “Williamsburg” stuff was supposed to be about, but they knew that so far, it really was not much fun.

That all changed once we finally snagged our tickets and hiked our children-filled jogging strollers over to the Governor’s Palace. “Look, guys, a garden!” we exclaimed, as we turned into the backyard. Like a shot, they were off. Josie, the six year old, was in the lead, followed by three-year-old Nora, and Alex coming up the rear. They raced through the different gardens, eventually finding themselves in a maze created with manicured bushes. The naive parents we were thought that the maze would keep them corralled for a little bit, until we saw how easily they could slip through the bushes themselves. Tracking them was next to impossible. If it hadn’t been daytime, I would have thought we were in a haunted maze—something you would find in a horror movie—where the children’s giggles and shrieks were heard clearly, the sound coming from seemingly everywhere, only to see a piece of a something for just a second in your peripheral vision. Somehow, we all made it out in one piece.

By now it was about time for lunch, so we all made our way to the main drag where the shops and restaurants resided.

“What are they do-ing?” my eldest asked incredulously, pointing to the people in rows of tents set up in the grassy median.

“They are pretending to live in colonial times. Remember, they didn’t have electricity or running water. Some people even lived in tents!”

“Oh,” was the only answer I got.

When we reached the shops, I excitedly turned to the girls and said, “Let’s go to the wig-maker’s shop! It’s really, really cool!”

I had recalled from our previous trip the woman sitting in a chair, gliding hairs, just a few at a time, onto a suspended piece of thread. It was painstaking work, but fascinating to watch!

The wig-shop, of course, was closed. Ack!

We visited the alchemist and the silversmith. Neither held any interest for my munchkins.

“How about the dressmaker’s shop?” Hubby suggested. He can be amazingly brilliant when he feels like it!

Upon entering the shop, the girls were instantly mesmerized. A woman was sitting in the window hand-sewing an apron, little stitches all in a row. Another woman was behind the counter answering questions about the clothing from the five or six people already there.

I was searching my brain for a good question to ask that would hold my little princesses’ attention. Then I landed on it, “What kind of underwear would the kids have worn back then?”

Yes, I can be equally brilliant when I feel like it, too!

After that was the blacksmith. Which, as it turned out, was way cooler than the silversmith for one very simple reason—fire. The blacksmiths had a real, actual fire burning that they were shoving things into, and big, black spoons, nails and tools that the kids could pick up and look at. Spying a small anvil, Josie pointed and piped up, “Hey! That’s what they use on my cartoon, Tom & Jerry!” Bonus cool points.

As our day came to a close, and we started toward the exit, I said to Hubby, “Let me look in that shop real quick.”

“All right,” he answered, “we’ll be in the grassy area looking at the tent people.”

I perused the store a bit before choosing some balls of soap in the scents that each one earlier had proclaimed was her favorite. I headed to the rows of tents, scanning the group for anything that resembled a tall guy with a blue jogging stroller. A little ways down, I found them. The girls had managed to find a little boy, about six years old, to play with. They had joined him in playing a dice game that involved a wooden box with numbers, which none of them knew the actual rules for. Regardless, they were having fun. After a few more minutes, we said our thank you’s and goodbye’s and headed back to the car.

That night, as I tucked Josie into bed, I asked her what her favorite part of the day had been. I thought back through the highlights of all the neat things they had seen, the running with their cousin through the maze and gardens, the ice cream dessert after lunch, the dressmaker and blacksmith, the cows they saw up close. Which memory was going to stick out for her?

“Oh, playing with the little boy and the dice!”

Well, of course it is. It’s a good thing we got pictures of all that other stuff. We’ll fill in those memories for her—and her sister—someday!


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Jennifer Tackett-Hilton

Jennifer Tackett-Hilton is a Virginia Beach transplant (originally from Iowa) and Old Dominion University graduate who swore she'd never date a Navy man.... but never said she wouldn't marry one! Jennifer and her Prince Charming have two adorable (and precocious!) princesses, ages 2 and 5, and one furry pooch, Eddie.

In the (precious little) spare time she has, she enjoys crafting, shopping for new craft supplies, and writing on her blogs, and You can find her on Facebook at and follow her on and

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