Thursday, April 24, 2008

Visiting a Founding Father

We visited Monticello yesterday, the home of Thomas Jefferson. Monticello was one of the Virginia sights that we wanted to see before we moved away. Thomas Jefferson holds a special place in our hearts. Not only was he one of our nation’s founding fathers, but also he was a very Unitarian Universalist thinker, an academic, and a visionary.
The gardens were very beautiful this time of year. Many of the trees were in bloom, and the vegetables were up and thriving. Jake and Jolie walked along the main garden, reading each of the labels on the vegetables and herbs. Jefferson’s gardens made Monticello basically self-sustaining. The tour guide mentioned that Jefferson was basically a vegetarian, who had meat on the side. We too are trying to eat more home grown and home made foods. It was amazing to see the kitchen that the cooks cooked in as compared to modern kitchens. One visitor mentioned how small the kitchen was, and I on the other hand thought that the kitchen was quite spacious and seemed to be well equipped with oven and stove equivalents.
The house tour was very informative and full of interesting artifacts. The kids thought the “school” room was pretty neat. Jefferson’s oldest daughter, Martha, taught her 11 children in that room. I never realized that Jefferson never remarried after his wife died, and instead invited his oldest daughter and her family to come and live with him and help him run Monticello. We were all impressed with the dumbwaiters in the dining room that were used to retrieve wine in the cellar area. The clock in the entrance hall was most curious. Jefferson built the clock to show the day of the week, but found that his wall wasn’t tall enough, so he cut holes in the floor so that the balls that told the day of the week could pass though to the basement, and tell the final three days of the week.

We walked the grounds, enjoying the many flowerbeds and trees on the mountain. My kids especially enjoyed the tulips, which reminded me of eastern Washington.
Jefferson and many of his descendants are buried on the property. The kids were impressed by Jefferson’s obelisk, which is not the original marker for his grave, but later placed by the US government. We have considered using an obelisk to mark our final resting place, adding to it the names of our children and descendents over time.
Our children love history, so the trip to Monticello was a great hit. I wish we could have stayed longer and done the plantation and garden guided tours, but Jensen was content with one tour for the day. As always, we received comments on how well behaved the kids were. We will miss all the abundant history that is centered here in Virginia. Who knows, the Navy may bring us back some day and we’ll be able to visit the rest of the historical sights we missed.

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