Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Summer's feel

Today, my first College Daughter, who graduated two years ago and is here for part of the summer, called that she had a "mystery trip" planned to show me something she refused to describe. I am not a fan of surprises and find mysteries annoying, as I promptly told her, but the trip was well worth it. Turns out there is a waterfall with a nice series of cool-water pools near here, which is a good thing to know if my brother or sister and their kids come to visit me this summer.

On the way back, we saw an Amish mother and son selling huge quarts of fresh strawberries on the side of the road. I couldn't believe it when the Amish woman said the strawberries were $2 a quart! So we bought six quarts and I kept three so that promptly, upon returning home, I could make my first open-faced strawberry pie, with an Amish ready-made crust that I bought at the Farmer's Market a few weeks' back and had frozen.

After returning from our road trip this week, I've been attending a faculty seminar on law and society, which ends Friday, and then on Monday I begin a three-week intensive program for underrepresented students at my small college on the hill. That will keep me busy until July 1, when my one-year leave officially begins (can't wait!).

Monday, June 6, 2011

Road trip

Over the weekend, my husband and I drove about 1,094 miles from Ohio to Annapolis to Virginia and back. We arrived in Maryland on Friday to attend my godson's high school graduation on Saturday, and it was bittersweet to see that happy little boy turned into an 18-year-old young man on his way to college later this fall. While in Annapolis, we stayed in a very nice bed and breakfast, Meadow Gardens, where we had a nice French Country room and where the breakfasts were superb.

On Sunday, we drove to Virginia to visit a very good friend and we stayed in her lovely home and met her furry son, Owen, who my husband caught waiting for him with his bone in mouth at one point. The large stick at the side of the entrance is one of his most favorite toys. Our stay with Owen and her mommy was very relaxing and sweet, and then on Monday we departed early because we had a long trip ahead to return home.

Since Monticello was on the way, my husband humored me (as he is wont to do, bless his soul) so we made a stop in the famous 18th century home of Thomas Jefferson and took the house tour and the euphemistically titled "Plantation Community" tour.

While the house is breathtaking, especially considering when and how it was built, the shadow of slavery looms large over everything there. I winced each time the tour guide referred to the slaves as "enslaved workers." We actually didn't hear the word "slave" until we took the "Plantation Community" tour, which was even more problematic. For one, the tour guide suggested that there was no way of knowing "100% sure" that Jefferson fathered the children that Sally Hemings had.

There is little left of the slave quarters at Monticello, but this photo gives the sense of what at least some of the slaves who lived near the palatial home would have seen from what were basically shanties. "All men are created equal" takes on a very different sense when you see Monticello and when you read Jefferson's musings about African-descended peoples.


The most heartbreaking part of the trip, however, was the slave cemetery, where about 40 slaves are buried, including up to 20 children, whose identities are not known. There were about 400 slaves who lived and worked in Monticello from 1774 to 1826 when Monticello and everything in it, including most of the slaves, had to be sold to pay for Jefferson's nearly $100,000 debt after his death.

The cemetery, at the bottom of the mountain on which Monticello stands, has no headstones. All the slaves had were rocks to mark the burials. It is a place to weep for the anonymous forgotten and to recall Toni Morrison's words in Beloved: "Disremembered and unaccounted for, she cannot be lost because no one is looking for her, and even if they were, how can they call her if they don't know her name?"

Monticello reminds us of how so much wealth (there and in this country) was built on the backs of people who got no glory for it.