Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Boredom Is Not An Option: Plimoth Plantation

In the time-honored tradition of kids everywhere, my daughters often come to me complaining that they're "bored" or "don't know what to do", like I'm going to whip out a tap dance or performing monkeys to enliven their drab little lives. Nothing frustrates me more. While we're certainly not the Rockefellers, these kids have a yard, creek, woods, swingset, and pretty much every indoor and outdoor toy on the market, not to mention shelves and shelves of books and art supplies. They're usually hinting around the fact that they'd like to watch TV or play a video game, but because I'm a wretched inhumane kind of mother, those activities are off the table when the weather is nice. It's Maine. You have to take advantage of the nice. It's fleeting; before you can say "mosquito", you're back to gray skies and frost in the mornings.

So when the opportunity arose to visit Plimoth Plantation, I seized it, thinking A-ha! Let's give these 21st century kids a peek at the hardscrabble reality of a Pilgrim kid's life...
We took


and Papa


Plimoth Plantation is divided into two sections: a Wampanoag village and a Pilgrim village. Both of them are staffed with people dressed in period costume who behave as if they were living in the 1620's. You are encouraged to walk right up to them and ask questions as they go about their daily lives. Historically accurate, down to the clothes, pottery, and nails used to build the homes, it is a fascinating experience.

This Native American Man was working on a canoe, from a tree he had personally cut down, carved, burned out and scraped. It took months, he told us, and would still be several more weeks before it had cured in the sun and they could put it in the water to see if it was sea-worthy. The kids were mildly interested. I felt a pang of conscience, thinking of how I've been putting off vacuuming my van because it's SO time-consuming and boring. As in I'd have to dig out an extension cord and run the hand-vac for twenty minutes and maybe I'll just sit here and flip through People magazine instead. Ahem. Maybe the kids aren't the only spoiled ones?This really kind of sums it up, doesn't it? Bear, the 21st century kid, taking pictures with her cell phone of a 17th century Native American woman planting crops.
Walking into one of the homes, we found a Pilgrim woman cooking a venison stew in the fireplace and I asked the question I'd been saving up since we first decided to do this trip, "What sort of work do the children of the village do?" I inquired sweetly, and within clear earshot of my kids.
"The same work as the adults, miss," she shot right back, "When I go to the fields to help my husband, I take my little ones along. Of course, when they're small, they just play near me."

I saw Bug smiling and just knew that in her mind, she was a Pilgrim girl skipping merrily through the corn fields and weaving daisy chains. Then the woman indicated a little boy of about four standing near us, "Of course, by the time they are as big as that one, they are working." And the smile died on Bug's face.
The houses were simple and small. I tried to imagine how on earth they were heated sufficiently during a New England winter. I failed. Inside this tiny dwelling, I pointed out the clothesline of four simple garments along the wall to Bear, "See that, honey? That would be your closet." Then I savored the look of horror on her face.Spoiled or no, I do plan to keep them, since they're kind of cute and all. But maybe now they won't moan quite so loudly when I ask them to put away their laundry? Hush. Let me dream.
The Pilgrims might have had an ocean view, but they also had roofs made of grass and sticks, no insulation, no feminine hygiene products (imagine!), and neighbors that resented the hell out of them. We're sticking with the 21st century and our pansy-ass little problems like what shade to repaint the bathroom and how to get the cat to stop flipping her water bowl over every ten minutes.
And the kids are just going to have to find a way to entertain their deprived little selves.


Anonymous said...

"And the smile died on Bug's face."

Poor Bug.

Jen on the Edge said...

You handled it exactly the way I would have and asked the same questions. We are truly twins.

When mine complain that they're bored, I send them to their rooms for five minutes of cleaning. ONLY five minutes, but let me tell you, that's total torture.

smalltownmom said...

Thank you for a great virtual field trip.

Nana said...

Excellent post and pictures, Jenny. I'm so glad we took that mini trip with you all - it was fun and very informative. I wish more kids Bear's and Bug's ages could visit Plimoth Plantation and relive that part of history.

grandma said...

BORED? What is this thing called "Bored?" Where are their sewing baskets or sewing machines? Who has time to get bored?