Playing Grandma This Week
There was not a lot of writing happening the last few days – I was too busy playing grandma. My son and his wife came back to the state to attend a friend’s wedding, which gave my husband and me a chance to see our baby granddaughter again. We took full advantage of the opportunity!
I know I’m not saying anything most of you don’t already know – but my goodness, babies grow quickly! It was amazing to see how much she had grown, both in size and in abilities, since we saw her at Thanksgiving. She’s a whole four months old now, and figuring out how to use her fingers is a big part of her days. Watching her try was good for hours of entertainment. (She already knows how to smile such that every adult in the room melts at her feet, so check that one off her to-do list.)
I suppose if I were ambitious today, I could come up with some sort of analogy involving babies and writing. Maybe something about developing our skills as writers just as babies must develop their motor skills. But honestly, I’m not even going to try. I’m enjoying my baby euphoria too much.
I hope you’ll forgive me if I make this a short blog, so I can go back to thinking about my granddaughter and when I’ll see her again. Until next week, happy writing!
I think most of you know by now, I am fascinated by old houses. If I had to pick one that has always intrigued me, it would be the White House. What an amazing and beautiful symbol of the United States. One of the items on my personal bucket list is to tour it and to walk the halls where (almost) all of our presidents have walked. Can you imagine the stories those old walls could tell?
Since I love historical trivia, I hope you will bear with me now when I share some about the White House. For example, I said earlier that almost all of the presidents have walked its halls. However, George Washington never had the opportunity. He worked with Pierre L’Enfant to choose its location within the newly-authorized District of Columbia, and selected the final design for the “President’s House,” but did not live long enough to see it completed in 1800. Nonetheless, I think it is remarkable that while there have been fires which gutted it and extensive remodels to the interior since then, the white stone exterior walls we see in photos are the same walls George Washington saw being raised.
While the main rooms are essentially unchanged today from the original design, other rooms and capabilities have been added, some fairly quickly. When he was president, Thomas Jefferson designed the low colonnade sections which stretch out from either side to provide room for “domestic service” such as storing food and firewood, servant rooms, and stables. He also added an indoor “necessary” in each wing, to replace the one outdoor privy everyone at the White House used before that!
The West Wing and East Wing buildings on the ends of the colonnades weren’t added until much later. Theodore Roosevelt built the West Wing after he took office in 1901. He needed more room for his six children, so built the West Wing so the president’s office and the cabinet room could be moved off the second floor of the residence. An original (much smaller) East Wing was constructed about the same time, but the one we know today was built in 1942 – to hide the construction of an underground bunker for the president.
It is a little astounding to think about all of the functions which are packed into the White House in its modern configuration. Today, the main structure of the White House has 132 rooms and 35 bathrooms on six levels. In addition to a private beauty shop and workout room for the first family, there is also a tennis court, jogging track, swimming pool, movie theater and bowling lane for their entertainment. I think George Washington would be amazed! But he would no doubt still recognize the state rooms on the main level from the original design.
Perhaps that is what intrigues me the most about the White House. While conveniences such as electricity and air conditioning and the internet have been added over the years, the core functions within those old walls have never changed. The inhabitants may come and go, but it still serves as the People’s House, the most tangible and recognizable symbol of our democracy even after all these years. And that is pretty amazing. I wish these walls could talk, but in a sense, they already do.
I like to check out the “This Day in History” tidbits every now and then, and I came across an interesting one today. Did you know the first US couple to take a honeymoon by train did so on this date? It occurred in Charleston, South Carolina in 1831. This caught my eye because 1) it is interesting history, and 2) since I write historical romance, it seemed appropriate.
I couldn’t help wondering what the bride was feeling that day. To put it in better context, the first US passenger train running on tracks (and using steam as opposed to being horse-drawn) only started a few weeks earlier in Charleston, in December 1830. So steam-powered locomotives were still very new and were probably terrifying to many people. Unfortunately, with the early trains and early tracks, accidents were not uncommon.
Now imagine you are this young bride. Planning a wedding is nerve-wracking enough. Can you imagine what she thought when her husband-to-be announced they were taking the new-fangled train for their honeymoon? For us, it would be like being one of the first people on a shuttle to Mars. I don’t know about you, but I would be petrified. She must have really loved her husband to go along with his crazy idea!
The early sections of track were very short. From what I can gather, that first train track in Charleston was only six miles long, and the train had a speed of 21 miles per hour. So luckily for our new bride, she probably wasn’t on the train all that long. But even so, I suspect those were the longest minutes of her life. Perhaps she was thinking that if she could survive the trip, anything else which occurred during the course of her married life would be a piece of wedding cake.
I also can’t help thinking that a young woman with this much spirit and courage would make an interesting heroine for a romance story. But then, maybe she already was living a great romance. I hope she lived a long and happy life in Charleston. She certainly had at least one wonderful story to tell her grandchildren one day.
When you think about it, all of us are living through history right now. Perhaps our experiences aren't as dramatic as this young woman's was, but we have interesting stories to tell our grandchildren. What are your stories?
I write historical fiction, and I invite you to share the journey to published author with me.