Monday, November 16, 2015

Colonial Day Revisited!

Son Nate at his 4th (?) grade Colonial Day
Just before we moved from Wayne, Pennsylvania to Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1981, my older son's school held a "Colonial Day".  Nate was in 4th grade or so, and I believe they had been studying life in colonial America.

Parents were asked to help out, and I ended up demonstrating "finger weaving" with yarn, something I knew nothing about, so I must have had a crash course. I cobbled together a costume of sorts to look vaguely "colonial", but the only antique-looking hat I owned was a lace one I had brought back with me from Holland (where we lived in the mid-1970s). Oddly enough, 30 years later I learned that the first of my ancestors who came here as colonists actually were from the Netherlands. (These were the Yerxas, who 3 or 4 generations later were Loyalists and moved to Canada at the beginning of the American Revolution.) So as it turns out, my head was actually authentically garbed for my own family tree.

Anyway, several years later when I started to write The Riddle of Penncroft Farm, I remembered the Wayne Elementary School Colonial Day festivities and ended up using such a setting for the Big Finish of the story.  Here's the beginning of that scene. . .

"Winning so many of the colonial competitions helped a lot. So did the colonial name tag I had pinned on my waistcoat. With secret satisfaction I looked down at it and read it to myself. There, in my best calligraphy, was the name Geordie.

My mother came hustling up to me, with Dad trailing along in her wake. “Good grief, Lars, that’s the third blue ribbon you’ve won today!” she exclaimed. “How did you learn to be so good at old stuff like that game with the funny name—huzzlecap? You got every penny—pardon me, I mean farthing, in that three-cornered hat,” Mom exclaimed.

“Beginner’s luck,” I said, thinking of the time I had spent pitching coins into Geordie’s tricorne.

   Dad looked around at the mob of children and parents nearby spinning wool, making butter
and paper, smithing tin. “This Colonial Day is certainly a good idea for you kids. I’m even
learning a thing or two myself—like about that cider press. Will Hargreaves said he’d show me
how to build one.”

   Mom clapped her hands. “Won’t it be fun to make some apple cider at Penncroft just like they used to?”

  “Or perry,” I said, hastily adding, “That is, er, very . . . very fun.” -The Riddle of Penncroft Farm © 1989 by Dorothea Jensen