A Look On The Lighter Side: Old fashioned-wisdom for savvy traveler

The Island Now

If you could choose a superpower, which would it be?

Flying? Invisibility?  

Or maybe…traveling in time?

Time travel grew more and more appealing the longer we stayed at Chowning’s Tavern that summer, in Colonial Williamsburg, Va. 

There was food, of course, and there was mulled cider if you didn’t want rum punch or ale; but more than that, there was singing, and even some games to play, right at the table.  

I was learning the rules of “Ship, Captain and Crew,” played by rolling dice over and over until you had accumulated a six (ship), a five (Captain), and a four (crew). 

“This is a lot better than just getting drunk in a bar,” I told my husband. “I could get used to this!”  

“Can we stay, Mom?” my kids asked. “This is way more educational than school!” 

“This is not the real world,” my husband reminded us. “We have to go home tomorrow!”

Too often, I think, we have a bias — that we are smarter than the people who lived before us, just because we have newer gizmos.  

How smart could they be, we like to think, if they didn’t have electricity?  Or grocery stores?  (And how did they ever find each other without Facebook or Twitter?)

I love going to historical sites — especially where we can walk through the spaces where our forebears lived and worked. 

I know we can’t really “commune” with them, just because we’re walking in their footsteps…but even so, we can learn things. 

For example, I was puzzled why the people of Williamsburg pushed all their furniture to the wall, every night; didn’t they get tired of pulling it back to the center of the room, every morning? 

But then, after returning home, we had another of the innumerable power outages here in Port Washington, and I realized — as I stumbled over a million Legos and smashed my hip into a table — that maybe the colonists weren’t so stupid, after all (and maybe I wasn’t so smart!). 

Similar insights strike me when I visit another of my favorite places — the Sands-Willets House in Port Washington.  

Every fall, they have a country fair, with a pony ride and petting zoo; handicrafts, antiques and books for sale (also dangerously yummy pies); and tours of the historic house. 

This year’s fair was held last Saturday, September 10th. 

I can’t help myself; I always gravitate to the kitchen, with its enormous hearth.  I am fascinated by the exotic-looking pots, pans and utensils that fill the room.  

But I used to find it hard to see myself in those surroundings. 

Why, for example, would people take just one bath a week?  Didn’t they value cleanliness?  

And why — with the whole house to choose from — would they have it in the kitchen? 

Then came Superstorm Sandy, which left our house without lights or heat for 10 days in the autumn of 2012.  

We still had hot water, however, and I treasured those showers as a way to warm up. 

As the weather grew cooler, however, I realized that showers, even hot ones, are no fun when your hair stays cold and wet for hours afterwards.  

Suddenly, having a bath only once a week made a lot of sense — as did staying near the kitchen fire! They weren’t dumb at all. 

Maybe they even knew a few things we’d do well to remember.  

Maybe, for example, it is important to get together “in real life” — whether at a quilting bee, or in a tavern — rather than on Facebook or Twitter.  

My concern about Facebook is that it’s just like drinking an artificially sweetened beverage: you drink more and more of it, every round leaving you less satisfied, not more — because it’s artificial.  

Maybe we could all use a few more games of “Ship, Captain and Crew,” to go with our honey-sweetened drink at the local tavern.  

I even caught my husband smiling as he rolled his dice. 

But I finally had to excuse myself: I had had my fill of liquids. And as I blundered my way to the ladies’ room, I realized — I am profoundly grateful for certain modern conveniences. 

Even the humblest home, with electricity and plumbing, is an infinite improvement over anything available to kings and queens of an earlier time. 

I’d take a trailer home over Versailles, any day of the week. 

And I, personally, am not time-traveling any farther back than the existence of indoor plumbing, electricity, and Tylenol!

By Judy Epstein

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