Sunday, April 12, 2009

Day 90/365 Mr. Jefferson, I Presume

Living in Virginia, Thomas Jefferson is a constant presence, to the degree that if the man himself tapped you on the shoulder and you turned to see him in the flesh, it would be completely expected.

Just north of us, in what is now Lynchburg, stands Poplar Hill, Mr. Jefferson's octagonal summer home.

Among many talents, not the least of which was serving as one of our greatest presidents, Mr. Jefferson was also an accomplished architect (these things are drilled into Virginia citizens). The floor plan above was his own design for the first floor of Poplar Hill, dating from approximately 1820 and featuring corner fireplaces and a square dining room centered between the bedroom and parlor.

During the restoration, about 15 years ago, the floor plan was open, with almost no interior walls. Please note that if you were, say, three years old, that minus those interior walls, there is a particularily clear path, perfect for running full-tilt in complete circles through the first floor.

At the age of three, my daughter channeled her inner Jefferson, and discovered the circular path through the first floor, much to the dismay of the docents. The little felon was immediately asked to leave, and spent the remainder of our visit on the front steps with her much-offended grandmother, who has never returned to Poplar Hill since. Whenever it is mentioned, she immediately refers to the "kicking out" of her granddaughter by Mr. Jefferson.

I should mention here that the entire first floor at the time was completely bare of any restoration whatsoever - no furnishings, nothing besides brick walls and wood flooring. In addition, we were the only visitors.

I have to believe our third president was a devoted parent himself, since on March 28, 1787, Mr. Jefferson wrote to his own daughter, Martha Jefferson Randolph: "No body in this world can make me so happy or so miserable as you."

In the years following that infamous incident, my daughter has never run willy-nilly through any another historical site, and so apparently has learned her lesson.

Sometime this spring or summer, we will attempt to enter Poplar Hill once again (the restoration is now complete), visit the home of my most favorite president, and restrain ourselves from running breakneck through the exhibits. Docents, consider yourselves forewarned.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Jefferson!

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