Friday, April 11, 2008

Are You a Good Wife?

When our children were small, we went on a family vacation, driving up through some of the New England states. We visited Cape Cod, Provincetown, Newport, RI, and Boston. One of our stops was at Plimouth Plantation. This lovely site is a recreation of the original Plimouth Plantation that was settled by the Pilgrims who emigrated from England.

The village buildings and layout reproduce the presumed conditions of 1627, and the people there (actually actors) stay completely in character. As one website notes:
People in historic period costumes carry out their daily tasks which would have been conducted by the occupants of the settlement. Their dialect is recreates the flavor of the period as well.

When we visited there we had a lot of fun interacting with the “residents.” I particularly enjoyed myself, and probably embarrassed my children in the process. We went into one house just around the noon hour, and the residents were getting ready to eat. They told us that they would always sing a psalm before the meal. In fact, they said the plantation leader had rewritten many of the psalms into hymn mode, and would we like to sing along? Well, I need no second invitation to sing, so I joined in. That’s when my children looked embarrassed—Mom, you didn’t have to sing along.

Another house we stopped in was the residence of the village physician. At the time, I worked for the state medical association, so I really enjoyed conversing with the physician. In his garden, he was growing several medicinal flowers, including

Foxglove is a flower from which digitalis, used in treatment heart ailments, can be extracted. Thinking myself quite smart, I asked the physician if he had heard of using willow bark to reduce fever and relieve pain. He was totally in character, and asked me whence came this knowledge? I replied, well, it is well known to the Indians that willow bark has these properties. He drew himself up and sniffed his reply—use something on good Christians that comes from savages? We would never do such a thing. So much for me showing off what I knew.

Then came the coup de grace. As we were walking around the village, one of the villagers asked me if I was a good wife. I think I sort of spluttered—well, I try to be. Ah, he said—then you are not a lady or a gentlewoman, but a good wife. Humph—a little light clicked in my brain, and I realized he was asking about my social status, not my upright moral character. And then I remembered the Nathaniel Hawthorne story “Young Goodman Brown.”

See, social ranking would have been lord and lady, gentleman and gentlewoman, or goodman and goodwife. So much for social climbing. And I was just a goodwife!

First two photos from Wikipedia; last one from the website


Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

It is a lovely place to visit. I did a couple of times when I lived in Boston.

Pam said...

I used to live outside of Boston, and we visited Plymouth a number of times. Your pictures and story brought back some very nice memories.

I am so far behind on keeping up with my blogging friends, I am going to have to do a lot of reading. We have had caregiving woes here, Barbara hurt her back and we have been scrambling for replacements. They're not easy to come by, and then there is the issue of working with strangers... all very taxing. Thanks so much for stopping by my blog, I need to catch up there, too!

JeanMac said...

It's fun to recount times we embarrassed our children - too many, I'm sure.

Mary said...

Donna, lord/lady, gentlewoman/gentleman, you're such a Goody! No matter :o)

I read your story with a smile, picturing your son and daughter rolling their eyes while you sang and conversed with the physician so well. Now, your children will fondly remember the day...


Anvilcloud said...

I wonder what he would have said if you had replied that you were a very good wife or an excellent wife or some such? But he's probably heard all possible answers and has appropriate responses worked out.