We went back to the Frontier Culture Museum on Saturday. I know, I know, it’s crazy. My husband was dismayed by my fascination with the place. “I can’t believe you want to go back,” he said. “This is so not like you.”
He didn’t really want to go. Saturday was going to be a glorious day, perfect for hanging around home and doing everything but digging the sweet potatoes that I was after him about. Plus, it was Fall Folk day at the museum. There would be food trucks and special activities and lots of people. My husband is not keen on crowds. “Why don’t we go on a day when no one will be there,” he whined.
“Because,” I explained for the hundredth time, “I’ve been there when it’s empty and I want to see what it’s like when it’s busy. I want to see what the special activities are like. It will give me a better feel for the place. Besides, the kids are begging to go.” Which was a half lie. Only the younger two were pestering. My older daughter was longing for a do-nothing day, but I gave her no choice. (My older son had an all-day choir camp, so he was automatically out of the picture, but I think he would’ve been happy to come along.)
“Fine. Whatever you want,” my husband said.
Actually, I was a little worried that we’d be bored. We had explored the place so thoroughly only three days before. What if it was a total letdown?
I needn’t have worried. Last time we stayed for six hours. This time we stayed for seven and a half, and we didn’t even get to all the exhibits.
“I don’t get it how people can breeze through this place in just three hours,” I said to my husband.
“Really, Jennifer? I totally get it it. Aren’t you watching people? They just walk in and walk out. It’s easy.”
We, on the other hand, took our good old time, plopping our butts down as often as possible.
It was marvelous fun.
In Germany, a cooper had set up shop in the entry room. He spouted facts while shaving wood and pounding metal rings onto barrels.
The kids and I flopped down on the benches surrounding his workspace and watched, mesmerized by his efficient movements and steady stream of information. “It’s so much fun to watch someone work when they know what they’re doing,” my husband commented later.
We arrived late to a musket shooting demo. The crowd was just starting to disperse when my younger son zipped onto the scene and shouted to the tall pioneer lad, “Are you going to shoot the gun?”
“No, hon,” I said. “He already did…”
“Oh, did you miss the demo?” the guide interrupted me. “I can do it again for you.”
And that’s how we got our own private little demo. Sometimes it pays to be late.
Afterward, the guide took took the kids to the other side of the property and so they could help him split some logs.
And after that we walked over to an older gentlemen had a whole stash of different fire-starting materials. He demonstrated all of them, and, in turn, the kids told him about when they were in Guatemala and set of firecrackers with a magnifying glass. Before we left, he let the kids choose from his collection of homemade arrowheads.
All afternoon, my younger daughter had been begging to go back to England. When we had visited that morning, she had helped with the laundry. She wanted to go back to visit with the woman who worked there (and who had, I learned, been working in that English house for the last fourteen years), but when we got to the house, it seemed deserted, the washtubs empty and only a few linens drying in the grass. I sat down on a bench to wait while the kids went through the house one last time. After a bit, my husband came out. “They’re sewing,” he said. “You might as well come on in.”
Sure enough, the children were gathered around the long table, mending the linens.
“Never in all my years here have I given a sewing lesson,” the good housewife crowed.
We lingered around the table, savoring the late afternoon sun and the peaceful quiet, the children’s narrow focus on needle and fabric a sweet reprieve after our day’s glut of activity.
So here’s some museum-going advice from an infrequent museum goer: When you visit the museum, stop and sink. Sink to the ground, sink into a chair, sink into your curiosity. Allow yourself to just be in the space, observing, listening, doing. You might not get to see everything, but you’ll go home filled up and tuckered out.
PS. And now I’ll stop talking about the museum. Pinky promise.