In my former life, I worked for a well-known corporation whose boss was a notorious mouse with very large ears. I was constantly told that I was living the dream, working in the most magical place on earth, and that life was a fairy tale. I’ve always loved stories, and story books, and was often the little girl making up stories in her head about far-off places, daring sword fights, but instead of a prince in disguise, my heroes were historical figures.
As I walked down Duke of Gloucester Street one fall morning last year, to the sounds of carriages making their way to the hitching posts, carts pulling barrels and baskets, the smells of fires starting, and the calls of “Good morning!” “Good day!” I realized that I had finally found my storybook—and I wasn’t just walking through it, I lived in it. And it isn’t a sound stage, or a wooden facade on the front of a concrete building, but a real, living, breathing town—filled with not only the history of 300 years ago, but the history that has been created since W.A.R. Goodwin and Mr. Rockefeller began the process to realize a dream. And it’s my neighborhood.
Nowhere else in America can I think of a place where you are truly—and cheerily—greeted by perfect strangers, coworkers, and friends as soon as you step out of your door… and a place where at times, those perfect strangers will try to follow you in.
My fiancé and I are just two of the employees of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation who live in one of those houses you see marked with a “Private Residence” sign, and it truly is one of the most unique experiences possible.
Imagine walking out your back door to strangers sitting on your stoop. “Oh hi! Umm….do you live here?” “Why, yes, I do. You’re welcome to sit on the stoop, but would you mind letting me step past you?” “Cool! Can we come in?”
Just par for the course when your house is in the middle of a living history museum—and you become part of the history.
Whether it is experiences like that, or opening your door to be greeted by the aroma of freshly baked ginger bread, sharing the stories of the people who walked these streets throughout the centuries both on and off the clock, or opening your window to have a 12 -hundred pound horse try to stick his head through it to greet your dog—the ways that living in this beautiful 18th-century town bleed into our 21st-century life are simply wonderful.
Of course, we have modern conveniences, favorite television shows, indoor plumbing, and are so very thankful for air conditioning when summer comes. But there’s also something about this place that takes you back in time. Something that calms your mind and forces you to pause and soak it all in. Our culture is going so full-force all the time, on overload from technology and instant gratification, and our attention being demanded from 10 different directions at any given moment. But here, it stops. You are overloaded instead by beautiful sights, delicious smells, and people connecting with one another. If you let it, this place will enrich the best parts of your soul. And living in the midst of it is inspiring. It is a privilege.
And it doesn’t hurt that our neighbors are the coolest.
We are lucky enough to live within the same block as two other couples who are our closest friends. At least once a week, we can be found making our way to someone’s house, wine bottle and perhaps a covered dish in hand, to watch the latest episode of Doctor Who, or simply share in a pot luck ‘fremily’ dinner—usually comprised of whatever we all had in our refrigerators at the last minute.
We walk our dogs (who are the real keepers of DoG street, by the way—just try to get past without a sniff!), step over to keep an eye on kids for a minute, and have grown-up play dates. And beware the neighbor who goes out of town for a weekend. We have keys to each others houses and tend to arrive home to find all kinds of good-humored ‘vandalism’ about the house… as you can see.
Some little girls want to be princesses. I am that little girl who grew up wanting to bring my Felicity Doll to Colonial Williamsburg (which I did! And even wore a matching dress that my mother made) and constantly burying my nose in a book beside a fireplace or under a big tree—traipsing across the yard to pretend I was from a time long ago and far away. There are literally dozens of us now realizing this dream in the Historic Area—an entire generation who grew up with the American Girl Dolls, and now have the privilege to be working for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, living out a childhood dream and instilling that dream in others. And for a select few, that dream has gone one step further—to actually get to live on the streets where our childhood friends Felicity and Elizabeth lived. I live in my storybook—and it truly is the most magical place on Earth.
GUEST BLOGGER: WHITNEY THORNBERRY
Whitney is a Sites Interpreter who has been with the Foundation full time since March of 2015. She and her Fiance, Bryan, live in the Historic Area with their rescued pup Derby (a sweet girl of 3 who thinks the horses are just big dogs to play with) and they are looking forward to their impending nuptials in April!
Whitney loves hosting dinner parties, sewing, reading, distressing furniture, science fiction, historical dramas, old movies and anything from the Williamsburg Winery. Her mother used to say she was born in the wrong century—and now she gets the best of both!