When last we met, I was telling you all about our very strange time-traveling existence in this colonial capital we call home. I don’t know where to start other than by saying it only gets weirder. Let’s talk holiday decorations!
When I was approached about writing this post, I was rather hesitant. My assumption was/is that you would want an in-depth report of colonial revival-themed holiday wreaths. I thought you would want me to tell you about the significance of the pineapple or what the heck an osage orange is (Google it. They are so weird and cool!). We have an incredibly talented group of individuals that pull together the most amazing displays of holiday decor every year. The beauty that goes up in the Historic Area is unmatched. And you probably still want to hear all of that, but alas, you are stuck with me.
Last year, after hours of wrestling with our Harry Potter wreaths, I swore off all plant life. Or so I thought. Apparently I’m a sucker for a challenge. Although my six-year-old son didn’t leave me much choice when he declared our 2015 theme would be Star Wars. His one request? “One wreath has to have lightsabers. I don’t care about the rest of them.”
Eventually, my exhaustion from last year faded and I started to get excited about wreath making again. Although I would like to point out the added pressure I felt with the new movie coming out and it being so universally recognizable. Plus, in the real world, I could have just run to Target and mounted a storm trooper helmet on some greenery. But I don’t live in the real world. I live in the Colonial Capital. And decorating here comes with rules, rules I respect. With that said, game on…
At some point earlier this year, I was lamenting my struggle over this lightsaber wreath (as well as all the others), and my incredible friend Jenny said she could help. I knew Jenny was a talented tinsmith and a generally creative person, but I was still blown away when she actually turned up with “lightsaber handles.”
She is now the only 18th-century lightsabersmith in the world! Let’s be honest. J.J. Abrams really had it easy making this new episode that is coming out. He had a huge budget, all the special effects in the world, even Harrison Ford (Feel free to call him and ask him to remake the whole thing with apples and rope and then we will see what happens!). Luckily, I had Jenny and many other stars. Stars like Emma who is an expert in leather working. Between the two of them, they engineered a colonial replica of Chewbacca’s bandolier. What do you think?
I also had Ramona. Besides being an amazing Cooper, Ramona has the most beautiful penmanship you have ever seen. That handwriting that adorns my front door wreath? Yeah, she was able to scratch it out with a quill and ink in no time at all.
Beyond my aforementioned rebel army, there were tons of other people whom I called on for masterful advice. I can’t tell you how many people I tracked down or many conversations I started with “is it 18th century accurate if I…”
As if the theme wasn’t insane enough, this year’s construction phase ended up being equally crazy. Still, there is a very funny camaraderie that occurs in the post-Thanksgiving week when you live in the Historic Area. Most of the residents who do their own decorations do it in the days leading up to Grand Illumination. At the same time, we’re all also still responsible for work—many putting in more than the standard 40 hours to support holiday programming. Then, there are children to take care of, school, and visiting relatives. So, while we may start out creative and inspired, in the weeks that follow—we slowly turn into sleep-deprived grinches.
Oddly enough, the ordeal manages to bring us together. Sometimes it’s in the form of a Facebook rant where we all unite to declare our hatred of various 18th-century approved materials. Other times, it’s a series of group text messages filled with rage as one or another item decides it is going to do its best not to be (or stay) attached to a wreath.
In fact, there may or may not have been a conversation about potentially sticking some silk ribbon on whatever the horses left in the street that day and putting that on a front door in the hope of getting some sleep before holiday. Personally, I think my wreaths are 90% held together by The Force and the other 10% wire. There’s also the 20 hours of my life I will never get back. Still, in the end, it all comes together and the Historic Area is transformed into a stunning display and collection of all of our hard work.
Which brings me to today. The wreaths are done, up, and better than I could have ever imagined! The kids are absolutely thrilled and I am happy to report thoroughly enjoyed the learning experience we had as a result of this. So often here in Williamsburg, I hear people say they can’t imagine how people survived/lived/changed the world in conditions “like this.”
If I learned nothing else from this absolutely ridiculous, self-inflicted series of shenanigans, it is that you actually can do pretty much anything with what you have available. “Necessity is the mother of invention” they say. And while none of our nation builders ever had to make a lightsaber handle on the fly, the fact is they could have.
So now that I’ve completed my history lesson for this holiday season, I’m going to sit back and enjoy the hilarity that comes with listening to the laughter and squeals of guests like you when that light bulb goes off and you figure out the theme of our little colonial house.
And who knows? Maybe J.J. Abrams will stop by so we can discuss our undoubtedly similar Star Wars production experiences. For now, I am just going to hope that my children are really into plain green circles next year…
We would like to extend a special thanks to local photographers Cindy McEnery and Fred Blystone for sharing the above (spectacular) images of Katherine’s one-of-a-kind wreaths!
GUEST BLOGGER: KATHERINE MORRIS AINSLIE
Katherine is the Externship Program Coordinator for the William & Mary Law School. She has four children – Alexandra (12), Senet (6), Thaine (5), and Flynn (2). Katherine and her significant other, Alex Morse, are avid board gamers and boast an impressive and ever-growing collection of games. Beyond having their weekly board game parties, Katherine loves hosting visitors and throwing big parties including their famous annual Kentucky Derby party. She also enjoys British costume dramas, obnoxiously bright colors and patterns, cooking, & consuming large quantities of Aromas coffee.