We made a memory in the Mansion today.
Yep, we were “that family” with “those kids.” I apologize in advance because, undoubtedly, there will be new rules and regulations for future visitors and a much stricter list of dos and don’ts (especially the DON’Ts!!!) doled out by the legion of tour guides we left in our wake. I wish this was a post about how perfectly my little homeschoolers behaved in the Mansion. How they amazed the historians with their knowledge of George Washington or corrected an obscure error in the museum. But no. This is not one of those posts.
For several years, I have wanted to take the kids to Mount Vernon. I have fond memories of elementary and high school field trips to the site, and I wanted to share this special place with my own children. We were driving right by the exit for Mount Vernon on the way back home from the beach, so we went for it. At the Visitors Center, the children were each given an “Adventure Map of Mount Vernon” containing ten puzzles to solve using clues found around the estate. When every clue had been solved, the children were to return to the gift shop for a special prize. The kids were thrilled! They were also given three sharpened golf pencils and turned loose on history.
All went well until we entered the Mansion. (Yes, in Capital Letters, Mansion.) The first room was the large, formal dining room. Kids did great. Next back porch area. Again, things were going great. Then we entered the Central Passage. We are shoved in, shoulder-to-shoulder, to look through four different rooms all while minding the guide’s instruction to “not follow the other group up the stairs.” I was basically trying not to get stepped on by the “other group” or by my own group, as the guide explained that the pine paneling was hand painted to resemble mahogany and then pointed out the key to the Bastille in a dusty glass case on the far wall. It was at this exact time that the unthinkable happened.
Inspiration had struck Beanie! She had solved one of the puzzles in her “Adventure Map of Mount Vernon.” And right there, right in the Central Passage, what does my Beanie do but press her map up against the hand painted, pine paneled walls to record her findings, pencil poised to press the word “H-A-M” into both her map and the ancient painted wall. In hindsight, I see it all in slow-motion–me turning to see what Beanie was doing and the tour guide’s head doing a complete 360, then exploding.
The reaction was swift and furious. It was spluttery, and went something like, “PENCIL! WE NEVER WRITE ON WALLS! GENERAL WASHINGTON’S…HAND-PAINTED…HAND-STENCILED WALLS! PENCIL! GIMME THAT! NEVER!”
The sign outside clearly stated, “No cameras, no cell phones, no chewing gum, no smoking.” Nothing about pencils. Yet. But it’s coming my friends. Oh yes, the Great Mount Vernon Pencil Ban of 2012 is coming. Along with the discontinuation of the cute “Adventure Map of Mount Vernon,” I’m sure. And I am deeply sorry for it. It was just one of those parenting scenarios that I would not have been prepared for in a bazillion years. We don’t write on walls. Not in pencil. Not with ham. Not ever. Beanie would never intentionally attempt to defile the hand painted pine paneling in General George Washington’s Central Passage with a pork product promo, but there was no way to explain that to Central Passage lady. Thankfully no harm was done, except to my pride. Beanie’s lip quivered, but otherwise she handled it stoically. Now that’s a girl who is going to leave her mark on history, just not on the wall.