So I recently had a brilliant idea to take my girls, all four of them, to the wonder and glory of “Grand Illumination” in Williamsburg, Virginia. We’d meet my parents there and kick off our holiday season with a glorious display of colonial Christmas. Things went downhill fast and here is the story. Complete with play-by-play.
Background: This is not the first time I’ve been burned, so to speak, by Colonial Williamsburg. I chose it as the backdrop of my college experience and it was not my finest four years. However, my recollection was that the Christmas season was its finest–carolers, revelers, decorations, cozy feelings. I pictured us walking down through glowing candles hand-in-hand. How great for us all to be together there. I vaguely recognized the length of driving involved but blocked it out. Along with the fact that the baby HATES THE CAR.
Reality–delivered as highlights. Or lowlights.
4:30 pm Friday: We get on the road. We are leaving this late because one of the daughters is a daisy now and couldn’t bear to miss her daisy meeting. So we get on the road with the majority of NJ and begin our trek. Oh, I forgot to get gas. Stop to get it, baby wakes up, commences crying.
4:35 pm: Children begin asking for McDonald’s for dinner.
4:40 pm: Children ask again for McDonald’s.
4:45-6:30 pm: McDonalds is asked for in rotation every minute or so. Our background to the McDonald’s is the satellite radio Christmas tunes. By 6:30 I had heard Alvin and the Chipmunks mixed with the cast of Glee busting out their favorite carols enough and we stopped for dinner. At McDonalds. (2 hours later when we arrive in DC, our stopping place, I find 6.5 of 8 nuggets on the floor of my car).
7:00 pm: Twins are asleep, baby is not. This is bad on both fronts. Baby is yelling. She can only be quieted by my contorting my body with my arm behind me, holding her plug in and stroking her cheek. She recognizes her sister, my “helper”, who’s trying to cheek-rub, as an imposter and yells. So I drive with one hand behind me for an hour or so. Awesome.
8:30 pm: Get to our stopping point. Plans to “transfer” sleeping 5 year old twins are disrupted when one wakes up, sees Washington monument, and yells “The Pencil”. They then run around my aunt’s house for one hour. Are convinced to get in bed, my aunt and uncle come home, stir them up again. Fast forward to midnight at which point they are kicked out of my bed and into their own to sleep, talk, read books, watch porn–whatever gets them out of my room. Think to myself “should not have let them sleep in car”. This thought is of course 6 hours too late to do anyone any good.
Aah, Saturday. Off we head to the beginning of HOLIDAY WONDER!
2pm: Arrive in W’burg. It’s PRETTY cold so we wander around a bit and then head back to hotel for what the children view as the only reason they have come: the pool. The pool deserves a special mention–it has shooting fountains and lights blinking purple, blue, red, green. Oldest girl says “it disturbs me” and refuses to swim. In truth, the only thing the pool is missing is Denny Terrio as a lifeguard.
Grandpa lets twins in the hot tub. As they are operating on 1 hour of sleep and virtually no food I let them do whatever they want to avoid breakdown. Can’t wait for the Christmas fun to begin the next day.
Sunday: It’s the big day. Head out to Wburg at 9am to be sure to get on carriage ride. Realize as we walk outside that it is the coldest day Wburg has seen perhaps EVER. Dad’s eyes begin to water until he looks like he’s weeping uncontrollably. He very well may be. Baby, in seventeen layers including sherpa-lined teddy-bear like snowsuit, can’t even cry because she can’t believe anyone would BRING a baby out in cold like this. But we’re here for CHRISTMAS FUN so we will not be stopped.
10am: Carriage ride. 1 mph pace behind horse allows the wind to really hit us full blast so we’re colder than any human has ever been. We look around for Christmas evidence but it’s lacking aside from a few wreaths. Oh, and one billion people setting up camp chairs next to marked-off-in-police-tape areas. Festive.
10:10 am: Carriage ride that we raced down for is over. We begin visiting historical buildings in an effort to stay warm. 99% of historical facts go completely over children’s heads. NO mention is made of anything Christmas-y. My mother ties a scarf around her head like a babushka, looking weird, but not ANY weirder than the 8 zillion people sitting in their camp chairs. By police tape.
11 am: Need to feed the baby. Ask where I can do so and I’m directed to a porta-john. Nice. Remember that Williamsburg was sued for being not-handicapped-friendly, a fact reinforced each time I have to carry stroller up and down steps, and consider nursing baby in the middle of the street, only to realize that would be freezing and give new meaning to colder than a witch’s…
This will all be worth it when Christmas fun begins. Later. Surprised there’s not more now, but it will surely begin soon.
Noon: We visit art museum and happen upon a “coloring area”. Children begin coloring (once their ice cube fingers become bendable) and we think perhaps we’ll settle in there for 4 or so hours till the fun scheduled that night starts. Smell terrible smell. Realize it’s baby. Go to change diapers and realize…don’t have any in the GIANT diaper bag filled with 40 pounds of “big girl stuff” that I’ve been lugging around all day. Decide to nurse baby in the corner of the children’s room with a blanket covering me, having rejected porta-john, and a tour comes through. Stop feeding baby and get everyone in car to drive home to disco-pool-hotel for lunch. Realize as we give up our parking spot we might never get another. Because of the DROVES of people coming in for the CHRISTMAS FUN, all of whom are sitting in camp chairs and staring at police tape.
2pm: Adults have eaten lunch. Children, at this point subsisting on crust of bread because they refuse to eat anything else, are touch and go. We head back to the Burg. At any given point one is yelling that they can’t walk and are freezing (later we see twins legs, completely chaffed, and feel a little bad that we ignored complaining). Continue to see historical things, including George Washington on his horse, later reported to their father as “We saw George Harrison”. They are really into the Beatles. Have yet to see anything Christmas-y.
4pm: At this point we’re on our third visit to the blacksmith, only because he has a fire. Baby, who has tried to sleep through this entire thing and just keeps getting pulled in an out of her stroller that I’ve manhandled up and down steps, smells like smoked jerky because we’ve been in the blacksmith so long. Children can basically forge their own horseshoes due to knowledge gained. Upside: we’re slightly warmer.
5pm: Sneak into Williamsburg Inn. My father at this point has lost 10 pounds in liquid body weight from the amount of tears pouring down his face because of the frozen tundra. Mother has layered every item in her suitcase on. We sit in the glorious and beautiful lobby of the Williamsburg Inn hoping not to be thrown out as homeless bums. I did find a place to nurse the baby complete with novels to read and I consider locking myself in and never coming out. Another couple comes in and sits down and I don’t even care. They do; they realize I’m nursing and move on. Oh well.
5:30pm: Head off to dinner. Christmas-y item spotted: choir. Children sit to listen and we are shocked that any acknowledgment of the holiday is being made. There are at this point 4.2 million people sitting in camp chairs sitting and staring at police tape around the areas where the fireworks may or may not happen. They have ignored the laws of physics that point out that fireworks will be visible IN THE SKY and are crowding each other to be as close to crime tape as possible.
6pm: Sit in restaurant and ask for 7 bottles of wine to immediately be brought for personal use. Baby is out of her teddy bear gear but doesn’t want to wake up–likely reasoning that if she just keeps sleeping, she’ll hopefully wake up much later in a place where it’s not 40 below, people dress her like a teddy bear and expect her to learn history, and it will all be over. Dinner arrives, needing two hands, baby wakes up. Children, again, refuse to eat anything. Drink wine. Fireworks are heard–the SUM TOTAL of the Christmas magic. We see one over the dumpster of the restaurant. Drink wine. Run children outside to see if there are more fireworks and see one more. Go back inside and drink more wine.
Sunday: Let children swim one more time and begin trek home at 10:30.
10:31: Children begin asking for McDonalds for lunch.
12 noon: Give in finally to 90 minutes worth of McDonald’s asking and baby wakes up. Starts to yell. Stop for one hour pit stop at aunt and uncle’s to let off steam and feed baby in a place OTHER than a rest stop or porta-john, how glamorous. Spoiled baby.
3pm: Having pit-stopped for 3 hours we get back on the road fearing the worst. The worst delivers. The baby yells as long as NJ. Not in the sense of “a heart as big as Texas”-type euphemism, but THE ENTIRE LENGTH OF NJ. We attempt to tune her out with Christmas carols but not even the cast of Glee can belt them out that loud.
7:30 pm: Arrive home. Need wine. Baby is a ball of sweat from incessant yelling. Children asked how trip was?
“We saw fireworks”.