Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A 17th Century Weekend Produces Grateful Hearts

Our family has done some crazy things in the past. We love to change it up now and again to gain a new perspective. Friday nights are family nights in our house. We have stayed in with popcorn and a movie or stepped out for dinner and a walkabout at the local book store. My hubby, Bob and I had an idea for a 17th Century weekend. It was years ago and worth doing again, now that we have more children. We prepared the menu and entertainment then informed the kids. You would have thought we took away their toys and TV. Oh yeah, that is exactly what we were doing. The moans were loud and clear from the children. The older the child, the louder their moaned. We had our work cut out for us.

Bob and I set the date, and the told them it was on! We didn't want to hear anymore about it until after the weekend was up. We hoped that would be the end of it, but children have a hard time controlling their expressions of discontent. We would be pointing that out to them later! The Friday rolled up and we explained all the rules. We would not be using any electricity after 5:00p.m. and dad and I had picked the activities for the first night. Their faces winced a few times before they caught our expressions. We expected full compliance.

Bare with us, we were not trying to be mean or unjust. We just wanted them to learn several things about the times they live in now in comparison to our ancestors. We hoped they would learn the proverbial 'don't judge the book by it's cover' when we were done. Also we hoped they maintained an adventurous spirit while still submitting to authority.

I will continue. The sun set faithfully behind the mountains and we lit candles throughout the house. For our youngest(age 3 at the time), we gave her a baby size battery operated lantern. This was just for safety. She would travel on her own with this instead of a live flame. The glow of the candles warmed the faces and shadows of the rooms. We would walk by each other enjoying the new atmosphere. I think they were surprise to see what it would look like. The stew in the crock pot was unplugged promptly at 5:00 and the table set by lots of small hands. The plates twinkled in the light and we bowed our heads in prayer as Papa blessed the meal. The conversation at dinner grew livelier by the minute. Maybe the idea of eating in the dark was actually exciting. They did not even noticed how much they were enjoying themselves. Papa and I did.

After dinner, we cleared the table together and cleaned up. Moving to the living room, we pulled out the familiar game, Sorry. We had a great time playing. Laughter filled the air as we competed against each other. Eventually someone would said they needed to use the restroom. I would say, 'take your light and head out 50 yards from the house'. Everyone knew I was joking, but it reminded them that they have only to walk down the hall, when our ancestors walked out in any kind of weather to an outhouse.

We asked the children to get ready for bed. We made sure they understood they need to dress warmly because there would be no heat tonight. No matter how the fireplace roared the heat would not reach their bedrooms. They ran off with their little lights. Papa and I stayed by the fire. We warmed our toes and watched the flames dance off the wood in the fireplace. We could hear the children talking to each other. "I can't find my... I need my light, I have to brush my teeth...Don't take your light, I wouldn't be able to see in my drawer..." and on and on it went. When our children were at our feet again ready for a story, we had to bring up how exciting the discover of electricity was to our ancestors. In 1752, Benjamin Franklin discovered that electricity could be harnessed but it would take over 100 years later before Thomas Edison would invented the light bulb. We explained further that they were born into a time where you can walk over, flip a switch and wha..la Light! Our good humor boy(then about 7) ran over and mocked flipping on the switch. We shook our heads no. Then our teenage girl (about 15) made a case for how much harder it was to complete the simplest of tasks.

Papa began reading by candlelight with fire crackling in the background just added to the drama of the story. Reading out loud to kids, sometimes it is hard to grab their wondering mind. But there in the small circle of light surrounded by darkness provided them will a place to focus their attention. Papa's face was animated with the shadows and lights bouncing about as he dispensed his tale on the edge of his chair. Oh they moaned a different song, when Papa finished the chapter and told them it was time for bed. "One more Chapter!" chanted around the room. It was a long time ago...I don't remember if he read another chapter. I do remember how grateful they were to hear the story.

The Fireplace glowed in orange and red tones with our feet extended towards the heat. Cuddled up in our living room, the children settled into their beds, we could still hear them chatting. It went something like this..."That wasn't so bad...I liked it...I can't wait to flip the switch on the wall(the boy), Can you image going out side in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom?(one of girls!)...I want to do it again."

The next night, the children made lots of suggestions for the activities for the evening. We settled on a few including reading a story by the fireplace. When the weekend was over, we all experienced the same gratefulness of switching on a light, flushing a toilet, doing a load of laundry then a piece by piece experience, we could cook instead of eating a lot of cold foods, and so much more. I especially liked how much we depended on each other. Modern convinences can create independence. I can play on the computer, watch TV and cook without someone else. You need extra hands for all the daily life of the 17th Century.

Life gets busy and we haven't done that in a few years. It might be time to do it again. Maybe invite my grandsons to join us. I'll ask my hubby to see what he thinks. If you do something similar or end up doing one of these weekends with your family, tell us about it. What did you or your children learn? Did you have fun? It is winter time, the sun sets early and the fireplace is glowing. Try one night and see what happens!!

1 comment:

  1. That sounds like fun! We might try that when the kids are old enough to understand :) Thanks for the idea.