Childhood memories are a form of time travel. They can take you back to the time and place and person you once were. I grew up going to Old Sturbridge Village, a living history museum in Massachusetts. I have such happy memories of my visits there as a child. Of the sun beating down on us as we walked the dirt roads, scuffing our feet and watching the dust swirl around our toes. Of hanging over the split rail fences watching the lambs mill around their mothers. Of standing in the kitchens listening to my mom discuss cooking techniques with the costumed interpreters. Of eating fat ginger cookies from the bake house. Of lying flat on the little bridge across the stream looking for minnows. Of watching as the blacksmith pumped the bellows and listening to the ring of his hammer and then the hiss of the steam as he plunged metal into water to cool it. When I walk through the doors of Sturbridge Village I become that little girl again.
I promised my daughter that if she didn't miss much school this year I would let her take a day off and we would do something fun. She picked Sturbridge Village. My children have the same happy memories associated with it that I have. My son has missed too much school to take a day off and my husband couldn't take a day either so it was just my daughter and me. I don't know which of us was more excited about the day.
Our first stop was the lambs. My daughter loves animals and this is what she was most excited about. We timed our visit just right. There were a lot of lambs scattered all around the village and they were absolutely adorable. I think my daughter could have stood there all day watching them. I finally dragged her away to visit a few of the houses.
The interpreters are always happy to answer questions and just make the visit interesting. One thing I appreciate about OSV is that the experience stays the same. Exhibits may change slightly but the village I take my children to visit is the same as the one I visited myself. I am always afraid that somehow, in their bid to keep up with society and in order to attract more visitors, they will do horrible things like put interactive screens in the houses. The appeal of museums like this is that they put you in the picture. When you walk through them it is possible to feel like you live in the village, that you too will be working in the garden or plowing the field or milking the cow. I am glad they don't do anything to take away from that feeling of immediacy.
The little red farmhouse pictured at the top of this post was always my favorite place in the village. I used to imagine living in it with the fields all around me and the stream down the hill. The kitchen is always in use and I love seeing the food they make and the recipe books they use to do so. The interpreters are very knowledgeable and always happy to talk.
We also had to make a stop at the blacksmith's shop. This was always my son's favorite. He would sit and watch the blacksmith at work and chat to him for as long as we would let him. When he found out we were going to OSV he made me promise we would all go back over the summer so he could visit the blacksmith. My son is at a technical high school and is taking machine shop. I wonder if his fascination with working with metal started when he was little and had to be dragged out of the blacksmith's shop.
Sturbridge Village is quintessential old New England. The buildings are original and have been moved on location and restored to their former condition. The scenery is picture perfect. There are a lot of paths and trails you can walk.
It is not just the childhood memories that are a form of time travel, Old Sturbridge Village is as well. It takes you back to a slower, quieter time. A time with its own problems and its own struggles but also its own joy and its own beauty.
One important part of any visit to OSV is a walk down the hill to the stream. It is vital that you sit on the little bridge, listen to the blackbirds and swifts in the meadow, and then play a few games of Pooh sticks.
My childhood and my children's become merged at Sturbridge Village. Is is me or my daughter agonizing about which flavor of candy stick to buy? Is it me or my son sitting on the fence watching the cattle? Sometimes I feel that if I could just turn my head quickly enough I would see her, that little girl I used to be, ponytails flapping as I run, red sneakers covered with dust, headed for the stream or the farm or the covered bridge. But now I turn my head and see another little girl, with a braid bouncing on her back and grey converse covered with dust, headed for the stream. She grins at me and starts collecting sticks. She is determined to win at Pooh sticks. I grin back and start collecting them too. For a moment, I can almost feel the swish of my ponytails as I turn my head.