To me the state of Virginia seemed like a southern extension of Washington, the civil war notwithstanding. I assumed it was suburbia for DC with really bad traffic. Then Aaron moved here. And Jenny. And Jen. So we came here to see them. After all what’s there to see in Virginia? We have been pleasantly surprised.
We stayed near Jen for the first few days. We were in Falmouth, a small town just north of Fredericksburg. We stayed in the Basil Gordon house on the banks of the Rappahannock, built in 1820 by its namesake, the first known millionaire in America. Our next door neighbor was the Moncure Conway house, a historic home and hospital during the civil war. Slave holding was common when these houses were built. Moncure Conway, though a Virginian, was an abolitionist and is credited with taking 30 slaves from his parents’ home to their freedom in Ohio. Chatham manor was up the hill from us. George Washington’s childhood home was a mile away. Walt Whitman was here. So were Jefferson and Robert E Lee. Over 15,000 soldiers were killed around here during the civil war. History seeps out of everywhere. The brick walls of the spooky basement of the Basil Gordon house talk to us. The winery where Jo and Jen and I went for a glass of wine was in the field where Stonewall Jackson’s arm was amputated a few days before his death. My morning walk in Pratt park takes me through battlefields. Virginia is in the center of American revolutionary and civil war history, like Panipat and Jallianwala Bagh rolled into one place.
We spent a few evenings happily eating and drinking and chatting with Jen and her new family. Thankfully all the kids got along, well enough to even plan future vacations. On our last day in Falmouth we visited our neighbor on the west side, the Belmont. This is the estate and studio of Gari Melchers, a famous American artist who I had not heard of till then. He seemed to have lived a successful happy life as an artist, producing highly regarded art. As we toured his 27 acre estate and his beautiful home, preserved like it looked in the 1920’s, Vivian and Evan wondered if it was necessary to be poor and starving or to cut off one’s ear to achieve fame in the art world.
The docent who showed us around Melchers’ studio asked us where we were visiting from. When we replied Texas, she asked us what was wrong with people there. “They think the vaccine is putting microchips into them”, she laughed. Virginians are making fun on how backward we are in Texas. Mr. Abbott, the world is laughing at your science. Or atleast a silver haired Virginian lady is.
They were on the wrong side of history once. But as I said earlier, we were pleasantly surprised by the Virginia of today. When you walk any place in the world, there is a possibility that you’ll exchange a greeting with a fellow walker, especially if there is eye contact. In Austin you could walk the three mile short loop around Town Lake and expect to say a few hello’s or hi’s or nod a few times. People are busily doing their own thing. Most have earbuds sticking out of their ears and are aurally occupied, like Vivian always is when I try to talk to her in the car. In Virginia, during my morning walks, the “good morning” rate was 100%. A quick hi won’t suffice. Everyone says good morning to each other, even when they pass you on a bicycle traveling in the same direction as you. I’m sure that doesn’t happen everywhere in the state all the time. But it was true during my short data collection period of four mornings in one particular park. In my unscientific study around the world, that is unprecedented.
We aren’t moving to Virginia tomorrow. But we will be happy to visit this beautiful state with her friendly people again.