My niece joined the family on July 12th, 2010. This special young lady's mother is my younger sister, which in classic Chinese culture makes me her Jiu Jiu (舅舅) -- thus the title of this blog. Here I intend to semi-regularly post reflections, thoughts, stories, and assorted whathaveyous pertaining to our trip to China, adoption in general, and (mostly) watching my niece grow up. Since the web is a very public place, I will attempt to maintain my family's privacy while telling the story... but I invite you to follow the blog and come along for the adventure!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Catching Up: August 30th

Quick, name all the cities that have been capital of the USA.

I'll betcha that I've got a name on my list that you probably don't... one that I never heard of until I'd lived just down the road from the place for a couple of years.

Set your WABAC to a little to-do commonly referred to as "The War of 1812" and take a look at what happened 'round these parts. I'll give you a hint: the British burned Washington, DC. Yep, that's right, the mother country of the USA, staunch ally in two world wars, political model upon which our own government is based... they burned a statistically significant chunk of our capital on August 24, 1814[1]

As you might imagine, the gummint headed for the hills... or, at least the nearest plot of land that wasn't infested with Redcoats carrying guns & torches. First Lady Dolly Madison famously saved a famous portrait of George Washington by having it cut from its frame, and barely got out of the city before all the fun started. Meanwhile, Dolly's hubby James wound up spending the night in the tiny hamlet of Brookeville, Maryland -- making it "America's Capital for a Day."

So, now that you've pencilled Brookeville into your list of former US capitals, fast-forward back to the bicentennial celebration of that day's events.  Brookeville is still there, amazingly still recognizable despite developers' best attempts at paving over the place. (The house in the photo to the left is just one of many that was already getting old when President Madison and his party came to visit.) Just get onto Georgia Avenue and head north out of DC... and keep going. You'll know when you reach Brookeville because it has (thankfully) staunchly held onto its historic status to the point where the near-highway status of Georgia Avenue/MD Route 97 is brought to its knees by a "T" intersection with a stop sign -- and a (locally well known but not always loved) 100-degree turn to the left if you want to stay on MD Route 97. [2]

After our extended trip into Lancaster County, PA, earlier in the month, I had really fallen behind on yardwork, housework, and all kinds of other things ending with "work" so I hesitated when Mom called to say she & Dad were accompanying AJ & Miri to Brookeville's big celebration, did I want to meet them there...? (No pressure, it's entirely up to you, Miri's been asking and we told her we didn't know if you'd be able to join us, she wasn't too disappointed but hoped you could, but really, no pressure... Yah, right. <g>)

I figured my neighbors already knew I wasn't the best housekeeper on the block so I put on a clean pair of jeans, grabbed my camera, and headed up Georgia Avenue to Brookeville.  More correctly, I headed up to Olney, where the county was running shuttle buses from the old Montgomery General Hospital building up to Brookeville because the road was closed to all but local homeowners. I passed the time talking with the family of one of Miri's little friends who'd happened to arrive just after I did. When the  shuttle finally showed up, it turned out to be a county school bus tricked-out with air conditioning, plush seats, seat belts, internal radio & ceiling speakers. The kids were all unimpressed, but every. single. adult. on that bus spent the ride up to Brookeville comparing experiences with MoCo public school buses "back in the day" when the seats were anything but plush, seat belts were unheard of, the only radio aboard would be a transistor radio (or Sony Walkman) lashed to the dashboard by the driver, and the only "air conditioning" was an open window... assuming you could pry one open at all.

Everyone disembarked laughing over the changes and we all headed our separate ways. I said goodbye to Miri's friends and spent a few minutes at the elementary school watching the drum-and-fife corps (all in period uniforms) run through their paces before walking up into the town proper. The closer I got to the center of Brookeville, the more fun it was to look around; not only was it novel to be walking (safely!) down the middle of Georgia Avenue, but it looked like every person who lived in the town & environs was dressed in period garb, either civilian or military. (Even most of the US flags on display were the 1812 version.)

I used my decidedly modern iPhone to try to locate my family, and after a few minutes they hove into view, walking slowly in my direction. The Pipsqueak soon let out a happy Uncle Brian! and came running up to me for a hug, then spent the next several minutes attempting to breathlessly tell me about all the horses and people and flags and drums and things she had seen. (I think she was especially impressed by the folks riding horses. She's been on pony rides a few times, but even to me the horses all seemed large; to the pipsqueakish Pipsqueak, they must've towered into the sky.)

We spent time wandering among the various displays and mini-performances, enjoying the virtual time travel back a couple of centuries. At first, Miri seemed most impressed with a couple of donkeys at one exhibit (probably the only non-dog animals around smaller than her!) but was soon engrossed by various hands-on exhibits and craft demonstrations. She even insisted on watching the relatively realistic surgery demonstration in one tent, not the least bothered by the fake blood liberally slathered over the mannequin serving as "patient" -- but also had a grand old time using a big two-handed plane to smooth a log, trying out period musical instruments, and helping a lady operate a large weaving loom. (Although she seemed to prefer the quieter handmade needlepoint to the difficult work of running the loom with its many moving parts.)

After a while, we all began to get a little hungry, but a quick look at the limited menu and unlimited prices in the dining tent brought us all to the decision that it would be best to return to a modern-day locale for dinner.  Even the soldiers and townsfolk all seemed to be slowly making their ways back home, the horse-drawn carriages now heading resolutely out of town while part of the drum-and-fife corps trudged past with nary a bang or tweet.

Miri asked if I could carry her on my shoulders, but after just a few paces it was obvious that we were both too hot for that -- so she took my hand and we had a nice stroll back up to the shuttle stop, talking about all the neat things she had seen and done. (We also spent a couple of minutes discussing whether or not McDonald's was a good place to go for dinner; mercifully, she likes the mac & cheese at a nearby restaurant so she was amenable to having dinner there instead.)  The Pipsqueak made sure we were in the right place to catch the "shadow bus" -- she just gave us that look when we tried correcting her to "shuttle bus" -- and then happily asked if she could ride to dinner in my car instead of Mommy's. (Of course she did!)

And that, in much more than a nutshell, was how the Pipsqueak and her family spent part of August 30, 2014 in the 19th century.

Speaking of which...

In some ways, Brookeville has changed so little from what it looked like back during those tumultuous days in 1814, I didn't have to squint too hard to actually see things how they looked when President Madison & Co. came to spend the night.  Reviewing my photos that evening, I came across one that somehow kept asking me to make it look "right":

Obviously, back in 1814 there were no overhead utility wires, electric lines running into houses, or asphalt roads with bright yellow stripes running down their middles... so I decided to test my new and improved vision (which is still giving me fits, by the way, thus the long delay in making this post). I fired up my trusty ol' copy of Photoshop CS3 and threw the photo at it, thinking I'd have fun for a few minutes. Well, it took a couple of evenings to finish, but in closing, here's the 1814 version of the above photo to tide y'all over 'til my next post:

[1] Among the architectural victims was the White House, until then most commonly referred to as the President's Mansion or similar names. It literally became the white house because a heavy coat of white paint was the only way to hide the soot & scorch marks after post-war rebuilding.

[2] If you turn right, you'll have a pleasantly twisty drive to Brighton Dam and parts beyond. However, if you negotiate that infamous left and manage to not get lost on a couple of odd doglegs Route 97 makes along the way, that road will carry any history buff among you directly into the town square of famous Gettysburg, PA.

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