There were two things Diamondqueen really wanted for herself out of our Virginia sojourn: to go to the Dooney & Bourke store at Prime Outlets in Williamsburg and to visit Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home. Since Charlottesville was along our return route to Lexington, where we were spending our last night on the road, Monticello was an easy side trip.
When we purchased our tickets, we found out they offered a special tour of the house just for children. In addition, this tour was going to start in 15 minutes or so, whereas the usual house tour would require about an hour’s wait. Diamondqueen chose the children’s tour, and we hurried to the shuttle bus.
On the grounds of Monticello, under those huge, old trees overhanging the left side of the house, we had just reached the meeting point for the children’s tour when S.Hooligan complained her stomach hurt. We’d just been down this road the night before, so Diamondqueen didn’t delay. J.Hooligan and I stayed behind with instructions to let the guide know she’d be back shortly, and Diamondqueen swept S. toward the bathrooms.
The guide arrived, an elegant elderly gentleman with the demeanor of a kind university professor. When I told him my sister and niece had made a sudden run to the bathroom, he said, “Don’t worry, we won’t be leaving for several minutes.”
Several minutes passed and Diamondqueen and S. didn’t appear. I kept sprinting from the tour group to the stop of the stairs. Finally I spotted them, but S. couldn’t be rushed. Nothing significant had happened in the bathroom, Diamondqueen said, but S. still didn’t feel well. “You go on with J. on the tour and I’ll wait out here with S.,” Diamondqueen directed. She had visions of S. upchucking on Jefferson’s antique carpets.
For me, though, it was unthinkable that Diamondqueen wouldn’t get to see Monticello. I’d been inside once, about 10 years ago. I’d been looking forward to seeing everything again, but I certainly wouldn’t enjoy it under these circumstances. “I’ll stay with S., you go,” I said.
Finally Diamondqueen agreed. As the tour group followed the guide toward the house, I looked down at S., who was sitting listlessly in the grass. There was a lovely boardwalk-like side porch with benches. I convinced S. at last to go up there with me to sit.
Light rain showers were falling with distant thunder rolling across the mountains. I sat on the bench with S. curled up next to me. It was exceedingly pleasant — hushed, cool, and refreshing after our long drive all day. We changed benches once when the rain came down a little harder, although I was wary of sitting under the trees in case of lightning. There was a small building at the end of the porch. I convinced S. we should go peek in the windows and see what was in there. Then I got her to go look at the fishpond nearby. We were at the back of the mansion now. I pulled out a nickle and showed it to S. “See, there’s the house where we are on one side, and Thomas Jefferson on the other.”
S.Hooligan perked up at having this unusual visual aid, and she became interested in exploring around the outside of the mansion. Rain was falling in earnest and the thunder was becoming louder, so we went from covered porch to covered porch. By peering in the windows, I saw some of the decorative Items I’d hoped to see from the inside, and S. enjoyed studying the back of the nickle and saying, “First we were here, now we’re here,” as we moved about. We’d visited all four sides of the mansion and were on the columned back entry again when Diamondqueen and J.Hooligan appeared.
I hadn’t missed going on the tour at all. It was fun to explore with S., seeing everything through her almost-five-year-old’s eyes. With Diamondqueen and J., we further investigated the tunnel and adjoining rooms under the mansion, then we went down to the gift shop. I wanted a charm for my bracelet. What I had in mind was a silver miniature of Monticello itself, but what I purchased was a replica of a nickle, in silver, including the image of Monticello on the back. That’s what I will remember most fondly from the visit: Studying a simple nickle with my young niece as we ventured here and there around the great man’s home.