As a child I yearned to live in “yonder years”. I remember taking a sixth grade field trip to Colonial Williamsburg and feeling like I was finally home. Oh, to write with a feather pen and churn butter. If only that place hired minors I would have sent in my resume and spent the remainder of adolescence in a one-room schoolhouse. I remember wondering if the people who worked there stayed in character all the time. I surely would have. I fantasized about how I would run an apothecary and mince herbs with a little mortar and pestle. “Tis a pleasure to see you Bitty Washington, might I prescribe you some horehound and thyme?”

Oh what a life!

When I returned home from the trip I spent hours in my backyard pretending to “live off the land.” I had it all planned out. I’d keep my perishables in the creek, I’d build my house behind the woodpile. I’d hitch my horse to the Magnolia tree in our back yard. If I could get my parents to purchase a few sheep and a loom I was sure I could learn to weave. I figured out all the things I’d need to acquire: a lantern, a washboard, a musket… Maybe I’d put them on my birthday list?

The fantasy continued for several years. Even in high school I’d occasionally pour cream into some plastic Tupperware and shake it till it turned to butter just to prove that I had what it took to live in colonial times. But eventually the fantasies fell away. I began to focus on mix tapes, movies, and cars. The “yonder years” just stopped making sense. It got so I could no longer recall what the big appeal had been in the first place. Why would anyone want to churn butter?

But the other day I took my daughter to a farm and as I watched her chase a bird up a sloping pasture it all came back. She looked so free and at home just moving across the land. Suddenly I wanted it again. All at once I needed a stone hearth and a family farm and a horse and loom and a big pot of stew dangling over an open fire. I needed to know all my neighbors. I needed my husband to become a blacksmith. I needed a chest full of tiny little drawers so that I could finally open the apothecary store of my dreams. I could see it all play out. My daughter would be wild and resourceful. She’d have her own flock of chickens. We’d sew quilts together. We’d eat long meals, work the fields, and tell stories by candlelight. This was the life for us! In that moment, if I had had a time machine, I would have powered it up and hit the road.

That night I stayed up after everyone had gone to bed and googled “Colonial Times.”  I needed to start planning our escape into the past. At first it was just like I remembered it- the brick homes, the lush gardens, the axes and muskets leaning against the front door. It was lovely. But then I moved beyond the pictures and started reading the details. I saw the fine print; the first thing that caught my eye was the four-page list of common diseases including smallpox, malaria and the bubonic plague. How could my little one run through the fields and tend to her flock of chickens if she was too busy fighting off the black death? Then there were the rules. I found a list of 110 rules for “decent behavior in company and conversation” at least ten of them mentioned proper ways to handle utensils. Suddenly the long family meals didn’t sound so appealing. How could we all kick back and just shoot the shit together if we were obsessed with holding our forks “just so”. Then there was the oppression of women, the terrible life expectancy, the packs of wolves, and the fact that I was somehow going to have to get my two year old to wear a bodice. I can barely get a t-shirt over her head. There was no way this whole Colonial thing was going to work out.

I closed up the computer and called it a day. The next morning I woke up grateful for modern medicine and women’s suffrage and the ipod that kept my daughter occupied as I made coffee. “Want some toast?” I called out to Sage as she danced to The Black Eyed Peas.

“Yeah,” she said.

“With butter?” I asked.

“Yeah,” she said.

And as I opened the fridge I did have a brief moment where I looked at the cream. “I could churn it…” I thought. “I wonder how long that would take?” As I contemplated the routine, I heard my daughter call from the other room,  “Come dance with toast!” She said.

“Coming,” I answered back. I grabbed the Land O’ Lakes, cut off a piece, slapped it on some toast, and joined my daughter in the living room to dance through breakfast.

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