At the Colonial Farm Park, we walk back into 1771. It is all bonnets and woolen trousers. The family living there hangs tobacco in the barn to dry. The cast-iron belly of a pot hangs low over a fire that heats a potage of turnips, onions, and potatoes to boiling. The children are at work pulling “mile o’minute” from the fence with large wooden rakes. The skinny black cat is stuck in the tree, but one of the women uses a thick branch to help him down. As soon as he is back on the ground, he races off to terrorize the chickens.
Bug and his friend scoot around the corner to get in on the action when the clutch of young people returns from rounding up a loose piglet. A boy tosses darts made of corn cobs through a hoop. The girls spread their skirts and rest in the shade before supper. They show the two children from the future their dolls made of twisted corn husks wrapped in scraps of hand-dyed wool.
The place is inches away from one of the most congested metropolitan areas in the country. Or rather, what will become such a place in another 250 years. My friend’s little boy points out a cumulus cloud. A leaf falls into the collar of his shirt and he giggles. I hear the geese jabber at someone passing over the hill.
Time passes. Maybe a long time, maybe not. My friend and I talk, sitting on stumps outside the warming face of the log house where garlic dries in the rafters. Bug and his buddy are somewhere out of sight. A chicken squawks its disapproval at the relentless kitten. Eventually, Bug comes around to see me.
“Mommy, do you know what we are doing?”
“I have no idea.”
“We’re building a dollhouse.”
We rise and shake of the torpor. Indeed, he and my friend’s daughter have collected fallen sticks and sleeves of bark, gathered stones, overturned logs. They continue to balance these mismatched building block across one another, higher and wider. All around them, the skirts spread, the bonnets loll. No one speaks. Somehow, the house is erected.
My friend and I sit some more. Later, we wake, and 20 years has passed. The sun has moved our rough seats into the shade. We shiver a little and pull sweaters back over our sunburned shoulders. When we leave, we find the children have assembled the corn-husk family in its new quarters. The rooster struts past, swishing his black-ringed tail. The kitten watches from a distance. Everyone is ready for winter.