Thoughts from George Washington’s Front Yard: A Trip to Mount Vernon

I wasn’t expecting to go to Virginia. One of my aunts reached out to me to offer me a chance to go to a cousin’s wedding over in Colonial Country and I said sure. I hadn’t been out of the state in a few years and I’ve been itching to travel. While this was going to be a longer post about the entire trip and the wedding with plenty of personal details and stories: those are personal so I’ll keep it to the one historical trip I got to take during my short time in Virginia: Mount Vernon.

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For those of you who don’t know, Mount Vernon is the house that Washington inherited from his father and later added onto as he made it the sprawling home that he shared with his family and entertained guests at. It’s a beautiful piece of architecture and an important part of American history so I was happy to take a small trip there with my aunt.

Here are some of the things I learned from Washington’s porch.

    • As a Texan, New England is hilariously small to me. The fact that Virginia is such a small state means that there are plenty of things in very close proximity to each other so while I got to see one historical place I’m sure on my next trip (and trust me, I’m already planning the next trip) I’m sure with a little more planning, it wouldn’t be hard to have a full historical tour of the founding of my homeland.
    • Mount Vernon is huge. I was not expecting it to be as big as it was and based purely on the sweat that covered my poor pudgy frame, I was not prepared to walk this sprawling estate.
    • Our tour guide, Becky, was genuinely amazing and I loved her insights.
  • Mount Vernon is full of wonderfully detailed rooms and decor that gives me serious envy of how colonial folks were as extra as we are now including:
      • A fan chair which is literally a chair with a fan over top that you power with a foot pedal system.
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      • A marble mantle that according to legend a British friend of Washington said he just had to have and then replaced the damn thing from his own British home and gave it to Washington.
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        • I need friends like that.
      • A view of the Potomac that looks across to Maryland.
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        • Again, very strange as a Texan that just right across over yonder water is another state. We only have that with Oklahoma and no one is proud of that.
    • And a stunning piece of historical context in the form of an iron key.
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      • Story time, kids. So Washington was friends with the Marquis Lafayette. The French Revolution had mostly ended the chill part but the Marquis was called back to France on a July day after word of the Bastille prison was facing a prison break of epic proportions. The Marquis reported from the wreckage of the Bastille and upon his return to the United States gave his friend and fellow revolutionary spirit one of the iron keys of the Bastille in hopes to inspire his friend to greatness. The storming of the Bastille kicked off the much bloodier part of the revolution but we’re gonna ignore that for now. And I am proud to own a chachki copy of that key because I am a francophile, don’t judge me.
    • Martha Washington’s gardens were beautiful and it’s nice to see that many of them are still full of herbs, veggies and fruits.
    • Becky was very proud of me for knowing that sugar was the more valuable precious white substance over salt.
    • I struggle with the legacy of one of America’s founders being sold as bobbleheads and more.
      • In my mind, I can imagine Washington being a bit of an introvert and would not like all of us on his lawn and buying his stuff in the form of cheap desk fodder.
    • Becky also understood my hatred of Thomas Jefferson.
      • Jefferson was a racist and he believed slavery was good for black people. On top of that, his love of the French Revolution was dangerous and reckless and led us into a bloodier war with England.
    • I love that Mount Vernon acknowledges that slavery was real and that it was bad.
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        • There’s a very moving monument to the slaves that lived and died on Mount Vernon that was designed by Howard University students and dedicated by local pastors.
      • Honestly, the legacy of slavery is difficult to grapple with and Becky was sweet and empathetic and didn’t try to explain slavery as a white woman to me and my aunt (two black women).
  • I wasn’t expecting to see my aunt cry while touring the slave quarters.
    • It was a powerful moment that I did my best to endure but I suppose because I have the privilege of traveling more and being more away of my history, I’ve moved on past tears and moved onto quiet anger.
  • I was denied the ability to purchase wine from Mount Vernon as we had to return to our hotel for a family obligation, someone avenge me and send me Washington’s wine.

Mount Vernon was lovely and beautiful and the history of this place could easily fill many blog posts and pages. I’m fortunate that I was able to travel and I look forward to doing so again.