Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Other Adams Family

There's nothing like sitting down on a cold winter evening to catch up on all those Halloween movies that we missed in October. Thank goodness for the DVR! Of course it was also a reminder that I had some half done posts from last fall to finish. So I left the fictional Addams' to Burt and Ivy and went back to writing about a different Adams family.  This may be a few months late but it's only been a little over a week since President's Day. Of course it's a holiday in honor of two different presidents and basically amounts to the post office and banks being closed and an excuse for mattress sales.

Andy, my son, has moved to a different city every few years lately, this has given his Dad and me ample opportunity to explore lots of new places when we visit him. A year ago he moved to Quincy, a part of the Boston metropolitan area known as the City of Presidents and home to the Adams National Historical Park. The city is named after Colonel John Quincy, maternal grandfather of Abigail Adams the wife of John Adams, the second president of the U.S., and mother of John Quincy Adams, who served as the sixth president. The "park" is basically three homes that serve as examples of the family's upward mobility as well as a very nice library. It was a surprise to find that a good  part of the tour focused on the deeds of Abigail Adams as well as the presidential accomplishments.

Four of the Adams' are interred at their family house of worship, The United First Parish Church, just down the street from the visitors center. Apparently they were originally buried in the cemetery across the way but since John Adams had financed the new building, John Quincy Adams decided to construct a crypt for his parents remains. Later, his son enlarged it so now it is the final resting place of both Presidents and First Ladies. We just had to begin with a good snoop around that!

Just off a squeaky clean hallway was the entry to the equally spotless crypt. Keeping with New England tradition, it turned out to be about as simple as possible and completely devoid of ornament or decoration. Bright perimeter lighting illuminated the plain granite tombs, completely destroying any possibility of funereal gloom. There was no low murmur of voices or clinking dishes and whiffs of coffee to greet us when we descended into the church basement. This was something that stuck in my mind from a visit to Lord Nelson's Tomb in St. Paul's Cathedral many years ago. In the midst of all the reverence for national heroes it seems like coffee (or tea, in that case) was usually being served around the corner! Sadly that wasn't the case here, not so much as a cobweb in the corner either. Although I did see a poster for the Stone Temple Coffee House offering "Concerts on the Crypts".

On the other hand, across the street the Hancock Cemetery made up for the disappointing lack of personality in the crypt with a gorgeous display of fall color and a lots of creepy headstones. It is named in honor of The Reverend John Hancock who was a pastor of the church and the father of the patriot, John Hancock. As well as being famous for his oversized signature on the Declaration of Independence, John Hancock also served as the president of the Second Continental Congress and apparently counts as another "president" who was born in Quincy, according to one website. 

This is the front door of the birthplace of John Adams. All the Park Rangers insisted that this was it's authentic appearance. Can't you just see Lurch opening that door?  John and Abigail Adams actually started out their married life in a less imposing, much smaller house just 75 feet away. During the years leading up to the revolution and during the actual fighting, Abigail Adams was left behind on her own to run the farm, educate her children and keep the family financially afloat. She even found the time to melt down her pewter spoons for musket balls for the militia as well as petition the Continental Congress to abolish slavery and grant equal rights to women. Obviously they ignored her.   

I seem to have forgotten everything I ever learned about American history. While writing this post all sorts of questions popped up and I ended up actually doing some serious reading. After going through the many volumes written about the Adams' plus their letters I've come to the conclusion that the significant players in the revolution were a pretty small group who were either good friends, close relatives or both. They alternately opposed or supported each other continually over many years. For instance, Abigail Adams was a cousin of John Hancock's wife. Paul Revere cast the original bell for the United First Parish church that John Adams financed which unfortunately had to be melted down and recast because it wasn't loud enough to be useful as a fire alarm. Nobody held it against him.  


This is Peacefield where the Adams' settled down after returning from ambassadorships in London and Paris. Of course there was no photography allowed inside which is a real shame because nearly all of the household items and furniture actually belonged to them. While John was in Paris negotiating for recognition of the US as a country and hammering out commerce treaties he would ship china and fans to Abigail to sell locally, by doing this she was also able to build up a rather nice collection of china for herself. The house was a great deal smaller when they first purchased it so Abigail expanded it while John was off being Washington's Vice-President and then President. 

One of the best account of the daily life during the revolutionary period is documented through the hundreds of letters Abigail wrote to her husband as well as Thomas Jefferson. She was famous at the time for her "independence of thought" and referred to by her critics as "Mrs. President". While living in Paris she became such good friends with Jefferson that when she moved to London they exchanged shopping favors for each other. She acquired table cloths and napkins for him and he found her a pair of "fashionable" Parisian silk shoes. Unfortunately they fell out when he defeated John Adams in the Presidential election of 1800 but after a decade or so they eventually made up.    

The Stone Library was built in 1870 to house the more than 12,000 volumes in twelve languages owned by John Quincy Adams along with the letters of his parents as well as a copy of George Washington's farewell address. Here is a photo of the spectacular inside. In 1841 John Quincy Adams received a bible as thanks from the freed Mendi captives who had mutinied on La Amistad and whom he successfully defended before the Supreme Court. Steven Spielberg made a movie about it in 1997 and won lots of awards. Maybe that's the next movie we will watch after The Addams Family Values.

John Adams was the first president to live in the White House, on his second night there he wrote to Abigail, saying: "May none but the wise men ever rule under this roof."
Guess we'll be seeing about that! Thanks for stopping by.  

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Happy Valentine's Day!

Burt is a big fan of holidays and is always happy for an excuse to celebrate.
This month they have come in such a quick succession that he hasn't been able to keep up!

Ok, maybe he's not so enthusiastic about Groundhog Day. Not that we have any living in our backyard and if there were any they would have had a lot of digging to do in order get out from under all that snow. It's usually around Valentine's Day that I begin to wonder if spring is even a possibility. 

There is a groundhog in our vicinity who has been erroneously predicting the onset of spring since 1948. Twelve days ago Jimmy from Sun Prairie didn't see his shadow which forecast an early spring. To be fair he's new to the job and maybe isn't even a local rodent. Last year there was an incident with the mayor that went viral and the authorities demanded a license. This led to the former Jimmy being return to the wild where I like to picture him happily snoozing away in blissful hibernation. 

At least sub zero temperatures are a good excuse to partake in the traditional indulgences. After all, there will be some serious shoveling to do when it warms up later today and starts to snow. 

We will need a few extra calories to keep up our spirits and stay warm . . .

. . . because sooner or later everything will be coming up roses.

Thanks for stopping by and Happy Valentine's Day!