Monticello in June

When you move to Charlottesville you are made to sign an oath in your own blood swearing to bring to Monticello any out-of-town guests who have never visited Thomas Jefferson’s house before. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve made the pilgrimage to Jefferson’s home, but I can honestly say that I learn something new every time. On this visit, I did the Garden Tour for the first time. In my own garden there is nothing but a few Monarda stems; the gardens at Monticello on the other hand, are full of color:

How do you make sure you have incredible vistas? Build your house on top of a mountain:

How do you make sure you don’t have annoying neighbors? Buy the mountain right next to your own mountain.

How do you keep up all those tidy acres and acres of beds? Slave labor. According to our guide, Jefferson himself spent about a half hour a day working in his own gardens.

No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden…But though an old man, I am but a young gardener.”

A wonderful day

My best friend and her family came to visit us today!

I wrote earlier that meeting Janel was a “crossroads” moment when life took a turn for the better. She and I met when we were both graduate students, and I was at one of the lowest points in my life. I was sad, lonely, and living in a roach and rat infested welfare hotel that Columbia University had bought to gradually convert into graduate student housing. When Janel and I became friends, everything changed. We sublet a beautiful pre-war one bedroom apartment on Riverside Drive from a classmate who was spending the year in the Czech Republic. We would stay up all night yakking and chortling into the early hours of the morning. We would throw parties for any occasion or for no occasion at all. We started a singing group together. Among the people whom we auditioned and accepted into the group were…

…our future husbands!

Janel and I now each have two boys and a girl. They call us “Auntie Adrienne” and “Auntie Janel.” When my sisters and I envision our old age, we always assume that my “beloved Janel” (as my sisters like to refer to her) will be sitting in a rocking chair right next to ours. Her friendship has made the best times in my life more joyful, and has sustained me in the worst times of my life. It’s always a beautiful day when I get to see my friend, but today two out of my three kids had the day off from school, I had taken the day off from work to be with them, the sun was shining, and…

We started the day with a walk along the Saunders-Monticello Trail, an easy 2 mile stretch along the south side of the Thomas Jefferson Parkway, which begins at the base of Monticello.

We didn’t get too far, because the kids found a little pond and spent a good 20 minutes skipping stones.

It gave us more time to catch up!

We drove up the mountain to the Thomas Jefferson Visitor’s Center at Monticello to have an al fresco lunch at the cafe there, before going back down the road just a little ways to find the entrance to the road leading up to Carter Mountain Orchard. We picked far too many Pink Ladies and ate some sinfully scrumptious apple cider donuts. The views up there are stunning. All day I kept thinking how lucky I was to live in beautiful Charlottesville.

Janel asked my daughter to put the apple she had just picked into the bag “in a dramatic way” for a picture. She readily complied. (Look at how that little silly’s hand is emoting in the second photo)!

We posed for our own picture…

…and then went to pick up Nicholas at his school. While we were waiting for him, the kids played on the swings,

and then our youngest four played an epic two on two soccer game on a full-size field. My daughter was literally weeping with exhaustion by the end of it.

We drove our matching minivans (!) to Peter Chang’s for dinner.

Finally, we said our goodbyes, made plans to see each other again soon, and headed back to our own homes with so many happy new memories. Here are three that I’m going to store up to remember on days that are less wonderful than this one: 1) the feeling of the warm sun on our backs as we stood between the rows of apple trees waiting for the children to come fill our open bags, 2) how we laughed and laughed as we watched the kids playing their two-on-two soccer game with funny strategies like perfectly executed throw-ins (to themselves!), and 3) our little daughters chatting comfortably and companiably with each other at the other end of the dinner table.

It was “wonderful, wonderful, most wonderful wonderful, and yet again wonderful and after that, out of all whooping!”*

*From Shakespeare’s As You Like It, Act III, Scene 2