Today is one of those lazy spring fever kind of days. The birds were singing and building their nest. Children were playing in the park across the street, enjoying the day.
As for me, I decided I was feeling too lazy to do much of anything. I took a book about Jefferson’s life of the shelf and sat down to read.
“Mindy, if it’s all right with you I have some reports to catch up on. I’m going to get a glass of tea first, want one,” David, ask as he stuck his head into the room.
“No thanks honey and I don’t mind if you get some work done today. I’m just going to read this afternoon,” I said.
I soon heard my husband typing away on the keyboard. I was reading for an hour or so when I started feeling sleepy.
The sounds around me soon began to fade gently away, they were becoming less clear now, for I could barely hear the sounds of children playing in the park.
I soon fell sound asleep.
After what seemed like only a second of time, I found myself standing in a field of wild flowers at the base of a large hill. At the top of the hill, I could see an extremely beautiful two-story mansion. The house looked so very different from any I had ever seen before. It had four stately columns that supported the upper portion of the house that looked to be a large sunroof.
I was deep in my thoughts, amazement and confusion, when I realized that someone was saying something very close to me. Not only was a man standing behind me, but he also looked like Thomas Jefferson, at least he looked like the picture in my book, even his clothing was the same.
I must have just stood there with my mouth hanging open and looking very ridiculous indeed, because the first thing I heard him say was, “Madam – are you daft? Did you not hear what I said, or is it perhaps that you are incapable of speech and cannot hear? I asked you, to tell me your name.”
I tried to speak. I truly did, but the only sounds I made were likening to those of a trapped mouse, in other words, I squeaked.
While I was trying to regain my composure, my voice, and my sanity, I noticed that Mr. Jefferson was, openly inspecting me.
“What manner of dress is this?” He asked while pointing his index finger at me. “I have seen many travelers from just as many lands and I have never seen clothing to compare, why it’s, it’s unsuitable. No Madam, it’s most disgraceful. Who ever heard of a woman wearing men’s trousers?”
For the first time in my life, I truly felt ashamed of what I was wearing. I quickly decided that I would not tell him the truth of who I was or how I came to be there.
I happen to love the study of history and I knew quite well, in Jefferson’s time they would hang or institutionalized crazy people.
If I were to tell Mr. Jefferson, the truth I could end up on the first ship to England headed straight for the infamous insane asylum of Bedlam, or dead. I quickly devised a story to tell him. Something must have happened, to put me here in this time, or I was dreaming, either that or I had lost my mind.
“I must be insane,” I said aloud. “How, on God’s green earth did I get here?”
“Madam, I assure you, that is what I wish to Know.”
I decided that if I was at Monticello, however it had happened, I might as well enjoy the visit. This impromptu visit with an icon from the past, dream or insanity, may give me the chance to learn if our history books had related the truth about his life.
There were so many questions to ask, but the most important questions, to me, were about the Declaration of Independence, his thoughts on slavery, and his marriage to Martha. Of course, there was also the question of how I came to be here in the first place.
“I do apologize for staring so, my dear sir, but I just cannot seem to remember anything, not even my name. I feel quite faint; do you think I might trouble you for a bit of water,” I asked.
I was hoping my manner of speech was close enough to his own that I would not sound so very out-of-place.
“As for my manner of dress, I simply cannot account for it. Nor can I remember anything before my espying your house on the hill and then meeting you here. Please sir, will you tell me your name?”
“I would feel better if we were properly introduced. Although for the life of me I cannot think why.”
I could tell immediately that Mr. Jefferson was put at ease. I did know women of his time were not so very forceful or bold. To him my request must have sounded rather normal.
“My name is Thomas Jefferson madam,” he said as he offered me his arm and we began to walk towards a dirt road.
I saw a beautiful antique coach that was harnessed to two of the most magnificent black horses I had ever seen.
“My dear lady, from your manner of speech I can tell that you are a gentle lady. Please allow me the honor of assisting you to my home, for some refreshment. I am expecting a few guests for dinner. I would be delighted to share your company this evening.”
“Why thank you, kind sir,” I said. “But, alas, I cannot be seen in clothing such as this, why it is as you said, shameful. I am mortified that you have seen me dressed so.” I had started wringing my hands in the hopes that I was a convincing actor.
“Ah my dear, do not fret so. I am quite sure that my housekeeper, Mrs. Dobbs, can find you some decent clothing in the attic. Watch your step my dear,” he said as he opened the carriage door.
As we rode up the gently winding path to Mr. Jefferson’s home, I was trying to figure out how a person with no memory could ask questions that they should not remember to ask. What, on earth, was I thinking when I made up my memory loss story?
“Your home is so beautiful,” I remarked as we pulled up to the front of the home. “You must be truly proud of it.”
As we stepped on to the porch, he said, “I love this place very much indeed; Martha and I had hopes of spending many years here together. Alas it was not to be so.”
“Is Martha you wife,” I asked.
“Was, my dear, was,” He said sorrowfully.
“I am so sorry, sir. I did not wish to bring back unpleasant memories. Please forgive me.”
Mr. Jefferson opened the door into a magnificent room. As we entered, a portly, elderly black woman came rushing up to us.
“Why, Mistah Jefferson who did you bring home this time? I do declare she looks like a poor homeless waif. Why I bet she is nigh on to stauvin.”
“Mrs. Dobbs, you do carry on so,” Jefferson said with a fond smile. “Our guest finds herself in the most peculiar situation. It seems this dear lady cannot remember who she is or how she came to be here. Now do stop carrying on. Please take her to the guest room and see to her bath.”
As we started to climb the stairs, Mr. Jefferson called out “Oh, and Mrs. Dobbs, please see if you can find a suitable dress in the attic for her to wear.”
“Yes suh, Mistah. Jefferson” Mrs. Dobbs replied as we came to the top of the stairs. “Men folks,” She exclaimed as we went around the corner into the hall. “They thinks us womens folks has got no sense a-tall.” “Theys just tells us what to do as ifn we was yon gins.”
I could not help laughing. Mrs. Dobbs was the kind of person everyone would love to have for their mother or grandmother.
The bath consisted of an elongated tub, full of rose smelling water. I stripped down to my underclothes as Mrs. Dobbs left the room, and I was quite surprised when she came back only a few minutes later, barging in the room and half out of breath.
My shock of having someone walk in when I was undressing, quickly left me when I saw what she was holding in her arms, it was the most beautiful gown, I had ever seen.
After finishing my bath, Mrs. Dobbs started helping me into the very strange and different underclothing. She began to hum. Soothing, sweet, low tones that made me want to listen for hours, that is how I felt about Mrs. Dobbs and her humming.
“Now honey chile, jest sit yosef down here and let ol Auntie Dobbs do something bout yo hair. My word yo hair feels as sof as cotton and it is almost the same color.” She remarked as she artfully styled my hair.
“There now don’t you look pretty. Now let’s get you downstairs for some refreshment.”
When we went down stairs Mrs. Dobbs led me to Mr. Jefferson’s study. When she opened the doors, my eyes started roaming over the many books on the shelves.
Mr. Jefferson had sold these books to the government. I was close enough to reach out and touch the very books that, in my lifetime, were the very foundation of the Library of Congress. I could not resist, I reached out and tentatively touched one of the volumes.
“Do you read, my dear?” Mr. Jefferson asked. “Why yes, well I think I do.” I was afraid to say too much. I did not want to ruin my chances of asking the questions I dearly wanted to know, besides that; I sure did not want to be thrown out of his home. After all, I did not have the slightest idea of how to go back home.
“You look so nice in my Martha’s dress,” as he spoke his voice faltered a bit.
“You loved her very much,” I remarked. “I do hope my wearing her dress does not distress you?”
“No my dear, it only brings back sweet and fond memories.” He said.
With a wave of his hand, he offered for me to sit on a small sofa. As I sat down, Mr. Jefferson went over to a shelf and started pouring a drink of some kind from a very old and ornate bottle. “Care for a glass of sherry,” He asked. “Please” I replied.
After he handed me my glass, he started talking about his life with Martha.
I did not have to ask many questions. It must have been that the dress brought forth a flood of memories of his wife; all he needed was someone to listen to him.
Thomas Jefferson was a man still verymuch in love with his wife. He told me how that when he was 28 years old he had met and married a 23-year-old widow named Martha Skelton, on New Year’s Day 1772.