Our next stop and our first vacation home stop was Nashville. Home of the Grand Ole Opry (which we didn’t see), the Parthenon (which we didn’t see), the Country Music Hall of Fame (which we didn’t see), and the Hermitage (which we did see).
One of the issues that we are still working through on this trip is how to plan for stops and sites and handle the unexpected. A couple of things got in the way in Nashville. First of all, it was cold. We realize we are traveling at the very beginning of spring, but it is hard to get out and do walking tours or trolley tours when it is freezing. Things are just a bit less interesting in the cold. We had a trolley tour planned in Nashville that would have hit most of the major sites downtown but our dog sitter got the flu the day we were supposed to go leaving us in the lurch. (I recommended On Guard, melaleuca, frankincense, and lemon). We chose to go the the Hermitage that day instead because it was a shorter excursion and so it was easier to manage the dog. The next day we planned to do the trolley tour but we woke up to a dog with pink eye. I did not know that was a thing, but apparently it is. We took her to a vet just to be cautious but in the end, I refused most tests and medicines and instead I put tea in her eyes. Cleared it up in a day. Also didn’t know that was thing. Planning for and handling the unexpected, that is the name of the game on an adventure like this one.
The Hermitage is Andrew Jackson’s estate and is the most authentic of all the Presidential homes currently open. They have almost 90% of all his original furniture, the original wallpaper, and the original wood floors. The grounds at the Hermitage are spread out across several acres and you can wander through with a self-guided audio tour. There are gardens, slave cabins, and other out buildings in addition to the main mansion. There is a lot of controversy around Andrew Jackson as a President. He appeared to be loved by the people and hated by the elite. Sound familiar? In some areas, he was very advanced in his thinking and in others, still behind. My oldest daughter asked what I thought of him as a person. I said it was hard to judge him in some areas because he lived in a very different time than we do. Erin replied, “Yes, but even if slavery was accepted in that time by most, it is fundamentally wrong so he was still on the wrong side of the moral code. And I think it would be hard not to know that deep down.” That is an astute insight. He was wrong in that area. On one of the placards, there is a story about one of the last slaves to live on the property. At one time, a guest reportedly told him he was very lucky because he had a small house and a kind master. The slave, Alfred Jackson, replied, “But would you choose to live as a slave?” Alfred gained his freedom and stayed on the property first as a tenant farmer and then as the first tour docent when the mansion because a museum. No one else besides the family ever lived in the home and it was guarded and protected during the Civil War.
Getting your kids to appreciate that kind of history is difficult. But seeing it in person is a very different experience than just reading about it in a book. They were shocked by the slave cabins with the low ceilings and the holes under the floor to hide personal items. “How could someone live like this?” my youngest asked. Now that is a learning experience you could not get from a book.