Travels with Grandma: Falling for George

My hub’s grandmother turned 95 in August (that’s her right there, next to my husband. He’s not seven feet tall; she’s just really really short).
It’s a big deal, turning 95. Many of Grandma’s friends and family members celebrated this landmark by showering her with gift certificates to CVS, Walgreen’s, Giant Supermarket, Carrabba’s and Cracker Barrel. Which only proves that, once you’ve hit your mid-90′s, folks think that your entire life revolves around taking medicine and trying to choke down another meal.
In the case of our Grandma, however, life is more than medicating and masticating. Grandma loves to travel. And the hub and I like to help her.
We’ve been taking her on smallish vacations since she was a young pup of 83. Places we could drive to–like Annapolis (MD), Harper’s Ferry (WV), St. Mary’s on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, Winterthur Estate (DE), and Luray Caverns (VA), where Grandma kept asking us if it was one of the seven wonders of the world. It is a pretty cool feeling to show someone in her 80′s something that’s more impressive than almost anything she’s ever seen.
Now, if you’re looking at that list and saying “Gee, HTG, that sounds like a list of places you and the hub would like to go anyway”, well, you are insane. Totally bananas. Keep your crazy thoughts to yourself, please. And, anyway, the people who buy Grandma gift certificates to restaurants expect her to take them with her when she uses it. So don’t you try to make me feel bad.
ANYWAY, last year we went to Mount Vernon, Geo Washington’s snazzy digs. It was pret-ty, pret-ty nice, with a cool view of the Potomac River (who doesn’t love a president who loves the water?). Over one million people tramp through that house every year, more than any other president’s house, save the White House, which isn’t so much the president’s house as it is a really nice rental.
Here’s the thing about Mount Vernon that I loved the most: it had fallen into ruin in the mid-1800′s under the unwatchful eye of George’s great-great nephew John Augustine Washington, Jr. (Note to my own nephews, who are presently in line to inherit our vast real estate holdings: if you let my beautiful house fall into disrepair, I will haunt you from every rafter and torment you from every corner).
Enter Ann Pamela Cunningham in 1853, who got her bustle in a tussle over the fact that such an important site in our national history was so poorly cared for. Ann Pamela called on her rich friends and raised enough money to buy the estate (although records indicate that even then John Augustine was doubtful that a woman could handle it properly. As if he could. Sheesh.)
Ann Pamela and her friends, the Mount Vernon Ladies Association, bought the property and set about restoring it. They still own it today, and take care of it for the American people. They do a great job; as you can see from the photos, it’s simply beautiful.
I suggest you swing by if you’re close to DC. And take your grandmother.
One other note: if history makes you hungry, plan to stop at Dixie Bones BBQ in nearby Woodbridge, VA (13440 Occoquan Road, http://www.dixiebones.com/). Don’t let the strip mall location put you off: the pulled pork will have you singing Sweet Home Alabama after two bites.
The meat comes dry and there are three amazing sauces to customize your dining experience. Get the platter and plunk down two quarters (there’s George again, in profile!) to upgrade to cornbread instead of a roll. It’s the best 45 cents you’ll ever spend (yes, you’ll get a nickel change). Put that nickel towards a slice of pie for $3.95; sweet potato is the special on Saturdays.
It’s pretty good eats, by George!!! (You knew I’d have to say that at some point, didn’t you?)

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