One of the women on the tour said, "What a lovely house. I could live here."
I failed to engage her imagination. Her beautifully manicured hands would be rough and callused in a few months. Her shining hair would lose it shimmer and silkiness when she started washing it with lye soap. But never mind; there are no mirrors in the house.
Before I realized that arguing with her wouldn't do any good, I said, "I don't think you would. No heat, no electricity." Then I had the sense to shut up.
If demonstrating life in old houses has taught me anything, it has made me very sure I would not want to live there.
Most of the women I show through the house realize life in the 18th century is not for them when I tell them that if they want to put bread in to bake at 9 am, they need to start firing the oven about 5.
It is really fun for me to show people around and tell them about the daily life of the miller and his wife (and maybe 10 kids). I am frequently asked, "Wouldn't you love to live here? Why else would you know so much about it?"
Just because I could live her doesn’t mean I would want to. Our family has plans to move there in the face of the zombie apocalypse, but that doesn’t mean it would be my choice to do so.
What we have that they didn't:
Hot running water
The germ theory of disease
Planes, trains and automobiles
Quick and easy communication with people at a distance
What they had that we don't:
A life expectancy of 42
Small pox, yellow fever, child bed fever
Years when food was scarce
On the other hand they had tightknit supportive communities, we might even say intrusive.
Full employment:if you wanted to work you could find it, even if it was something you didn't like doing it, or get paid well for it.
I listen to the classical music station almost all day every day. Much of the music I love is music that had been written when the Millers were living in the house. But had they heard it? Had the Philips, or the Newlins or the Millers ever heard the Brandenburg concerti? Musical instruments were rare, expensive and highly cherished. Time to play them even more so.
No. I think I will stick to my modern comforts and probably appreciate them more for knowing what life could be like.