I was chatting to some visitors about the lilacs, one gentleman mentioned he was travelling and was worried he would miss his at home. I asked him where he lived, he replied that he lived in Ontario; so I said that his were probably a bit behind ours, and he should be able to make it home in time to see them as long as he returned soon. His companion mentioned the fountain so I told them that all the factories that produced munitions during the war were now making cast iron fountains, garden benches, and other pieces of furniture. They both nodded and the first one said, “I guess I hadn’t thought about it that there would be new uses for factories after the war, just like sheet metal after World War II.”
If it had ended there I would not have made a big deal about it, I am pretty good at playing temporarily deaf when visitors remark about things beyond my time. But the guy then had to get embarrassed and turn to me and say: “But you wouldn’t know about that yet.” I was still trying to get the conversation back on track but it was the end of the day and I was tired. I took a second too long to answer so the second guy took up the topic and said, “ya, we’re time travelers.”
I just looked at him. I could not think of any way to follow up on that. I tried to look all sarcastic and disbelieving but the only thing I could think of to say was, “oh really.” Not my wittiest moment. Which gave the first one the chance to jump back in.
“If you’d like any stock tips?” finally an opening! I launched in to my bit about my father’s investments and how his railroad and shipping investments had done quite well, and that mother’s garden plot had been purchased from a neighbor based on the profits from one of my father's ventures, but that my husband was a naval captain…
Ugh. There are so many ways that could have gone better, and I really should not have been floored by the “We’re time travelers” line, I get it all the time whether I’m Hanne von Reischach at the Renaissance Faire, or Mrs. Shapiro in her kitchen.
So now I’ve determined to come up with a way for each of my characters to show disbelief but still have an enlightening conversation. What would Mrs. Dewey say if talking to someone about the future? I think Mrs. Shapiro would laugh and ask if they flew to her house (there are airplanes in 1919 but they are not available for every day travel) or she might ask them when the messiah will come, if the conversation had touched on Judaism. Hanne could ask if there would ever be an end to wars or how big is the Holy Roman Empire where they come from (then be entirely disbelieving that there is not a Roman empire of any type.)
In a time of great changes like 1870 where there is now indoor plumbing, train travel, factories, telegraph, and photography I don’t know what would seem miraculous but almost just around the corner, or what Susan Dewey would see as completely outlandish and beyond possibility. I guess I don’t know her and her time period well enough yet. I better get back to my research.