I spent a “girls day out” yesterday with my cousin Linda, and we ventured out of Pennsylvania down to Delaware to visit Winterthur, the historic estate that was once the home of the DuPont family.
The house, all 175 rooms of it, is now a museum, primarily devoted to American furniture and household art. We found the whole experience to be a bit overwhelming. I am not a collector — I like to travel light in life — and it amazed me that someone would devote so much energy (not to mention money) to amassing pieces of furniture, china, silver and even woodwork to display in one place. And it was, after all, a home.
It is wonderful that all these items are preserved and appreciated, but I think as a writer, I like to know about how people lived, what they thought, how they felt. I want to know what Mrs. DuPont thought about when she drank tea from a cup that was used by George Washington. I want to know about the mix-ups and accidents. Did anyone drop and break any of these pieces? What happened if they did? I suppose it made a difference if it were a servant or a guest.
With all the beauty and perfection on display, I was looking for a flaw that would show the humanity of the people who lived there. At one point in our tour, I pointed to some yellow roses and quietly asked my cousin if she thought they were real. We examined them more closely — we weren’t supposed to touch anything — and she found a small tear in one petal, so yes, they were real.
If you have enough money, power and influence, can you create perfection in your life? And does that create a good life? Aren’t we all more interesting with our flaws and messes? That is certainly what makes a good character in a story.