Nary A Market As Merry: Exploring The Maymont Merry Market With the Family

by | Dec 12, 2022 | RICHMOND NEWS

It’s beginning to look a lot like the most wonderful time of the year! In the old country, grandpa is unwrapping the yule log as the acrid smell of charcoal wafts towards him. He thinks about the war. At home, mother is ruminating over her annual infidelity with a man who can be plied with cookies and milk. Her animosity towards you is there, but just under the surface, like a snapping turtle.

You can never guarantee your songs are going to be a seasonal hit. You tell her this. She goes back to baking her cookies, this time with less baking soda.

And your father is off with the siblings to Maymont’s Merry Market! Oh, what fun it is to revel in the giving and open yards of the Dooley wealth. Your siblings laugh and playfully argue with each other over who is getting the largest lump of coal this year. It’s Sally, she never does her homework! Your father texts you to pull the trash cans from the road if you’re not participating with the family. You sigh and let him know you’re on the way to Maymont.

You get there, and you’re a big grump. A no-good bah-humbug loaf. You make your way over with Sally (who is the most fun) to grab a nice warm latte. It perks you up a bit. You meet the rest of the family at a firepit next to the Merry Market bazaar. You talk with your father about what to get Mom this year. He casts an exhausted glance towards your smiling sibling atop the merry knee of Ol’ St. Nick and mutters something disingenuous about candles or hand towels. Your father calls to your siblings to make sure they enunciate when they tell him what they want.

Your siblings return and you all make your way to the bazaar. Your father hands your siblings present money and tells them to stick together. The two of you walk together, catching up on the year you both had. He has found his sweet spot in the river and the fish have been biting all year. You admire the Sisyphean effort of releasing fish and keeping your family together.

Beneath the lights illuminating the bazaar, you begin to lose the year and the tension as you focus on the gifts you’re giving this year. The artisans of Richmond surprise you once again with the elegance and sophistication they bring to their crafts. Your father stops to admire hand painted ornaments. He tells you his Mom is going to love them and he pays for them, taking the bag with a slight grin and a huff, the way he does when he is quietly patting his own back.

You amble through tables of craft and kitsch, reviewing the wares with your father until you meet up with your siblings. You all make your way to Maymont House. The stone wall of the carriage house is strung with garland, and winter air distills the sweet smell of grass, trees, and the James into an earthy cologne. You make your way to the entrance of the Maymont House, waiting in line for just a bit before you all are allowed in.

The Maymont volunteer reminds everyone “no flash photography and no touching” on the way in. Your father asks your siblings if they heard that. Inside, you all wonder at the glory of the Victorian era, the Christmas decorations strung among masterpieces of trim and carpentry. The entire house is set for a figurative festival, and the opulent display of hospitality in the dining room has all the firm and formed poise of a whalebone corset.

As the family makes its way to the last room with the fireplace and the tree, you are reminded that the spirit of the holiday is about giving, forgiveness, and love. You walk a little closer with the family on the way back to the parking lot, passing the acrid smell of half-burned logs. You think about grandpa.

As you arrive back home, you’re glad you are home for the holidays. You make an irritating joke to your siblings. They call you a butthead and run to the living room to watch a movie. Your dad pulls the string to the attic; he thinks he’ll put the reindeer on the roof this year after all.

You go to the kitchen. You hug your mom. The muscles in her neck and shoulders ease. She holds for a second and breaks away, muttering something about butter that’s too soft.

She threw out the newest batch of cookies and is starting over. You tell her they don’t have to be perfect. She says they do. You smile and grab a whisk and a mixing bowl.

George Wethington

George Wethington

George Wethington is a master of the interviewing process and a connoisseur of collegiate admissions. He likes to spend time in nature. It is his nature.

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