Have you ever been to the Biltmore House built by the Vanderbilt family? I had never been, so this was a new experience for all of us.
I must say, Sweet Cheeks summed up our first impressions when she stepped off the bus and sighed, “Wow!” I had prepped the kids by telling them they would be going to a real castle. Of course RB wanted to know if knights would be there. I had to quickly explain that this was a more modern castle, not one with kings, queens, knights, and dragons.
The tickets allowed us to have a tour of the house including some of the other “not always seen” sections of the house. This included the 4th floor servants quarters. So we traveled (literally, because the house has an area of four acres!) from the Entrance Hall to the Banquet Hall, from the Music Room to the Library. We went up the Grand Staircase to the Vanderbilt’s bedrooms and on up to the third floor. It was majestic! The rooms dripped with riches.
We climbed to the servants quarters. From what I understand, Vanderbilt was very good to his servants. Each was given his own room instead of having to share with another person as most grand houses did during the early 1900s. There was a living area and two bathrooms with running water. The hallways were bare. The rooms were plain, clean, but without color.
We were about half way down the hallway and RB asks, “What is that bell with the lights?” He had seen the servant call box (my term). I explained to him that if the Vanderbilts ever needed anything, they could push a button wherever they were in the house, the bell up here would ring, and a light or arrow would signify on which floor the servant was needed.
We traveled on. The gardens were still winterized, so there weren’t many flowers and the tulips of the walled garden were only about 4-5 inches high. That was disappointing, but The Conservatory was glorious! The orchids were blooming, the daffodils and other bulbs were beautiful. After leaving the gardens we ventured to the barn to pet the animals and then we drove home. It was a great day!
Fast forward to this morning. The kids were playing kitchen and preparing a feast at the table in Sweet Cheek’s room. This isn’t anything out of the ordinary. They do this periodically. But while I was pretending to cut my plastic corn with a knife, RB makes a sound. “RING!” He proceeds to get up from the table and runs out of the room. He comes back and says, “I had to go see what Mr. Vanderbilt wanted,” and he sits back at the table. Then Sweet Cheeks makes a ringing sound and they both leave the room.
I find it fascinating that out of all the lavish tapestries, furniture, paintings, gold and riches that we saw yesterday, that my kids identified with the life of the servants instead of the life of the Vanderbilts. They didn’t come home and pretend to be rich kings and queens. My kids were pretending to be the servants.
My hope is that my kids will always desire to serve others and not expect others to do for them. I want them to remember the “last shall be first and the first shall be last,” and to show love through action and deed, not word only.
I guess I need to make sure I’m modeling that every day: To be a servant and not a Vanderbilt.