It's the day after Christmas,
And all through the house . . .
The kids are driving you absolutely bonkers with their blinking electronic games and indoor rolling stock and things that fly and things that stick to things and things with marbles in them that get out and toys that somebody took apart to see how they work so now they don't. And everyone is slightly sick from all the stuff they put into their faces yesterday.
What do you do?
In Washington, you go to the Smithsonian.
And as usual, the Smithsonian is ready for you.
Every day from noon until 4 through next Monday, all three floors of the giant Museum of History and Technology will explode into action with:
Tinsmiths, menorah makers, Swedish, Polish, Lithuanian and Brazilian bauble makers, music box players, dreidel makers, glassblowers, woodcarvers, printers, calligraphers, toytrain engineers, cookie makers, chocolate dippers, gingerbread house makers, marzipan sculptors, whist instructors, jugglers, magicians, puppeteers, string quartets, handbell swingers, Jewish folksingers, carol singers, Renaissance dancers, Vera Cruz harpists, the Philadelphia Mummers' string band, a mandolin orchestra, barbershop quartets, storytellers, madrigal singers, accordionists, guitarists, cymbalists and balalaikans, church choirs, school choirs and a two-hour workshop on what Christmas was like at Valley Forge.
When the extravaganza opened yesterday, the first thing everyone had to see was the exhibit of 13 different kinds of Christmas trees (Polish, German, Brazillian, Victorian, with origami, real candles, cookies, decoupage and so on) while the demonstrations got started.
There were, of course, the kids who plunked themselves down around the Pendulum and couldn't be moved.
William Chabot was showing how to make a glass mushroom. He kept urging people to ask questions, but they just stood there, intent on his every move. They watched with breathless concentration as he folded a bit of paper and tucked it into the hinge of his dark glasses so they would fit tighter.
"Omigosh," a woman murmured as he drew out a tube until it became a thread. The economic precision of his movements seemed to fascinate them as much as what was happening to the glass.
Down the hall another crowd gathered around David Willis, "prestidigitator and charlatan," wearing a green George Washington coat and silk knee britches. He did some classic tricks with cards and made an egg come out of somebody's ear. It looked so easy.
"I'm so good it kills me," he said softly.
He called up an extremely small boy who confided his name was Joseph Keith, and instructed him not to laugh. This was hardly necessary, for Joseph Keith had a face as long as a judge with ulcers.
The trick had to do with scarves (what is it about magicians and scarves, anyway?) that disappeared from a cloth bag and turned up tucked into Joseph Keith's collar.
The crowd applauded. Joseph Keith smiled.
"Let me hear it for me," said Willis. "It's not easy."
And it wasn't, either -- all being done at close range in shirt sleeves.
Off to one side, tinsmith R. Donald White regaled passersby with an unexpected amount of information about tinhorns, which used to be seen on farms, in fishing dories and on the wagon's of itinerant gamblers. He too tried to get people to ask questions, but they remained different, conditioned by a lifetime of not talking back to the TV set.
Woodcarver Lee Anske was making figures for a creche. He can make a cow in three hours, he said, using bass wood mostly. He specializes in nutcrackers.
By midafternoon the corridors were pleasantly filled with families who roamed through the regular exhibits on their way to the special shows. Circling the Pendulum a little group still sat, hypnotized, oblivious, watching the world go around.