When Mary met Adam, they quickly found they shared a passion for the past. In fact, Adam courted Mary the way men courted in the 18th century, and two years ago they married in an 18th-century ceremony. The Spencers -- who have, no surprise, an authentic Colonial home with authentic Colonial furniture in Center Ossipee -- work as presenters of costumed historical programs and perform, for the sheer love of it, as living history re-enactors at sites such as Old Sturbridge Village. When they're not doing that, Mary is an antiques dealer (The Country Lady Antiques) and artist; her husband Adam is a graphic designer making a transition to elementary school teacher. Adam sums up their olden-times quest this way: "We love history, and we love to educate people and share it." They are shown here in 17th-century garb.
How far do you go with living the Colonial life? Do you have a Serta mattress on your Colonial bed?
Adam: We do have an English bed that is dated, and bears carved initials and the date 1686, but we had a mattress made for it. Straw ticks and bedbugs are none too appealing.
The re-enacting you do spans 100 years, from the mid-1600s on. What's the best thing about those times?
Mary: The romanticism of a bygone time. A certain simplicity of life. Strong reliance on family. Oh, and then there's that they dressed better.
The worst thing?
Adam: The lack of plumbing, heating and decent dental care!
Do you wish you actually lived in Colonial times?
Mary: I wish I could go back in time to visit, and see history first hand, but then none of us really wants to give up our 21st-century comforts.
Adam: It's a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there.
You have a "pilgrims' dinner" each year in November ...
Mary: Our aim is to give our guests an experience of a period-style dinner in a restored 18-century home furnished with authentic antiques. Our menu reflects to a great degree things they might have had in the 17th century, but with a bit of creativity and leeway for modern tastes. Some of the food our ancestors ate could be quite nasty. This year we're serving a roast pork with an apricot stuffing, a cream'd pumpkin soup (or pompion, as they would have said) and anadama bread.
You had an 18th-century wedding -- how was it different from today's?
Mary: There was a wedding contract then. We did this, too, printing it out on parchment paper and putting the 1770's seal of N.H. on it. Adam and his best man even signed it by candlelight with a real quill pen and ink. Also, in the 18th century, marriage could be as much or more about property than about love.
How has re-enacting Colonial times changed your view of life today?
Mary: I think people today are very spoiled, thinking they can't live without a huge house and basically too much of everything. We live within our means, and as simply as we can. I would rather go to a re-enactment than have a boat, fancy vacations, etc. It is just more meaningful.
For more information about the living history programs offered by Mary and Adam, visit www.thecountryladyantiques.com.
This article appears in the December 2009 issue of New Hampshire Magazine