Monday, June 28, 2010

The Great Revisionist

While we were on vacation Mama had gotten in touch with an old friend of hers and made arrangements for us to go visit her one afternoon. I remember this friend and always liked her. Her husband had retired and they had moved back to his old home place, which just happened to one of the antebellum plantations on the island. My mother was "a twitter" with excitement. Not just about catching up with her old friend, but about showing me her home.

All week I had to hear about the fight between her friend's husband and his brother. Seems (according to my mother, a well know revisionist source) the friend's husband had inherited the home as the oldest son. However, his younger brother, who had worked with his father on the farm for years, thought of his older brother as the prodigal son, returning home to claim his spoils. He resented his older brother moving back home and into the "Big House" on the farm. Mother went on to tell about how, to keep peace in the family, her friend's husband had given his younger brother the "Big House" and he and his wife (Mama's friend) had moved into the guest cottage in the back.

Oh, how my Mama felt for her friend, watching her sister-in-law live in the family mansion while she was relegated to simple guest house, knowing all the while that was not how the parents had intended it to be. In my mind, I could picture Twelve Oaks from Gone With The Wind, and Mama's friend living in the overseer's cottage in the edge of the field. Given her description, I wondered if they even had electricity.

The day arrived for our visit and we drove out to their place. As I turned off the main road and drove down a lane of moss covered trees (not a grand lane of oaks, but beautiful none the less) my Mother started with the story again. After a mile or so, we arrived at a wrought iron gate. Just beyond it, we could see the "Big House" as it sat surrounded by moss laden oak trees over looking the marsh and the river. As I punched in the security code to open the gate, my mother said in a sarcastic voice, "There's where the brother lives." "So it would seem."

I turned to the right and followed the road around the edge of the stately home, over a dike beside the marsh and from under a grouping of old large moss draped oak trees, stood the "guest cottage" - all four thousand square feet of it. It was a beautiful old two story structure that blended into the scenery. As my mother's friend came out of the door and all the greetings were exchanged, I told her how lovely her place was. "Well, let me give you a tour. Your Mama has already seen it."

Seems the "guest cottage" was actually one of the original buildings on the place that had such fond memories for the family that they had decided to enlarge it. They had purchased another historic home, floated it down the river, attached it to the current structure, jacked both up, and built additional bedrooms and baths below. Meanwhile the upstairs provided grand views of the river, marshes, and the farm from the large rooms through the old glass windows. The floors were the original old wide plank wood. Her large antique furniture was the final touch to this marvelous place. When I complimented her on it, her comment was, "It is great for the grandchildren. We don't have worry about them messing anything up. We can just be 'us'. This truly is our dream home."

The visit went nicely. I was able to keep Mama's stories in check so that neither my brother nor I were credited with a Nobel prize or some post graduate degree that we were unaware of. At the end, everyone promised to keep in touch more often. As we drove back across the dike and by the "Big House", Mama said."I always knew she was happy that she didn't have to live in that big old plantation house. You know when they first moved back, there was some issue about who was going to have live to there. But her husband put his foot down and said he was not going to take on that burden. They had always planned on redoing that other house."

Well, I'm glad that's settled . . . for now. Stay tuned, as the world turns.