Friday, February 7, 2014

Historic Places with Cost Plus Furniture

If my Mama could not compete, she had a habit of making snide remarks (under her breath of course - no polite southern lady would say such things out loud). An example I remember happened when we were visiting my cousins. My mother's brother was the overseer of three large (historic) plantations in Virginia on the James river. Since a well to do family owned the farms and did not live on the properties, my uncle and his family lived in one of the homes.

Now this home was not just any home, this happened to be a house listed on the Register of Historic places. The house dated back to the 1700's (if not earlier). It was huge and sat on a hill overlooking the James river. I can remember the first time we went to see them getting out of the car and being in awe. All I could think of was my cousins lived in this large famous old house. 

When we walked in the first thing you noticed were the huge rooms that ran from the front of the house to the back with huge windows that still had the original glass in them. The floors were 10 inch wide plank hardwood. And, in some of the rooms were pieces of the original furniture built for the house. The pieces were so large, they were built in the house. They were also so large they would have to be broken apart to be removed. Therefore they were left in place. 

Of course these lovely solid wood priceless antiques were in stark juxtaposition with my Aunt's furniture more in the style of Cost Plus Furniture Warehouse that finished out the room. Well, my mother could hardly hold herself. As soon as we were upstairs unpacking she started. "Can you believe this? Does she have any taste? Well, of course she doesn't. We knew that. But, my Lord, how embarrassing. I wonder what the owner's think when they come? Well, hopefully they just never come. I'm sure she would have had those lovely pieces torn down and thrown out if she could have. Oh, some people."

By this time, my father had given her his - please stop this, everyone is not like you and you know better - look. Another issue she was having was that her sister-in-law was the daughter of a Baptist minister so, needless to say, the house was dry. The liquor bag had been left in the car.

Meanwhile I was just old enough to realize that this place was way cool, but still a little confused about my mother's constant disparaging comments about the situation at hand. Her comments would make one think there was a washing machine on the front porch and a car on blocks in the front yard. 

Over the weekend, my uncle showed us around. He was (and still is) a favorite of mine. He spent a lot of time taking us down to the river and helping us find arrowheads and shards of pottery. (Mama reminded us that we could also find arrowheads on the riverbank at our river house "Nowhere".) We went to the stables and saw the horses the landowners used for their fox hunts. (Mama pointed out to her brother that I had taken riding lessons and rode hunt seat.) He showed us the houses on one of the other plantations where the owners had a pond that was heated so they could enjoy the swans year round. (Mama commented that home was furnished fittingly with fine antiques.)

Back at their house, my cousins and I were walking around the vast front yard when we came upon a cemetery. Imagine a cemetery in your front yard - wow! As we looked at the different ancient tomb stones. My cousin said, "See this one." I looked at the stone she pointed at. The name didn't mean anything to me. "Know who that is?" "No." "Pocahontas's granddaughter." "No way?" "Yes way." OK, I was impressed, that was pretty hard to top.

Finally the weekend was over and we left. On our way home, Mama started her rant about how tacky my aunt's  furniture was, and everything else she could think of. Finally I piped up from the back seat. "That might be, but not everyone has Pocahontas's granddaughter buried in their front yard." 

"Oh, they made that up," she said. My father just laughed. "No, they didn't make that up. Her grave is among some other fairly famous folks who are buried there." Mama just said, "Hmh" and sat there. My father looked in the rear view mirror and winked at me. 

Suddenly Mama's house she designed with her colonial columns and old brick just wasn't the same. It didn't matter how much she tried to produce something that looked authentic, no matter how it was furnished, having Pocahontas's granddaughter buried in your front yard, just trumped it all.

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