Friday, August 4, 2017

Ivy Lane

Sunday morning Bunny got up, walked Bootsy, and considered what to wear for brunch at Harrison's. It had been a while since she had really looked forward to a date. She could not remember the last time she had been invited over to a gentleman's home. Ivy Lane was not just a home, it was an old home built in the 1910's in the low country bayou style with porches across the front on both the first and second floor.

Like most large older estates the lawn was dotted with huge old oak trees draped in Spanish moss that sloped down to the river. For the first 50 or so feet of the entrance one drove between 10 foot tall walls made of old brick covered with ivy. The rest of the long drive to the house curved gently through an area of tall pines and camellias. The drive brought you to the side of the house. Although it looked massive from the side with its porches and double brick chimneys, it was not until you were walking up from the river that you saw the true beauty of the house.

Ivy Lane had been in Harrison's family since it was built. He was the last generation living there. He and his late wife, Betsy, had 2 daughters Liza and Belva. Bunny did not know them well because the girls had spent most of their school years in prep schools, then went to college in New England. They married right out of college. One moved to Montgomery and the other lived in Mobile.

For the first time she questioned her prized Grenada. After all it did look sad next to Harrison's roadster. She assumed he would never understand its sentimental value. However she had no choice but to drive it to Ivy Lane this morning.

Once she entered the drive, she remembered coming there as a young girl for some fancy Tea Party the Grand Gallagher Ladies Club was hosting for the young ladies in Gallagher. The Club wanted to teach the young girls their manners, how to walk correctly, wear white gloves, and told to their elders. Bunny could remember she wore her Easter dress even though it was in May. All the other girls had on cotton and linen dresses with flowing skirts that fell below their knees. Around each of their waists was a wide ribbon that was tied in a big bow that draped down the back of their dresses.

Her purple dress with a the skirt that barely reached her knees and stuck out like a ballerina's tutu, given all the crinoline under it, definitely made her stand out. Even when her mother assured her she was dressed "just fine", Bunny knew that the other girls were talking about her behind her back. If her mother was going to bring her to this, at least she could have bought her one of those most beautiful dresses the other girls we wearing.

That memory quickly faded when the site of the house appeared at the end of the drive. Oh Lord, thought Bunny. Where am I going to park this car? Some place where no one will see it. She noticed what looked like an old shed or one that hadn't been finished with vines all over it. She pulled the Grenada in and parked it. Walking to the house she turned and realized she could not see the car. Well she thought, "That's one issue I do not worry about now."

There was no walkway around to the front of the house facing the river  where the porches were. So where was the door? Then she saw a simple wooden door on ground level in front her. Oh, the kitchen door. She knocked several times and got no response. She carefully turned the knob and looked in. What she saw was simply a dark space. Below her feet was a stair case. Just as she realized this was not the entrance, Harrison came up behind her.

"Usually we prefer our guests to come through the back hall door rather than the cellar. But if that is where you want to enter, then if you go down about 5 or 6 stairs, you will see a light switch to your right. Turn it on so you don't kill yourself. You should see another staircase that will go to the men's coat closet. It is easy to get to the  main hall through there."

She turned and looked at him, not sure whether to be mad at herself because she had done such a foolish thing or laugh along with him. "Of course I prefer the back hall entrance, but I was just checking to see if you had this door locked. Always safer to make sure all your outside doors are locked."

They entered the main back door and Bunny saw the beautiful main hall that ran from the back to the front of the house. The tall ceilings together with the beveled glass windows surrounding the front door at the end of the hall gave it almost an a magical feeling with rainbow colors being thrown across the walls and floor.

"I always wondered how it looked in here."

Harrison smiled, "You've never been in here?"

"Well contrary to the airs my Mama puts on, let's just say the invitations for parties here never made it to our mail box."

Harrison laughed, "Bunny, there are much worse things in life, trust me. I am always frustrated by the shallowness of society. Don't get me wrong I understand traditions, manners, and family. But sometimes I think it is a pageant where we all dress up and pretend."

Changing the subject, Bunny asked, "What's for brunch?"

"Well, mam, if you will just come this way I will show you."

They went out to the porch where a table had been set with a plate of sweet rolls, a egg casserole, and a plate of bacon. "I hope this will do? Would you care for a Mimosa?"

"Why it looks divine. A Mimosa?", Bunny questioned.

"Oh, you have to have one. It is just the thing for brunch - champagne and orange juice." With that he poured 2 of them and they ate. Her only frightful moment was when she saw that instead of a knife, spoon, and fork at her place there were several utensils she had never seen before. Harrison had the same at his place, so they must not be serving pieces. The salt was in a blue bowl in a silver holder with a very small spoon. There was one, along with a silver pepper shaker at both places. How odd.

In front of her plate was a large crystal glass beside a smaller one and a coffee cup in addition to a champagne flute holding her Mimosa. Harrison poured ice water in the large glass, orange juice in the small glass, and offered her coffee which she turned down. She wondered why he was serving her. Maybe the help had the day off.

Conversation was pleasant and easy as it was the night before. He told her about growing up swimming and fishing in the river. She entertained him with stories from the office. After they finished eating, she helped him carry the food into the kitchen. "Don't worry about the rest, I'll get it later." Harrison insisted.

"You'll get it?", asked Bunny.

"Of course, but I have plenty of time and besides, I invited you to brunch, not to clean the dishes."

"There is no one here today?"

"No, the girls rarely have time to come any more and besides my Aunt Cordelia, I rarely have company." He noticed her quizzical look. "You didn't think I had maids or housekeepers, did you?"

"Well, this is a big house to keep up."

"We had help when Mary was here. An old lady that helped my Mama and raised our girls before they went to school. But Ruth died and we never got anyone else. Now I use a cleaning service once a week."

Bunny had an appointment to show an apartment at 3, so she had to leave much sooner than she wished. She thanked him for a delightful time. He smiled, "Next time maybe I can get you all day when your schedule is clear. This has been great." 

"The only thing better than the food was the company," Bunny said with a smile.

"At least let me walk you to your car."

"Oh that's not necessary," Bunny thought in horror. Things had gone so well. "I'll walk my self out. Surely I will not get lost getting out of the house!"

He followed her any way. When they reached the side of the house, not seeing her car, Harrison asked, "Well where my dear did you park?"

"Oh around that wall under that shed. I tried to get out of the way so I wouldn't block the drive."

Harrison walked a few feet until he could see the Grenada. "Well, that's a new one. Mama usually used that arbor of Wisteria for her teas in the spring. I never thought of it for parking. You may be onto something."

Bunny was mortified as Harrison laughed. Then she noticed the 2 distinct tracks the Grenada had made through the lush bed of liriope next to the arbor.

Harrison grabbed her hand. "Bunny, that's why I like you so much. It is refreshing to have someone who is not so uptight all the time."

"I would call it more oblivious. How am I going to get my car out without causing more damage?"

"I assume the same way you came in unless you want to continue forward and cut a new drive through Mama's Azaleas. If you do, I'd watch out for the garden pond, I'm not sure your car will float."

He held her and kissed her. Then he laughed. She wished he would just go in the house. But there was no way Harrison was going to leave this scene. Bunny backed the Grenada out very carefully and drove home.

No comments: