02 December 2007

"The Nice Thing About Life is That You Never Know When There's Going to be a Party"

Miss Emily Baldwin says this in The Homecoming and I was reminded of it today; our First Sunday of Advent treat was the annual Marietta Christmas Tour of Homes.

Each year they try to do different homes; the ones we saw this year were not only different, but along a different street than last year. These homes were all off Kennesaw Avenue, which we frequently take when we come home from Town Center Mall.

The first home was the Gignilliat-Griffin-Gilbert home, which was originally built in 1840 as a four-room house and subsequently enlarged. This was a delightful house full of crannies and nooks; the children's rooms upstairs had areas under the eaves, and the moment you walk into the yard there is an old-fashioned children's playhouse. As always in these homes, there are multiple trees and decorations; my favorite was a small feather tree decorated with tiny reproductions of old German ornaments. The latest owners of the home restored the original portion, then added an addition at rear that included the most comfortable media room I've ever seen; the television picture was projected on the wall and the sofas were so cuddly you could imagine it would be nice to stay home sick and hibernate there.

From a large house to a small: the next home, the Minshew-Coons House, was built in 1943 at a cost of $4,250! (The entire development of 27 Cape Cod homes only cost $120,000.) This was a tiny 4-room home even smaller than the Cape Cod I grew up in. It has been restored to the way it looked in 1942 (they even removed the vinyl siding) and is very much a ladies' house (the current resident is a single lady). The house featured beautiful original woodwork and a 1940s bathroom with original tile. In the bedroom was half of a sash window from the old Kennesaw House, which used to be a hotel and is now the Marietta Museum of History. When they replaced their windows, she bought one and had it painted with a country scene.

The third house was "The Alamo House," a 1929 brick home believed taken from a kit design and done in Spanish style. At the side of the house is a lovely rectangular stone pool that had been decorated with old Christmas balls floating in the water. The owners of this house run a ski vacation business in Switzerland and are also descended from an automobile-building family, so there are motoring motifs—including some wonderful 1920s vintage motoring china—and also Swiss and French decorations about the house. The couple had just recently remodeled the back of the house, adding an apartment for a father-in-law and also making offices of the basement where the servants used to be. The folks are "fourth generation Boston Terrier owners," so this latter area was liberally decorated with Boston Terrier statues, pillows, etc.

The shuttle bus, driven by wonderfully cheerful ladies, dropped us off closest to the fifth house, so we did that next. This was the Green-Sutton-Crowley house from 1907, a cottage that opened with a 7-foot wide corridor down the length of the house. This house featured some beautiful primitive mantel decorations, one complete with a Santa bread mold from the 1800s being used as a decoration, and nativity figures made from cotton mill spindles from South Carolina.

As we walked down to the fourth house, we went by a little girl selling water and pretzels; James rewarded her enterprise by purchasing some water. We were luckier this year than last, since it was overcast pretty much the entire day and there was a nice breeze. We could walk from house to house or wait outside without sweltering like last year, when it got into the 70s.

The Turner-Smith-Manning House, built 1904, was next. The front rooms were decorated in wonderful dark molding and the Christmas decorations were of gold and copper, giving the entire area a vintage feeling. In the dining room was a gingerbread house done to resemble the house, with tiny candy canes for fencing and many other delightful details. The sun porch had a very simple but effective Christmas decoration: bowls of cranberries with cinnamon sticks crossed in them. Two rooms were a study in contrasts: the master bedroom had pale ice blue paint and was cool in blues, whites, and silvers, while the study was golds and warm colors. The entire house was full of equestrian prints and the daughter of the house was upstairs telling people about her room, which had one wall covered in ribbons from horse shows!

The final house, the Patterson-Miller-Brennamon House, was from 1901. We had noticed this house several years ago as undergoing renovation. The newest owners have only been in the house since spring, when renovations were finished. A room downstairs was decorated as a nursery, with an old-fashioned pram sporting a sign saying "Coming soon." The steep stairs were lined with baby photos of the older child. I loved the kitchen in this one the most; while the appliances were modern, the furniture in the breakfast nook was primitive, with a wonderful collection of nutcrackers in the old cabinet.

We had gone to the Marlow House for snacks and the Root House last year, so we rode the bus back to the Welcome Center and went to the Museum of History, which was free today to tour attendees. I have always been so sorry I missed the Christmas exhibit of antique toys two years ago. The museum is small and rather a hotchpotch of things, but it was great browsing. The feature exhibit was almost 200 years of wedding gowns, from a Regency gown from the early 1800s to modern dresses. Also in this gallery was a collection of music-making instruments, from an old-fashioned hurdy gurdy to a 1950s "hi-fi." The docent played some of these items for us, including the hurdy gurdy, a music box, and the Edison cylinder machine. Off in a corner were some memorabilia taken from the old courthouse, and a model of a 1940s kitchen.

There were two military galleries: one was from the Revolutionary War to modern times, with a collection of pistols and rifles from Mr. Dupre, who used to run a store on the Square (it is now an antiques market). This had small cases devoted to different subjects: the Holocaust, women in the military, etc. The other was a Civil War gallery with relics having been dug up in the area, and of course an exhibit about the Great Locomotive Chase, which was planned right there in the Kennesaw House.

Finally there was a rather mixed gallery of local interests: memorabilia from businesses around the square, like a beauty shop—this had an original permanent machine, which looked like something to electrocute prisoners—and a fluoroscope like the ones that used to be in shoe stores to look at the bones in your feet (the one linked here is larger than the one we saw), more war memorabilia, printing presses, an old wringer washer, saws, doctor's equipment, and many other objects, not to mention "a big shiny aluminum Christmas tree," complete with color wheel.

I bought two items in the gift shop: a DVD called My Christmas Soldier and the CD of the Christmas music playing, which was lovely light piano music.

By then breakfast was five hours gone, so we decided to have some lunch...although it was closer to tea by the time we had our meal. We ate at La Famiglia, an Italian Restaurant that has gotten some great newspaper reviews. We both just had pasta; it was quite good—although the sauce was still a bit sweet to me, it was not overloaded with Italian herbs, but just gave a mild hint of them. And the bread was great, crusty on the outside, soft on the inside.

While we were finishing up, the waitresses were all in a flurry. We couldn't figure out what was going on, then our waitress told us that Rudy Guiliani was supposed to be visiting. People were assembling outside with signs and the news crews from the various television stations had shown up. The rumor was that he might go into some of the stores or restaurants before he made a speech in the square, so they were tidying up the place as quickly as possible.

Well, we ended up waiting around to see what would happen, just standing on the corner with others. It was like a big block party. Across the street, the Ron Paul supporters had gathered; I was amused wondering if there was going to be "a rumble." Finally we were at the point of leaving when James saw a car and SUV drive into the alley behind the stores we were sitting in front of. He said, "I bet that's him." Then a few minutes later the press was told he was going to be coming around the corner where we were standing, so they ran across the street to get a better vantage. But this was just a diversion because he had simply gone into the Brumby Rocker store from the back and sure enough came out their front door (where the news crews had been standing originally!), flanked by his entourage. We both got a couple of photos of him on our cell phones and I was next to him for a few minutes, but he was shaking hands with the folks on the other side, and then proceeded across the street while the newsmen crowded around. We decamped at that point, went to Kroger, and then came home.

I still had residual energy at this point, so I took down all the Thanksgiving things and reboxed them, then decorated the front porch, except for the lights, which are James' job. After all that walking, I was quite content by 7:30 to sit down and watch My Christmas Soldier, which is a short, sweet, locally-produced story about two children waiting for their father to come home on leave on Christmas Eve 1943. Boxcars of German prisoners are being shipped inland to prisoner of war camps, and the little boy befriends one of the men, trading a toy soldier for the man's Iron Cross, and bringing the men some food and coffee. The adults are suspicious of the Nazis, until the Germans begin singing "Silent Night." The extras with the story included a former German prisoner telling about his actual experiences.


Emma said...

Oh Linda, that sounds like so much fun! The early 1900s homes remind me of the ones in Cape May...and this single girl would love to live in a real 1940s Cape Cod. And you got to eat awesome Italian food, see a celebrity, AND decorate for Christmas? What a perfect day!

Linda said...

Too bad today cancelled it all out. <wry grin>