Grandmother's House

A Southern Memory
It is my earliest memory. Mother wore a chiffon of white silk, and I was dressed in a cotton lawn day dress of the softest primrose. We were dressed in keeping with the world into which we were born: simple, and special, and light, and soft. Mother’s gloved hand holding my own as I climbed and climbed the many gray-painted steps of the grand old porch of my Grandmother’s home.
Grandmother’s porch is deep and cool and sweet. Pom-poms of Boston fern hang in shadowy rows, crisp white rocking chairs of thick, old wicker stand sentry under a robin’s egg blue veranda ceiling. Before that grand door awaiting entry, I stood up a bit straighter. I delighted in the very grown-up privilege of attending Grandmother's tea.
Old Southern Home
Her dear home was built for the south. High ceilings, tall, tall windows, and a wide center hall allow the heat to rise and the breeze to flow.
There is neither air conditioning, nor fan.
My dear grandfather smilingly declares, “The house was old when Richard Lee was a boy.” It is an old, old home, and one that requires man to contend with and be a partner to nature.
Grandmother’s home is light and still and serene. It offers a cool, genteel respite from the heat of our south and the frenzy of our times. The surprising cool and the mingled scent of beeswax polish and roses is a succor for the senses. I often find myself sitting stock-still, waiting for another taste of the elusive breeze, rare as a pearl.
August brings 95-degree heat and 95 per cent humidity, yet duty and tradition transcend mere weather.
Southern Lady
Grandmother, this tiny Dresden china doll, who isn’t even five feet tall, carries herself with all the might of a sovereign. A required mix of perfect comportment and gentle manner, her quiet ways and formal habits are a reflection of care.
The willful decision
to remain serene in a frenetic world,
to choose to be well-read and cultured,
to insist on excellence in character
and discipline in manner.
Old Southern Ways
Grandmother has tea in the afternoon, year round, always properly dressed, always in ceremony.
We live the old ways and in ceremony. The thoughtful acts which demand a slowing-down. This is where I learned how to behave, and the behavior was refined.
This is where I learned the mannerly, and the manner, was thoughtful and intelligent.
This is where I learned to listen, and the sound was the art of polite conversation, and the skill at my grandmother’s piano, and knowledge brought to life through the well-read.
This was where I learned to see, and the scene was of the natural world brought to order in Grandmother’s cutting garden, and fine old family treasures carefully maintained, and lovely womanhood which was natural and well cared for.
This is were I learned to value refinement,
to revere intelligence,
to maintain tradition,
to raise my family.