Sunday, December 09, 2007

Last Time (Maybe)

It used to be something I looked forward to every December. The Bastrop County Historical Society hosts a historical homes tour and it was/is a rare opportunity to get inside some of the old Victorian era homes for which Bastrop is somewhat famous.

There is always a house that just overwhelms you with the fabulous interior or for the fabulous way a fading lady has been restored to beauty. The Orgain house on Church Street has been on the tour several times and I usually make those tours because the house is just such a superlative Victorian mansion that was restored sometime back with no expense spared. The old Confederate academy house has also been featured many times and stands out in my memory because of its branching staircase, with two descents from the broad landing. There have been many wonderful houses on the tour during the years, representing a time when craftsmanship meant more than volume and singular character meant more than how fast a house can be thrown up.

I skipped a couple of the recent years because the same houses were being showcased that I had already seen many times. This year I was lured back because there were four houses on the schedule that I had never seen before and one of them belonged to my first step-mother once upon a time. This was well before she became my step-mother, so I had never had the opportunity to see inside until now.

This house was a cheerful yellow at the time she lived there, so it took me a minute before I realized this was the same place. The house has recently received some local notoriety as one of the main location shoots for an upcoming Julia Roberts movie Fireflies in the Garden. Julia's every movement was documented in the local gossip column for several months back in the spring. I will probably have to make a point to see the movie when it comes out, just to see this lovely house in the background.

The interior of the house is a real treasure and well worth the time and price of a ticket to see. Every room's doorway and windows was framed in wood with square corner decorations (can't remember what those are called at the moment). Every doorway had a glass transom. The stairway led to a lovely reading nook, flanked on both sides by huge, airy bedrooms. The upstairs bathroom had been remodeled for the movie shoot and the owners decided they liked it and left it that way, with a glorious claw-foot tub on a raised landing under a roof peak. Hard to envision from that description, but let me just say it reeked of character.

The back of the house has a wide, screened in porch that calls to the incurable reader or knitter. It must be a wonderful place in the spring time. It was by far the best of the tour this year.

I hit five of the nine places on the tour this time around. The musuem is always on the tour and is where I stopped to buy my ticket, so I took the time to drift around and look at the exhibits. It did not take me long to realize that I knew more Bastrop history than the tour hosts who were roaming around, but I always enjoy seeing the musuem and I discovered there are some new items for sale that I will have to go back and obtain on a less active day. They have issued a DVD on the subject of Bastrop's 175th anniversary and there are books, maps, and other tempting things that somehow I do not yet have in my collection of local history.

The Episcopal Church, old First National Bank and Kerr Community Center did not interest me, since I have seen them all on numerous occasions. I did visit 3 more houses on Pecan Street, one of them an active Bed & Breakfast that I could honestly recommend to someone who wanted a nice place to stay in Bastrop. It's quite a nice old house. By the time I had visited the 4th house, I was exhausted from the press of the crowds and the chattering of the tour hosts, so I decided I was done and went on to run my errands.

It's funny how ongoing stress can make being around people an exhaustive process. I just don't have it in me to be sociable these days. I did enjoy a conversation with an old neighbor I encountered at the museum, but that was before the herd of tourists arrived. I contemplated walking the street fair that was being held in downtown, but decided I just could not handle the noise and bustle of a crowd. It takes too much effort to focus and too much effort to remain calm and pleasant, when what I really want to do is snap, "Get out of my way, shut up and leave me alone". I smiled and made nice as long as I was able to and then beat a hasty retreat.

Before I went to the grocery store, I made an impulse stop at the local Hallmark shop. The lady who ran this store for many, many years died this year and I've not been in it since. I was dismayed to discover all the signs that the store is about to shut down. The attendant did not know the future plans, but what she did know and what I observed seems to point that direction. I coveted that little shop and always wished that I could acquire it. I guess it is another sign of my fatigue that I could not even get excited about the idea of calling the owner to see if she would be willing to sell.

Before I could escape back to the safety of home and my babies, I had to negotiate another crowd at the grocery store. At least you don't have to be quite so polite there. Everyone understands you don't want to be there, so a glower isn't taken so badly.

At long last, I was home. It seems odd the changes that age will cause. I used to relish the holiday events in downtown Bastrop. Perhaps I will again, but for now I just don't feel the need to partake. Right now my old dream of a mountain-top cabin in Colorado that is only accessible by snowcat for months on end (but of course well stocked with food and an uninterruptible Internet connection) has resurfaced. I need peace and quiet. Right now my favorite activity is the daily walk I take through the neighborhood with my best friends.


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