Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Picnic at the Mansion

"Do you want to come see my mansion?"

Is this a statement any woman could resist??? I think not. Of course, it's not HIS actual mansion. He runs a Historical Preservation Society on the North Shore of Long Island which restores and rebuilds old homes to their original glory. We're talking houses from the 1700's & 1800's. Really cool stuff. Would I like a personal tour? Absolutely!

I drive up on a beautiful, sunny afternoon armed with a picnic basket and a blanket. He can't really leave the grounds for lunch so I'm bringing lunch to him. The backyard is large enough to have 200 people but today, there are only 2 of us. I bought cherries, strawberries, blueberries, baby carrots, hummus, tortilla chips, crackers, Alouette cheese spread, mixed nuts and chocolate hazelnut cookies. I have also stashed away a delicious bottle of ice cold Reisling that I know he's going to love. I picked it up at the winery last week and upon sampling, knew I could not walk out of there without half a case of vino. I bought 5 bottles of liquid goodness but only one Reisling, so it feels really special to share it with him.

As I pull up to the mansion (which it quite literally is, even by today's standards) I am blown away by the front porch. It's white with flowers potted everywhere and white railings and rocking chairs swaying gently in the summer breeze. Flags are flying from the ceiling and I get the sense of being transported back in time. I hug him hello and think that this is exactly the sort of home I would want to live in someday. You know. If it had more than one bathroom.

There is a rose waiting for me on the old writing desk in the formal parlor (I can't even believe I just wrote that sentence.) It's a faded white rose with pinkish tips and I appreciate the gesture so much. The card reads, "To say you are amazing is an understatement. I'm so glad you're in my life."

Well if the 107 degree heat didn't melt me, his words surely did.

He leads me through room after room of antique pieces, all donated by people who live in the area. They're all original to the time period, but none are original to the house. His entire job as curator of this living museum is to collect, organize, restore, rebuild, revamp and make gorgeous this once functional home for use as an educational facility for children as well as a meeting place for adults. He's done a pretty phenomenal job so far. It takes a lot of patience to bring history to life and I'm fascinated by the process. We all know I have a major dorky side, right?

He shows me where the original house stood and how it was only a kitchen at one time. There are Colonial era wooden kitchen utensils and a cast iron beehive stove. The hearth is still working (but is too dangerous to allow full access to the general public). The dried flowers hanging from the exposed rafters are all from the garden outside. The whole place feels like I've been transported somewhere else on the planet at some other point in time. There is nothing modern in sight and I suddenly feel awkward wearing jeans instead of a long skirt like women always did. I wonder if we have the right idea with all our feminine liberation or if they had a good thing going? Then I read about how many ladies got their dresses caught in the flames of the hearth fires while stirring soup to feed their families with upwards of 9 children each (all given birth to with no painkillers) and I begin to think my jeans might be a modern invention worth having after all.

At the conclusion of the tour, we stroll out to the back gardens where he already has his mother's quilt laid out for us to sit on. We hungrily tear into the picnic basket and begin munching our way through the fruits and nuts. He pours the wine while I spread cheese on crackers. It's hot and muggy out but the shady protection of the trees makes it tolerable to be outside. I can imagine the young girls who lived in this home at the height of the Victorian era having tea parties right where we are now. Enjoying peppermint ice cream and petit fours and tiny tartlets with freshly picked berries. Sipping their zesty orange iced teas out of dainty cups (instead of the white wine we're drinking out of plastic mugs...)

That's when I ask him what sorts of events they host here. He tells me about the fall festival, Halloween party, black tie gala...and that they're looking to start having tea parties. I am the tea party queen! I know just about everything there is to know about tea parties. I want to open my own tea house someday. I start throwing ideas at him. Menu ideas. Decoration ideas. Games and crafts and themes and...Ok I got a little carried away. But he was staring at me so intently, like he was really absorbing everything I said.

And that's when his boss happened to walk out back to find us picnicking in the yard. Not that it's a problem by any means. It was just ironic timing because my date explained to the President of the Board of Trustees that I am an expert in all things tea and had many, many ideas for their Ladies Guild to use at their upcoming events. We chatted for a while and he asked me to submit my thoughts via email as there was a committee meeting the next day. After careful consideration, they named me events planner for the house.

I got a date AND a job out of this!!!

I was only trying to help out with the preservation of the home and volunteer some of my time and knowledge. Treasures like this are hard to come by and I don't want our children growing up in a community with very little history to offer them. They should be surrounded by more than just shopping malls. I certainly never expected anything to come of my crazy tea drinking but I'm super excited that it did. Nice guy, cool job, great mansion...a girl could get used to this!!!

1 comment:

  1. Seriously this stuff is out of a fairytale novel. I could see EVERY detail you write so beautifully sometimes that I feel like I'm there with you. lol