Monday, February 20, 2006

Going home, Part Two

Yesterday I wrote about finally entering the ballroom at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pa., after a lifetime of peeking at small pieces of it through a one-way mirror.

But there are other traditions and mysteries connected with our lifetime of visits to the gardens.

Another tradition we always have when visiting Longwood is the decision not to tour the Pierce House, the actual residence on the property. There was always an extra fee to do this. We could see it was very unique, yet it was much too rarified for the likes of us. Certainly only the wealthy like Pierre Du Pont himself could afford the “extra fee.”

”That’s how they get you,” my mother would humph, storming past the house. I wasn’t quite sure who it was that wanted to “get” us and why it was so important to them that they suck an extra $8 from a middle class family from New Jersey. But there were always groups of people who were trying to “get us,” and my mother made it her business not to make it easy for them. She also made a point of letting the mysterious “them” know we knew what they were up to, so she’d stand outside the Pierce House and say this very loudly walking indignantly past the open door.

While running to keep up, we could see over our shoulders the little conservatory between the two sections of the house. We wouldn’t dare let anyone catch us looking lest they question the degree to which we knew they were out to “get us.” But it sure did look interesting.

I don’t know when the policy changed. In the past several years I never bothered to even check. Now that my mother was no longer here to make her protestations known, wasn’t it my job to carry on the cause of not allowing them to “get us?” Compared to her, I was totally inadequate for the task, preferring to sneak by, peeking into the conservatory, assuring whoever I was with that it can’t possibly be worth the “extra fee.”

This is what I began to do this time when Dark Garden informed me that touring the house was now part of the admission price.

So we sat in the conservatory.

We sat in the library. We pet the kitty in the parlor. We sang along with the DuPont Song displayed in the butler’s pantry. And during the entire time not one person tried to “get us.”

Still, there are inaccessible areas of Longwood that we are determined to infiltrate. Dark Garden attempted to sweet talk a docent into letting us see the bowling alley that is in the basement of the Pierce House.

“There’s nothing to see, really,” she assured us. “It’s mostly storage now.”

Dark Garden assured her we didn’t mind.

She looked at us incredulously. “But it’s not restored. It’s a mess.”

“Better,” DG said intensely. Too intensely. DG can be scary to the uninitiated. I wasn’t only surprised she didn’t let us see the bowling alley, I’m surprised she didn’t call security.

Then there is this.

This is in the topiary garden, which was inexplicably closed off. We want to know what it is and what it was. We want to go in there and just stand. We want to open that door and hear it close and look out the little window like we live there.

I secretly suspect that my gnomes are in there.

This weekend the Pierce House; this May, the little door.

We Will Conquer Longwood!


Jagosaurus said...

Y'all ...ain't right. Wait, what am I saying? I tried, a little too intensely, to see all the forbidden areas at Biltmore House too. Didn't work.

Dark Garden said...

Jean, I have nothing left... I'm sorry