“Oh it’s PERFECT!” Jocelyn gushed, snatching the door keys from her realtor’s hands and racing up her new front porch stairs. Reaching up to unlock the right hand side of a large, heavy door duo, Jos gasped as the entire knob mechanism fell out into her hand instead.
“I will be the first to admit that it needs a little work,” Jocelyn sheepishly grinned down the stairs at Bob, her realtor and cousin, and Raenie, her lifelong best friend. “But just look at all this charm! This place is just dripping with personality.”
“I don’t think that’s personality Jos,” Rae grumbled, swiping at the strands of Spanish moss that seemed to creep up the stair railing just to grab at her hair. “Maybe we should have looked at some other places before just snatching up the first fixer-upper you found.”
“We didn’t look at this place,” Jocelyn pointed out cheerfully, popping her head out of the doorway before once again disappearing into the inky interior.
“Thanks for reminding me,” Rae mumbled sarcastically, exchanging pained smiles with Bob as they moved toward the door at a more sedate pace.
“So how did the bird talk you into this?” Bob asked, glancing sideways at Rae as he graciously held the door open for her, “Last I heard, you had moved up NORTH and had some fancy job going.”
The playful sound of his words couldn’t bely the reproach behind that statement. Good southern girls, especially good southern girls from small town south Georgia, simply did not just up and leave for the NORTH. Raenie had always been told what a good girl she was…right up until the day she packed her bags in the car and took off for New York City.
“After a few years working as lead legal counsel for a multi-million dollar conglomerate, I needed a change of pace,” Rae smiled innocently, almost succeeding in masking her glee at that success. “And, Jos needed me.”
“Yeah, she said that you stayed with her a while, helped her pack and all,” By now the couple had gone far enough into the house’s foyer that the light had drifted away and Rae couldn’t be totally certain that Bob was tearing up, but she patted his arm anyway and didn’t point out the catch in his voice. Before they could say anything else to each other, the lights suddenly sprang to life above their heads with a loud popping sound. The sudden illumination revealed a large open space which would have been the epitome of grace if time had been on their side.
Centered across from the front doors, a curving double stair complete with semi-circular landing halfway up, had cracked and dust caked steps that were littered with brittle old bits of white paint from the banisters and ceiling. The fireplace, big enough to fit Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and a few of their friends, had soot and brick crumbling behind a blackened screen and the floors were still trying to decide whether or not to disintegrate under their new owners’ feet.
“See,” Jocelyn sounded very satisfied with herself, “Told you everything would be ok. This place is very old-time charming.”
“But it isn’t plantation charming,” Rae countered, cautiously circling around the open space, “This looks more like a cold, North Yankee design to me.”
“There’s really not much difference, is there?” Bob tried to wheedle, succeeding in only being struck again with how similar the friend’s minds worked as they both turned quizzical gazes toward him. “Ok well, the man who built this house was from somewhere up north. A wealthy, high society man whose wife visited family here and fell so in love with the area that she begged him for a home in this quaint village of a town. And so, he built this estate for her. Their sons were born here, their business flourished here, and they were happy. But, as tends to happen, everyone aged. The children moved on, the parents passed away, and the house has been sitting here empty, deeded over to the historical society by the youngest son. None of the children or grandchildren had the time or resources to fix this place up, and neither did the Society. So the Friedrich Manor, and anything you might find within it, now belongs to the two of you.”
“Cool,” Jos and Rae both quietly dismissed the idea of there being anything worth much left in old home, and busied themselves with the humongous task of cleaning up. By the end of day one, both girls had chosen a bedroom, cleaned and filled their bedrooms, and scrubbed up the nearest of their FOUR bathrooms. Bob, being the helpful sort of realting cousin that he was, stuck around and fixed two broken pipes and the front door knob before hurriedly excusing himself when talk turned to more in depth cleaning. By day three a plumber and electrician had both been hired and were on the job, a carpenter (Rae’s uncle) had fixed a few floor joists and a broken railing, and the house was almost dust free. And so the days progressed, each one filled with the bustle and elbow grease required to bring the old house back into its prime.
On one such day, day 13 ½ if you want to be exact, Jocelyn was finishing the job of cleaning and caulking second floor windowsills when she noticed a stray door, hidden except for a glass knob and snuggled into the room’s far corner. Giddy with excitement and a quickly blossoming sense of hope, the twenty-something woman tugged gently and was rewarded by a new view as the door swung open, revealing a staircase that seemed to beg for her to climb her way to the top and peek through the next doorway.
Never one to risk disappointing anyone, Jocelyn swiftly chose to honor the staircase’s wishes and gingerly made her way up the dusty flight. Her bold decision was rewarded as she entered into a large space that had obviously been used for the children’s suite at one time, complete with bathroom; but had been turned into an attic storage space after the kids were gone. Here was the gold mine they had not dared to hope for. Here were the antiques, the rugs, the carefully boxed knick knacks that make a home sparkle. And here, oh here were the pictures. Jos eagerly plopped down beside a large carton, hungrily pulling out album after album of photos depicting the town, the people, and most importantly, the house, all the way from its construction to the last day Mr. Friedrich lived there.
That is where Rae found her friend an hour later, sitting on the dirty floor of an unused attic apartment, with pictures and notes spread out around her and tears silently streaking across her cheeks. “Jos?”
Jocelyn started out of her reverie to look up and Rae, “He knew we would be here.”
“What are you talking about? Who knew?”
“Well, not us exactly.” Jocelyn amended, holding up a creased page, “Read this.”
I am sitting here, saddened by the knowledge that my family does not want our home. Children grow and move on and when I am gone they will most likely sale the house. This leads me to the reason I am writing this letter. You, whoever you are, that has purchased my family home. Thank you.
I know that you will have your own visions for the place, your mark to make. I beg you, please restore only two of the rooms to their original luster. The children’s attic, in which I am leaving these things for you, was my wife’s favorite area of the house. Her sewing room was here so that she could hear our sons’ laughter and games as she worked. Please keep these rooms as close to that joy as you can.
I hope that you enjoy the home our memories share with you.
“Jos, remember how we were trying to decide what to do with this place after we got fixed up?” Rae looked over at her best friend and wiggled her eyebrows. “How about we use these pictures to restore the rooms and create an ‘old world’ Bed and Breakfast?”
“That’s great!” Jos jumped up and gestured around her. “These rooms up here are full of old tables, lamps, a few beds…We could put the original furniture back in some places and decorate the stairwells with these old photos.”
“Some areas will have to modernized, but the feel of the house will be the same,” Rae joined Jos in a happy dance before gathering a few of the papers up and heading for the stairs. “Let’s take these down to the kitchen and start planning.”
Two years later, the friends proudly stood side by side as the photographer snapped their picture on the lushly green and fully replanted front yard. The headline would read “Small Town’s first B&B: Old World Charm, Grand Opening.”