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Dixie Divas: Eudora’s house at long last

POSTED: April 16, 2013 1:00 a.m.

In the past several years, I have had as much luck visiting the historically preserved home of iconic Southern writer Eudora Welty as I would have had when she was alive. The front door is always shut to me.

Miss Eudora, a lifelong bachelorette — no one ever was dumb enough to call the vastly accomplished woman “a spinster” or “old maid” — donated to the state of Mississippi in 1986 the Jackson home she lived in since she was a child. Her father built the brick Tudor in the 1920s. She lived there until her death in 2001.

It took me 10 years of trying to finally see the inside of the house on Pinehurst. And, Lord knows I tried valiantly and repeatedly.

It was a series of reasons — some odd — as to why I didn’t see it. Once it was under extensive restoration. A few times, I was in town Monday — the day it is closed. Once I was there on a Tuesday and was overjoyed. “Now, I can see it.” For some reason I cannot recall, it was closed then.

Another time it was closed for Confederate Memorial Day. Another time, I arrived just as it was closing for the day. All in all, it was six or seven times I had to turn and walk away.

One Sunday night while in town a few years ago, my friend, Poet, and I had finished dinner and he said, “Anything else you want to do?”

My eyes lighted up. “Let’s drive over to Eudora Welty’s house!”

That night, I sat on the side porch in the moonlight while Poet kept diligent guard on any patrolling police that might show up. I peeked in the windows but could see little. My heart yearned to enter that house.

On a recent trip to Jackson, I had a morning to spare. The choice was between the state fair and Miss Eudora’s house. Well, if there had been a choice that would be it. But, in truth, there was no choice. It was Wednesday and I believed it was time for the front door to open to me. A door can’t stay closed forever. I checked the website for the opening times.

Excitedly, I parked the car and hurried in as a yard man smiled and sweetly opened the screen door to the house next to Miss Eudora’s where the museum office is located. A dour young man watched as I came in. No greeting.

“Good morning! I’m here to tour the house.”

His expression did not change. “There is not another tour until 1 p.m.”

My heart fell. That was almost two hours away and I had to leave town.

“Oh no! Oh please, please don’t turn me away. This is at least the seventh time that I’ve tried to get in over the past several years. Please don’t.”

He said not a word. He rose from his desk and went down the hall. I heard voices. A woman, who looked simultaneously annoyed and official, appeared and explained I simply could not see the house unless I came back later.

“If something is wrong on our website and does not explain that, then we need to know it so it can be addressed.”

Translation: We know it’s correct and you’re the dumb one for not reading it appropriately.

Yes. I wrongly assumed it was like the homes of other literary icons such as William Faulkner, Margaret Mitchell and Thomas Wolfe where folks can wander in and out under the watchful eye of a docent.

After a couple of minutes, she relented and snapped, “Come with me. You have 10 minutes, because I need to leave.”

I tagged behind like a child who was being reprimanded, but I was not missing the opportunity, albeit brief, that arrived at long last.

I’m going back, though. Because one day, my luck has to change.

Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of several books, including “There’s A Better Day A-Comin’.” Sign up for her newsletter at www.rondarich.com. Her column appears Tuesdays and on gainesvilletimes.com/ronda.


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