This old southern beauty belongs to Mrs. Nell Gibson. She's my friend. Such a classy lady in her eighties, a retired school teacher, City of Detroit, I believe, a beautiful person. I met her four or five years ago in my town. Travelers Rest, South Carolina. Well, it was my town for over five years. I wrote my memoir, House Not Made With Hands, while living in this quaint and wonderful little town.
I was ready to publish with one thing missing.
The cover for my book.
I wanted something as near the old house I grew up in as I could find. I drove for hours one morning, up the Saluda Grade into North Carolina. Actually it was only twenty miles from my house, but I drove a hundred miles that day. I stopped in Hendersonville and took photos of old white clapboard houses until I was blue in the face, then drove back down the grade to Travelers Rest, out onto country roads. Unsuccessful in finding the perfect house, I went home.
And then it dawned on me there was a place I had not been. It was Miss Nell's house, a beautiful old southern home built in 1850, surrounded by magnolias and giant oak trees. It was so old, the kitchen was housed in its own building out back. Of course, long years ago, they designed a kitchen into this old house that had something like seven bedrooms.
I hopped back in my car and headed to Miss Nell's. She was gone. Nobody was home. Only one Lincoln in the detached open garage between the house and the driving range. Her driving range. My husband and I used to go there quite often. I went to watch. He and Harrison went to drive a few buckets of balls. When Harrison was not visiting us, we went alone.
I drove out to the driving range and chatted with the manager. "They've gone up to Lake Junaluska for the weekend," he said.
"Oh, no!" I was running behind on getting my publisher the photo. I was determined to make my deadline somehow. But I was not going to use photos of Miss Nell's house without her written approval.
I went the next morning. Knocked on the big beautiful door that lead to memories only known to Miss Nell, for she had grown up there. The house belonged to her mother, and since she was an only child, she fell heir to the wonderful old place.
Nobody answered. Well, I knew she was still gone, not due back until Monday.
It was seven o'clock, a Saturday morning, and I started taking pictures one behind the other. I don't know how many I shot. The sun was just right in the sky, leaving streaks of light down the side of the old brick chimney that dripped with mortar dating back before the Civil War. I was all over that old place. Through magnolia limbs, behind oak trees, hoping no one in Travelers Rest was going to have me arrested for trespassing.
I took the film over to get it processed. I would see Miss Nell on Monday morning, get her approval, and electronically send the chosen one on to the publisher. On Sunday afternoon, I drove back to the big house and there was Miss Nell standing on the front porch. I was so happy to see her. I gave her a hug and told her what I had done. She was elated that I would choose her house for the cover of my book.
I had a decision to make, and by Monday morning, I had done it.
I heaved a sigh of relief when I hit the button to send it on.
It was the last piece.
Soon I would have a finished product.
My first book published.
Miss Nell's house on the cover.