RHETA GRIMSLEY JOHNSON: A Valentine of a house makes for a beautiful wedding

By Rheta Grimsley Johnson

FISHTRAP HOLLOW – A friend recently gave me a wire heart that floats above my bed on a fleur-de-lis ribbon. It is the first thing I see when I wake up in the morning, unless one of the dogs licks me in the face.
I don’t have a grown-up house, nor do I want one. It’s no accident, really, that adolescent girls always admire this place. Every 13-year-old who has ever walked into my home looks around, sighs appreciatively and says, “This is the kind of house I want when I grow up.”
I think it’s because I’ve taken the same ideas and offbeat taste that once decorated my childhood bedroom and applied it to an entire house, albeit a tiny one. This house rocks.
I go to other adult domiciles and cannot help but notice that things don’t rock; they match. The duvet cover matches the sheets that match the drapes that match the wallpaper. There are no bulletin boards with overlapping photographs, no button cards thumb-tacked to the wall. Stuffed animals are relegated to the children’s quarters. The calendars are all from the year in which we are living, for heaven’s sake.
That’s fine, of course. For someone else.
My house is, like I am, sentimental to a fault. I don’t throw away meaningful things. As a result, mine is a good holiday house. The Santas are never hard to reach at Christmas, the cardboard funeral home fan collection is accessible in the summertime and on Valentine’s Day, well, this is the perfect, romantic getaway. There are so many Paris souvenirs in this place you might mistake it for a kiosk on Montmartre.
I sent a Florida friend a photograph of a principal in a wedding that took place here recently. She wrote back and asked about the fire poker and the fly swatter in the background.
The fly swatter came from France, where they still make their own goods. I admire it and hang it in a place of honor. The fire poker, of course, is necessary for poking around in the wood stove, but it’s also a hand-forged thing of beauty that a friend presented to me some years ago. Maybe not the conventional stuff of wedding photos, but details important to the look I’ve cultivated.
There have been, in fact, two weddings at my cozy cottage. The first took place in the summertime, between the house and the branch – or babbling brook, as we romantics call it – with apple green lanterns hanging from low branches and a band making lovely music. The young people who married were musicians themselves, and, after the vows, took a turn singing and entertaining. There’s a great wedding photograph of the bride, wearing a stylish and gauzy gown and, over the white dress, a washboard that she expertly played to accompany the band.
The second wedding was on a December afternoon, in the living room, with kerosene lantern light and the setting sun making soft shadows on the unfinished portrait of Franklin D. Roosevelt and a needlepoint rug that depicts a scene of the Atchafalaya Swamp. A dozen white roses and the books “Beautiful Joe” and “The Little Prince” were on a table, and a turquoise pot from Mississippi’s Shearwater gleamed so bright it seemed to be lit from inside.
The quiet wedding in this odd little house was beautiful. It was mine.
Syndicated columnist Rheta Grimsley Johnson lives near Iuka. Contact her at Iuka, MS 38852.

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