The Home and Garden Tour

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Home and Garden Tour

The House of Edward sits within a neighbourhood of old houses. The oldest was built around 1900 and whilst that may seem young as springtime to my friends in other countries, here in the southern states, it’s rather impressive. Our gardens are large, our trees ancient and massive, and every single house has a different design. About ten years ago, during the rapacious property mania here in America, our neighbourhood of old houses and park-like lots attracted the squint-eyed notice of salivating developers hungry to buy up several houses at once in order to carve out little over-stuffed kingdoms of mediocrity. One even tried to purchase one house and replace it with sixteen. Now, I rarely jump squarely in the middle of contention but this hit too close to home, so I girded my loins and opened my front door. The Songwriter and I joined in with other neighbours in a fight to protect our low density zoning, which the developers needed to change in order to achieve their goals of chockablock sameness. During this protracted battle, it occurred to me that perhaps we needed a bit of attention, a spotlight of sorts that would train its glow on our uniqueness and charm and educate the powers that be on all the reasons our neighbourhood deserved legislative protection. So, I organized a home and garden tour.

I will always be incredibly grateful for the homeowners who agreed to put their homes on that first tour. I’m not sure I would have been quite so eager to join in on that novice venture, led by a woman who’d never before attempted such a organizational feat. I well remember the trepidation I felt when I called a local florist to see if she might be willing to do the flowers for one house. As I waited for her to answer the phone I looked down at my list of florists, consoling myself with the thought that, if she refused, at least I had more possibilities. I couldn’t believe it when she said, “Don’t bother asking anyone else. I’ll be happy to do them all.” I designed and printed programs, I lined up volunteers to take tickets at each house, I did interviews with local papers, I tied balloons on mailboxes. The morning of the tour arrived and it hit me that I had assigned all the positions and now had nothing to do. The Songwriter headed out for his volunteer shift at one of the houses and left me sitting at the kitchen table, heart pounding. I wandered from room to room, wringing my hands, certain the day was destined to be a total flop. And then the phone rang. It was The Songwriter... “Hon, you won’t believe it. Cars are lined up and down the street. There are so many people coming!”. Relief, sweet teary-eyed relief.

That was ten years ago and believe it or not, the tour still continues. It’s become a village tradition, one celebrated and looked forward to by those inside our neighbourhood and out. Older people come back from all over to visit the places they once lived and it’s such a thrill to see them led through their former homes by the young folks who now reside there, all with big grins on their faces. And I’m happy to say that we are now recognized and appreciated by our city officials who point to our vintage neighbourhood as one of their crowning jewels, worthy of preservation and pride. The developers have slithered back from whence they came, at least for the present. I’ll be waiting if they return.

Today is tour day and we have some delightful homes this year. I will be hosting a party here at The House of Edward in the evening for all the homeowners, a time for them to relax and swap tour stories. We’ve been fluffing and pluffing all week long, raiding the garden for the last summer flowers, stirring chocolate, chilling wine. Edward, who loves nothing more than a party, knows something is up. I wish you all could join us, but as that’s not possible, here are a few photos to give you a taste of the evening to come!