Every day I feel like the first man on the moon with my guests. This is it! I have discovered the real people, the real tour group I have been searching for. I am ready to plant my stake in the ground and claim this group combination for my own for all time. Why must you say goodbye? And then tomorrow I am destined to say hello to another new group. Each day is a new adventure into the most wonderful people on the planet. Meeting so many nice people in small groups restores my faith in Americans in particular.
A READING LIST
This week I had Cynthia Van de Erve and her Book Lovers Travel group from the West Coast come on my tour. She had asked me for a book list on making the reservation months ago. I recommended Celia Garth, by Gwen Bristow set in Charleston during the British occupation; Peter Ashley, by Dubose Heyward set in Charleston starting the day South Carolina secedes from the Union, Dec 20, 1860; and Diary From Dixie, by Mary Boykin Chesnut a social history of The War from whose diary I quote extensively. Imagine the lights going off in their brains as these books come into play in touring and hearing the history of the city. Would that all would read these books before coming! THAT is the way to absorb a place and appreciate where you are: you have to do your homework! Think of traveling here as traveling to Europe, because Charleston is America’s most European city, chock full of layers of history. You do not want a surface view alone, as if all we are is a city with the best restaurants, pretty historic houses and gardens, and a lot of partying.
We also had Judy and Wes Schott from Texas on my tour, celebrating her birthday, having been told by her neighbor about my tour. To jog my memory and to bring them immediately to mind, the neighbor sent a note recalling the tour and pictures from it. I had prayed at Tea for the baby her daughter was carrying and included was a picture of her bright smiling first grandson! Thank you, Lord! Birthday girl Judy’s late sister had loved Charleston; it was her favorite place. In memory of her, they came to Charleston for the first time, going on my tour their first morning here on Judy’s actual birthday. She had stayed up to midnight reading my articles here on my web site in preparation, also recommended reading. I happened to ask her what they thought of the Bushes. She said guardedly that they are all Republicans in Texas and that they see the Bush seniors every Sunday at church, that he is now in a wheelchair, but that Barbara is still charging around well.
I took them by Ashley Hall girls school where Barbara Pierce Bush went to school and was a boarding student. Ashley Hall was the urban plantation of George Trenholm, the real Rhett Butler, who had a monopoly on shipping cotton, with offices all over the world, who was asked consequently to be the secretary of the treasury for the Confederate States of America by President Jefferson Davis. Our eldest daughter, Olivia, graduated from Ashley Hall (with honors) and learned to speak French fluently, as well as to translate whole pages in Latin and ancient Greek. She is now sailing through Rhodes College, headed to study at Oxford this summer and France in the fall semester. (I am a proud mother of three teenage girls.)
Steve Tallman, president of Morell, manufacturing company in Michigan, brought the president of Hydac manufacturing from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and their right arm man and their wives on my tour this week, Hydac’s secretary having found my tour on line and having called to make the reservation. Steve has all his employees read his latest favorite history book, all 700 of them! He bought them all 1776, by David McCullough, and more recently Killing Lincoln, by Bill O’Riley. I had just caught Chris Wilson, whose 1856 house we go into on my tour, reading this same book in her kitchen. I recommended that his next book be Lafayette in America, 1824-25, translated by Allen Hoffman. This newly published book is an American treasure that has been hidden, buried in the French language since the 19th century. It is fluidly written as a travel diary by Lafayette’s secretary, describing America at our fiftieth anniversary celebrated by Lafayette’s return and final farewell to America. He alone was left from the American Revolution, having been 19 when he came here from France to fight for The Cause of LIBERTY, which loomed large in minds oppressed by tyranny in Europe. Everywhere Lafayette went, tens of thousands came out to see him. We have never seen anything like his fame. He traveled to every State of These United States, back when each State was its own country. He gives the history of each State as it was told to him by the many speeches and conversations. It is pure, unadulterated history of the nation, State by State, including all the visuals of the banquets, balls, and illuminations. It should be required reading to graduate from high school. It is thick but not off putting, as it flows.
Imagine what Steve Tallman is doing for the morale and enlightenment of his employees and thus for America at the manufacturing level, crucial to our future! He said you would be surprised how many of them read it and come with notes and highlighting to discuss it with him and each other. ” Quel la difference” he is making! I am inspired. What are you doing in your realm of influence to make a difference? We were made to be courageous. I love to hear these individual stories from the heart of America. We are taking back the fight.
I want to keep each group of people with me, in my world of Charleston. We were meant to be together. Always. Why must we say goodbye? There are a few have have become a permanent part of my life. Take Hartley Watlington from Bermuda, who came on my tour by mistake. He heard me discuss architecture and thought, this is it. He builds and designs houses in Bermuda that look as if they have always been there. He is a descendant of Governor William Sayle, governor in Bermuda and then our first governor here in Carolina. Hartley is a return visitor who is now an integral part of my set of friends in Charleston. He stays with the Hangers, some of our best friends. (My husband, Preston has to draw the line somewhere.) He is here now for our baby girl’s confirmation at St. Philip’s tomorrow and came here for her last Cotillion, ballroom dancing lessons a week ago.
Where you come to Charleston again, look me up; knock on the door. Pick up where we left off. Each day with my guests is too short a time to learn all I want to learn from you after you have had to listen to me.