So, we pulled into the driveway of this gorgeous house. I’m seriously ruing that I forgot to pack my camera. (Troy told me to, specifically, and it slipped my mind in the hurry of finishing my packing after church.) Troy began to tell me part of why he chose this place—it’s owned by a husband and wife who are both retired Air Force colonels. The husband, Dr. Bruce Brown, met us on the porch. We stepped into the foyer, which in the classic antebellum style, gave us a view into both front rooms, beautifully furnished with antiques, books, and various effects. The parlor on the left was done in a foxhunting theme, in keeping with the horseracing side of Camden culture, while the one on the right held an extensive library and china collection.
Att this point, I’m sure I was staring with mouth open. After Bruce checked us in, he led us upstairs to “the General’s room,” the only chamber furnished with a king-sized bed. The staircase and all the floors were delightfully squeaky. We settled in, and as I was lying across the very comfortable, reproduction antique bed, I gave the floors a thorough scrutiny. “Hey,” I told Troy, “that’s—heart pine!” It had the deep gold similar to oak, but pine has a distinctive knotty grain that I knew from growing up in a house with pine paneling. Exploring our room, I discovered a notebook detailing the renovations to the house since the Browns had bought it and transitioned it to a bed and breakfast—which to my dismay I did not get around to looking through, thoroughly. But I began to see what a gift this overnight stay was.
The house was connected, I’d discovered, to the Chesnut family, with whom I was familiar from my study of Camden history. It had been built for James Chesnut, Sr., the third wealthiest planter in South Carolina at the time of the Civil War, for his spinster daughter, Sally, and was often frequented by Mary Boykin Chesnut, renowned Civil War diarist. More history about the family, to come.
At 5:30 came the social hour with our hosts, Bruce and Katherine, who were gracious and welcoming. I inquired about the house’s history and was informed that the after-breakfast tour would cover all that, if I could wait. (I wasn’t sure I could. :-) ) After an hour of conversation sprinkled with talk about the military and online degrees (Troy’s working on a Bachelor’s-to-Master’s program in business administration, and Bruce is a professor at Phoenix University’s online program), Katherine gave us a couple of recommendations to restaurants down in Columbia—the only nice ones open on a Sunday evening just before the Fourth of July, of course! We opted for the Italian place and were not disappointed. (Except that there was SO very much food—we could have been happy on just our appetizer alone!)
We returned after dark, changed back into comfortable clothes, and sat outside on the beautiful veranda for almost an hour, talking with Katherine and enjoying the breeze from the veranda ceiling fan. (The nice thing about the main floor being the second floor—no mosquitoes to speak of.) Then it was upstairs and to bed—breakfast would be at 9 AM.
There was one call earlier from Ian, our second oldest, to let us know that a young couple from church were in labor with their first baby. A second call came just after 11—as I was just drifting off—that the baby was safely here, via emergency C-section. Apparently Lori’s blood pressure had spiked, but it turned out later there were a couple of other factors at well.
I fell asleep sometime close to midnight. About 4 AM, I popped awake ... strange house, strange bed, the usual swirling middle of the night thoughts. I spent a lot of time praying—for Lori and the baby, for others as the Lord brought them to mind. Finally, near 6 AM, I drifted off again, only to have the weirdest dream that started out as a nightmare, but turned out to be a parable of heaven. When the alarm went off at 7:30 and the dream gave way to “real” life, a longing so profound gripped me that I started crying.
Oh, the irony. Waking up in that beautiful house, and all I could think about was ... heaven.
(To be continued ...)
(To be continued ...)