In the past several years, I have had as much luck visiting the historically preserved home of Southern iconic writer Eudora Welty as I would have had when she was alive. The front door is always shut to me.
Miss Eudora, a lifelong bachelorette (no one was dumb enough to call the vastly accomplished woman “spinster” or “old maid”), donated the Jackson home she had lived in since a child to the state of Mississippi in 1986.
Her father built the brick Tudor in the 1920s. She continued to live there until her death in 2001. It took me 10 years of trying to see the inside of the house on Pinehurst. And, Lord knows I tried valiantly and repeatedly.
It was a series of reasons, some odd, as to why I didn’t see it.
Once it was under extensive restoration. A few times I was in town on Monday, the day that it is always closed.
Once I was there on a Tuesday and was overjoyed. “Now, I can see it.” For some reason I cannot recall, it was closed then.
Another time it was closed for Confederate Memorial Day. Another time, I arrived just as they were closing for the day. All in all, it was six or seven times that I had to turn and walk away.
One Sunday night while in town a few years ago, my friend Poet and I had finished dinner and he said, “Anything else you want to do?”
My eyes lit up. “Let’s drive over to Eudora Welty’s house.”
That night, I sat on the side porch in the moonlight while Poet kept diligent guard on any patrolling police that might show up. I peeked in the windows but could see little. My heart yearned to enter that house.
On a recent trip to Jackson, I had a morning to spare. The choice was between the state fair and Miss Eudora’s house. Well, if there had been a choice that would be it but, in truth, there was no choice. It was Wednesday and I believed that it was time for the front door to open to me. A door can’t stay closed forever. I checked the Web site for the opening times.
Excitedly, I parked the car and hurried in as a yard man smiled and sweetly opened the screen door to the house next to Miss Eudora’s where the museum office is located. A dour young man watched as I came in. No greeting.
“Good morning, I’m here to tour the house.”
His expression did not change. “There is not another tour until 1 p.m.”
My heart fell. That was almost two hours and I had to leave town.
“Oh no, oh please, please don’t turn me away. This is at least the seventh time that I’ve tried to get in over the past several years. Please don’t.”
He said not a word. He arose from his desk, went down the hall. I heard voices. A woman, who looked simultaneously annoyed and official, appeared and explained that I simply could not see the house unless I came back later.
“If something is wrong on our Web site and it does not explain that, then we need to know it so it can be addressed.” Read: We know it’s correct and you’re the dumb one for not reading it appropriately.
Yes. I wrongly assumed it was like the homes of other literary icons such as William Faulkner, Margaret Mitchell and Thomas Wolfe, where folks can wander in and out under the watchful eye of a docent.
After a couple of minutes, she relented and snapped, “Come with me. You have 10 minutes because I need to leave.”
I tagged behind like a child who was being reprimanded. But I was not missing the opportunity, albeit brief, that had arrived at long last.
I’m going back, though. Because one day, my luck has to change.