How's Bayou? Acting your age, part I
Some things just never get done.
Back in 1964, during our first months at Madewood, we were certain it was just grime that kept the silver doorknobs from glistening in the morning sun when we opened the front door.
After going through a mountain of jars of Wright's Silver Cream, it was obvious that much of the silver had worn away over the years.
No problem. We'd simply remove them and take them to New Orleans to be resilvered.
Never happened. We now consider them old friends whose worn demeanor is no more upsetting than age spots on a grandmother's hand.
Besides, to paraphrase Miss Manners' encomium, "You wouldn't want people to think you'd acquired all your silver at the same time," we wouldn't want friends to think we'd had all our doorknobs resilvered right away, now would we?
Six massive, spreading live oak trees at Madewood make our doorknobs look like Johnnies-come-lately. Listed on the registry of The Live Oak Society of America, an organization with only leafy, rootbound members, they "must have a girth (waistline) of 8 feet or greater. Girths of over 16 feet are classified as centenarians." So read the rules.
Ours haven't watched their waistlines over the centuries, so their measurements suggest ages of between 250 and 350 years.
Mother named these trees at their inauguration into the society in the late 1960s, honoring women who were influential in her life. The Eliza Foley Pugh Oak, for the original mistress of Madewood. Martha Gilmore Robinson, Gertrude Graner Munson and Hettie Koy Porteous (Millie's grandmother) who worked with Mother on civic and cultural projects. She named one oak for her mother, Laura Cooper Nelson, and another, clearly the oldest, for Patricia Ryan Nixon, whom she befriended during the dark days of Watergate.
The Pat Nixon Oak, which lost one-third of its branches during Hurricane Betsy in 1965, symbolized for Mother the turmoil of its namesake's life at the time. Gustav took another third, which came crashing down on Madewood's John Deere tractor, burying it deep in the ground.
The huge branches didn't completely separate, and they support the remaining green bits of the tree, which shades the Pugh family cemetery, like a spooky giant spider.
My only fear is that one of the Republican candidates for the presidential nomination will come out against support for aging, disabled trees, and that will be the end of it.
But earlier this week, a guest sat in the shadow of the great tree, reading, and drinking in -- as my malaprop insurance agent once discribed the solitude of a Manresa retreat --"the peace and senility."
The scene was the perfect embodiment of the welcome page of the Live Oak Society:
"It's no coincidence that the live oak symbolizes strength, stability, and steadfastness; for we cannot imagine what growing up in Louisiana would have been like without spending a good deal of time amoung the limbs of a majestic oak tree."
And sometime in the next 250 years, in the shadow of our leafy titans, those doorknobs just might get resilvered.
How's Bayou? the secrets of remaining sane while running an upscale B&B on Bayou Lafourche, is written weekly for NolaVie by Keith Marshall, a former Rhodes Scholar and graduate of Yale and Oxford universities who now juggles his time between Dixie Art Supplies in New Orleans and Madewood Plantation House in Napoleonville.
How’s Bayou? the secrets of remaining sane while running an upscale B&B on Bayou Lafourche, is written weekly for NolaVie by Keith Marshall, a former Rhodes Scholar and graduate of Yale and Oxford universities who now runs Madewood Plantation House in Napoleonville.