A WINTER’S TALE/ THE MANSIONS

     Some months ago I had a dream in which I was driving in the country.  I noticed a sign on the side of the road with mother’s name on it denoting that this was her place of residence.  I pulled to the side to double check the sign.  Yes, it was her name.  What was her name doing on a sign way out in this unfamiliar country setting?  Across the street was an old mansion.  I was curious to have a look at the place and went inside.  The dilapidated interior was undergoing major restoration.  I walked around with other curiosity seekers observing the ongoing improvements.  The main staircase was boarded closed.  The downstairs rooms were quite dark and dusty, but the ornate paneled walls and over sized windows gave credence to its’ former grandeur.  There was obviously much work to do to make it once again habitable.  It would be some time before mother could move in.

     I thought of that dream this mild winter day as I walked to my car after visiting mother at the nursing home.  For a number of weeks I had been observing with interest the old Georgian style mansion on the grounds of the nursing facility, admiring its’ elegance and the mystery that surrounded it.  Sitting sedately on the crest of the hill, the sprawling brick structure with green shutters captures a view of the large reservoir surrounded by carefully preserved forestland.  To the right, the impressive distant city skyline can be seen.  My interest was peaked having been told a little history about the place.  The Symphony Orchestra had conducted a fund-raiser there a few years ago making it a showcase home.  It had been entirely restored, refurbished and was opened to the public for a short while.

     Today cars were parked around the circular drive in front of the house.  I decided to do a little exploring.  Maybe there was something going on inside.  I found a spot and walked to the front door.  Ringing the rather common front door bell, I envisioned a butler from an old movie coming to answer; tall with angular features, a white cloth draped over his left arm.  He would inquire ever so politely but firmly in a deep voice: “Good afternoon, Madame.  How can I help you?”. He would then usher me into the study before a crackling fireplace; an old painting of a fox hunt dominating from above the mantle.  Here I would be served tea and crumpets from a shiny sterling silver service: drink real English tea in exquisite tea cups embellished with dainty red roses as I awaited the mistress of the house to take me on a full fledged tour.  I rang the bell again.  No-one answered.  The place was empty. My imaginary tour came to a halt!

     I followed the brick walkway to the small adjacent building that housed the Home Care offices.  I had gone this far.  I owed it to myself to find out if it would ever be open to the public again.  The friendly office ladies were sympathetic to my quest.

     “The home was built in the 1920’s and hosted many guests, the most notable being the Duke and Duchess of Windsor” they informed me.  “After that it was used by the priests for many years until they were moved to a larger facility.  It is now owned by the Archdiocese.  They still may use it for certain functions, but it remains empty as all the furniture has been taken out.”

     “What a pity” I said.  “A house is such a spiritual kind of thing.  It needs people in it to keep it alive.”

     The woman at the back desk nodded in agreement.  “Yes, I think so too. You know, you might want to talk to the caretaker.  He may be able to provide more information.”

     “Thanks so much”.  I smiled appreciatively for their help and headed back to my car wincing at the tire ruts someone had cut into the soggy lawn.  No wait!  I wanted one last look.  I walked around to the side and peered wistfully into what looked like a sun room of sorts displaying a white marble floor with black marble diamond shaped accents.  Maybe some kind soul would see me with my nose pressed against the window and invite me in.  On the other hand, I should be careful not to leave my nose smudge on the glass or even worse, have the grounds security haul me away for trespassing.

     “Well, at least I tried!”.  I thought, heading over the back roads toward home.  It was somewhat unusual; the dream about a mansion,then the real mansion.  No luck with either.  Was there some spiritual parallel or significance?  I don’t really know, but I do know that God says in the Bible that He is preparing mansions in heaven for his children.  That’s the real deal!  It requires patience, but we can count on that! We have a sure word from God:”In my Father’s house are many mansions: If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” (John 14:2.)

Sandy Lightsey     

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