On the way down at 8:30 on a Saturday morning, J read interesting bits of Flannery O’Conner’s letters to friends and agents from her relative isolation outside of Milledgeville. Her words put me in mind of my own mom and of Eudora and her mother. I felt like it should be mother’s day or something to appropriately commemorate women and their mothers. Toward her mother she was generous and respectful, but the less than eloquent language O’Conner used to describe encounters with book club women, KKK events, country neighbors and city folk alike was hilarious and familiar. By the time we reached Andalusia itself we were ripe for the O’Conner world, or at least a little riper.
The Vernacular Georgia group (ultimately numbering about 26 I think) filled the sunny front screen porch where we were given the quick history of her time there (13 years) before being let in to wander the unpainted interiors. Unpainted, that is, since someone last lived there which was not long after Flannery O’Conner’s death in 1964. The farm is beautiful despite the approach: your typical strip mall/gas station-lined, 5-lane entry to any American town. It is a set well-enough back in the woods, obscured from all this modern mess, it appears after a bumpy turn-off marked by a small brown sign and car dealership opposite. The farm consists of several buildings: a 1940s clay-tile constructed store house for the milk beside a huge cattle barn (which I stood by a long while, wishing a barn was still standing at Sunshine), an ancient I-house that was a servants and later tenants home, and a few other outbuildings besides the O’Conner house itself in which you could comfortably stay tonight if you felt like stopping over.
The Vernacular Georgia group was a particularly good group to tour with. Made up mostly of knowledgeable preservation and history professionals as well as students, spouses, mothers, and friends—people who like exploring, walking, seeing, learning—it was a comfortable group. Walking down the streets of Old Clinton later (an olde county seat, left in the lurch by the railroad and up-and-coming Gray, Georgia), I’ve never seen so many people commenting on the I-house form hidden in a house, or the spot where a door used to be, or the replacement windows. I ventured to the porch of an overgrown bungalow and had to give an intelligent report when I returned. And everyone, EVERYONE, positively lit up at the sight of a cemetery, and would’ve happily passed the rest of the afternoon conjecturing over graves and weeping willows.
On the way home, J and I listened to Flannery O’Conner stories on CD (I was in Viv’s car) that I’d bought. I may not have read a story of her’s since college, but by the time we were back to the EAV I’d got it, they all die.