By Wendy Hodge
Another weekend, another adventure. It’s become my custom to leave O Town behind bright and early on Saturday morning and drive – in search of history and a story.
Just last week, I hit the road again. Armed with snacks, comfy shoes, camera, pen and paper, and a tank full of gas, I headed for Warm Springs, Georgia. As a treat for myself, I’d planned a three-part experience.
First stop was The Little White House. No matter how many times I visit the museum and the cottage that President Roosevelt loved so much, I am drawn to the same familiar spots:
The walking sticks that were gifts from all over the world to a president who stood tall despite his crippling handicap. They hang in a display case… untouched, unused.
The derby hat that sits on a chair next to the president’s bed. It was his favorite, but now it sits dust-covered and unworn.
The hundreds of books that line the shelves in the president’s study. Books whose pages haven’t been turned in so many years.
And in the kitchen, the spot that pulls me like a magnet: words written in haste and grief by Daisy Bonner, the cook at Warm Springs, when she saw her beloved employer and friend die suddenly before her eyes.
Imagine the magnitude of sorrow for her, a servant who would sooner eat a platter of dirt before defacing her employer’s home with graffiti, that would compel her to take a pencil and write on the wall the following words:
“Daisy Bonner cooked the first meal and the last one in this cottage for the President Roosevelt.”
A lifetime of meals, of service, of respect and deep affection summed up in one sentence. As personal as her grief was, she knew it to be a part of history – a moment that would ripple across decades. And so she left her president one last gift of words – a gift for us, too. And I’d like to hug her neck.
Leaving Roosevelt’s home behind, I drove “across the mountain” for Phase Two: Late lunch at Cricket’s. Have you eaten there? Until last weekend, I had eaten there only once. Its charm had stuck with me, though, and finally there I was, pulling into the gravel parking lot. The bell above the door tinkled as I walked in.
The tables were covered with red and white checked oilcloths; the menus were hand written and Xeroxed, and the waitress was the very same one who served me years ago. She called me “sugar” and brought me the most delicious pot roast I’ve ever eaten. Better, even, than my own grandmother’s – but don’t tell my mama I said that. And then – the chocolate chip pecan pie – There are no words.
Not often in life do things live up to the memories we have of them, but this meal – oh, this meal – let’s just say it was a good thing I brought my “let-outtable” pants.
On to Phase Three: the Warm Springs Bed and Breakfast. Countless times I’ve walked past it and looked up at the huge upper windows, longing to be on the other side looking down on the street. I’ve read the stories of hauntings and of famous guests. And I’ve promised myself I would be a guest there myself someday. So, at last, I carried my suitcase in the front door and met Gerri. Once upon a time, Gerri owned a small shop next door to the bed and breakfast. Just like me, she would look at the windows and imagine herself inside. Because she is a visionary, Gerri saw past the worn down old bones to the lovely heart that she knew she could restore. And so she bought it and did just that. That was more than 30 years ago.
I stood at her counter and