In the past several years, I have had as much luck visiting the historically preserved home of iconic Southern writer Eudora Welty as I would have had when she was alive. The front door always is shut to me.
Miss Eudora, a lifelong bachelorette (no one ever was dumb enough to call the vastly accomplished woman “a spinster” or “old maid”), in 1986 donated the Jackson home she had lived in since childhood — a brick Tudor built by her father in the 1920s — to the state of Mississippi. However, she continued to live there until her death in 2001. It took me 10 years of trying until I finally got see the inside of the house on Pinehurst. And Lord knows, I tried valiantly and repeatedly.
A series of reasons — some odd — kept me from seeing it. Once, it was under extensive restoration. A few times, I was in town on Mondays, the day it is closed. Once, I found myself in Jackson on a Tuesday and was overjoyed.
“Now, I can see it!” I exclaimed.
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 when I was in Jackson a few years ago, my friend, Poet, and I had just finished dinner when he asked, “Anything else you want to do?”
My eyes lit up. “Let’s drive over to Eudora Welty’s house!” I said.
That night, I sat on the side porch in the moonlight while Poet watched for any patrolling police who 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 a 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 website for the house’s opening times.
Excitedly, I parked my car and hurried in as a yard man smiled and sweetly opened the 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,” I said.
His expression did not change. “There is not another tour until 1 p.m.,” he told me. My heart fell. That was almost two hours away, 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,” I pleased.
He said not a word. He rose from his desk and walked down a hallway. 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 website and does not explain that, then we need to know it so it can be addressed,” she said. Obviously, she meant, “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 eyes of docents.
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 had been 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.
Rich is the best-selling author of “There’s A Better Day A-Comin.’” Go to www.rondarich.com to sign up for her newsletter.