Home for the Holidays
Credits: Nationaal Archief/Spaarnestad Photo/Walter Blum
Christmas is, of course, the time to be home and for those of us that are lucky enough, that means a Charleston Christmas. This is the perfect time to reflect on what home means to us, and what Charleston means to us; here, Elizabeth O’Neill Verner reflects beautifully on what keeps us so devoted to Charleston in Mellowed by Time (1941):
I have asked many persons what this permanent quality is that withstands changing conditions and, in the face of everything, keeps this strong appeal, and I think that the truest answer I have got so far is one a naval officer gave me not long ago.
He was not an analyst; he had never questioned in his long life away from Charleston that anyone would think it strange that he would want to come back after his time of service was over and end his life right here. He had, of necessity, traveled widely and seen many fair lands, but they were not for him.
“Why do I love it?” he asked and laughed. Such a foolish question, but I probed a little deeper. Not a foolish question, really--I wanted to know.
“Well,” he told me at last after pondering deeply, “it’s home.”
And then I was satisfied,--home! What a wonderful word! Not perfect, but easy to live in; comfortable. For Charleston is no “period” city, as no house is a home that sets one date throughout. It is easy to walk into the living room of any house and see at a glance whether it is a home or the product of an interior decorator who knows all the answers but the one that matters. a home must reflect the personality of a family for many generations. It is a repository of treasure, not necessarily of any intrinsic value. A Morris chair is not a thing of beauty in itself, but, when a Morris chair has been the favorite chair of a beloved grandfather, it may be quite a suitable part of the library furniture. A clock which has been wound day in and day out for a lifetime is treasured beyond a better model in a museum. Here is a living record, the accumulation of mute witness of a family life.
Charleston is home to her children, because she satisfies this human craving. We may want to see the rest of the world change, but we would keep our homes exactly the way we are accustomed to thinking of them. there is no effort in the home; it is a place to relax and to be oneself--no pretense, absolute freedom, utter abandon.
Here’s to a joy-filled present and a well-remembered past. Warmest thoughts and best of wishes to you and yours this holiday season!