Homeowners make Pilgrimage possible

Published 12:01 am Wednesday, March 5, 2008

More than two years ago my landlord decided she wanted to put her house and my rental on the market for sale.

It wasn’t soon after that when she gave me notice that a potential buyer wanted to walk through my house for a look.

No big deal. I went home from work that day and cleaned up a little. The dishes in the kitchen found a home, the stray books met the bookshelf.

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But in the weeks following that, more and more folks wanted to walk through my house to see what it was like.

Each viewer grated on my nerves a little more.

It was a fact of the situation, I knew, and I wasn’t upset with my landlord. But I was tired of being on show.

Toward the end, I even stopped caring what the house looked like, and just left my mess for the world to see.

But for years and years, generation after generation, the men, women and children of Natchez have done what I did on a much larger scale and refused to get fed up with it.

I’m quite certain I could never live in a Natchez antebellum house that was on tour during Fall or Spring Pilgrimage.

I don’t have the personality for it, and I couldn’t deal with the parade of strangers in my living space.

I’d likely quickly just decide to stop cleaning, and that simply wouldn’t bode well for Natchez Pilgrimage.

So the families that do so painstakingly clean, re-clean and warmly invite strangers into their houses inspire me a bit.

They must carry special traits, much patience and a true love for their houses, their city and other people.

I’ve talked to a few of the folks preparing for Pilgrimage this week. The rush is on, but as Albert Metcalfe said, it never really stops. His wife was working furiously to clean The Parsonage Tuesday, but that’s nothing new, he said.

“She never stops” preparing for Pilgrimage.

Four days before the tours started Metcalfe’s wife was polishing all the brass in the Broadway Street house.

What a tremendous job Pilgrimage preparation must be.

Saturday marks the first day of the spring tours. They’ll last until April 12. That is five full weeks of strangers parading through your house. Each house is open for tours nine days during that five-week period, either in the morning or afternoon.

Twenty-four houses are on the regular tour schedule this year, plus a few that are open year-round. Natchez residents and their families occupy most of the 24 houses.

The origin of Pilgrimage is an amazing story. To think that a rained out garden club meeting that forced the ladies to tour homes, not gardens, turned into one of the biggest economic boosts our town sees all year is hard to believe.

To put yourself in the shoes of the families making it happen is even harder to imagine.

I know I couldn’t do what they do. But I’m thankful for those who do open their homes.

Their contributions to our community are essential to the livelihood of most of us. They’ll make money of their own, yes, but the preparation hardly seems worth it.

So as tourists begin to fill our city and streets get filled with traffic, let’s remember the contributions of a few make Pilgrimage possible for us all.

Julie Finley is the managing editor of The Natchez Democrat. She can be reached at 601-445-3551 or julie.finley@natchezdemocrat.com.