Our editorial crew at Southern Living stayed late last night to comb through old archives and glean ideas for an upcoming 50th anniversary issue. (Beer, chips, and guacamole may or may not have been involved.)
As I flipped through the 1970 issues, imagine my surprise as I turned the page and found a house at once familiar—because I wake up in it every morning.
It’s not a particularly large house, not a fancy house, but it is appealing: a Dutch Colonial cottage that feels sturdy and inviting and like it just can’t help but have good karma. The Askins family built it that way in the late 1950s with the help of Henry Sprott Long, a popular Birmingham architect who designed many quaint, farmhouse-style homes in the suburbs. As a young boy, the Askinses’ son Norman watched its construction with such interest that he took detailed notes and drawings, and later became one of Atlanta’s, and really the South’s, most highly acclaimed architects. Their other son, Ross, grew up respecting houses too, and became a successful real estate agent who sold his widowed mother’s home to my husband and me.
Elizabeth Davenport Askins is in the 45-year-old photograph, arranging a centerpiece for a home-cooked meal on the black iron patio furniture that is still there today. She’s wearing a lovely suit, and has perfectly coiffed hair, ever the gracious hostess. The landscaping is immaculate with topiaries and colorful blooms and statues . . . nothing out of place, just like her hair, and I’m sorry to say that is no longer the case (the precise pruning or the homeowner’s hair).
One beautiful spring day circa 2003, in a church across town, I put daffodils from my inherited garden to add some cheer to the table holding the book for visitors to sign at Elizabeth’s funeral. It was important to me, because she had planted much more than bulbs on that property. My family and I—as well as future generations of homeowners, no doubt—love and argue and laugh and cook and throw parties and grow old there. We even sometimes plant bulbs and put on lovely suits. And we always enjoy and nurture our home, remembering with gratitude those who created it.