A shot from the Holiday House Tour in 2010.

A shot from the Holiday House Tour in 2010.

by Janet Gilmore

There I was on Saturday, Dec. 7, in a Chestnut Hill House Tour house close to our own. It was enormous, beautiful and decorated to the point where there was no room to set anything down on any horizontal surface. Even the birdbath was filled with Christmas balls. The owner was home when I arrived but quickly left to have lunch with friends as lots of strangers put on blue paper booties over their shoes. They tracked into her house, ready to ooh and aah and get some ideas for beautifying their own houses. My job: stand in a corner in the dining room and make sure no one stole or damaged anything.

“Suppose someone takes something?” I asked the woman in charge. “What do I do?”

“I don’t really know,” she said.

I decided, though, not to tangle with someone stuffing silverware or Christmas ornaments into his/her pocket in a huge house with lots of people streaming through.

Whoever organized this particular house did something brilliant: Fred Ortega and Chip Roman of Tradestone Confections (soon coming to Chestnut Hill) were in the kitchen cooking homemade chocolates and selling packages of same! Truffles, nut bark, caramels. The house smelled like candy, and they were giving out free samples! The large kitchen was filled with samplers. My post was just outside the kitchen. Everyone who filed by me had a mouthful of chocolate and was smiling.

I was told that not only was there warm fresh chocolate for giveaway but that the kitchen floor was radiant-heated. I admit that I left my post several times to check out the rumor for myself. I couldn’t tell about the floor because I had been standing for almost two hours and couldn’t really feel my feet any more except for the sore toes.

A woman came into the dining room, looked around, saw me and confided, “Oh, no; that’s no good!”


“Look at that! That breakfront is much too small for this room. You’d think they could afford a bigger breakfront!” And then, in a version of a Rolling Stones song, she told me, “You can have anything you want in life, but it helps to have money.”

“Have you tried some of the chocolate samples in the kitchen?” I asked her.

She did a 180-degree turn on her paper booties and headed for the kitchen. I hope she found happiness there.

The word “cute” came up 54 times on my shift. The pink and brown dining room was decorated with a mushroom, moss, pine cone owl and butterfly motif. Folks admired the little burlap reindeers on their bed of moss, but they LOVED the chandelier, which was decorated with — you guessed it — some kind of hanging greens, pine cone owls and butterflies. And glass teardrops.

“Look at that! That is SO cute! Can I take pictures?” a woman asked me.

“It’s okay with me,” I said. I’m easy.

“THEY ARE NOT ALLOWED TO TAKE PICTURES!” a nearby man asserted forcefully. I think his rank-of-the day was House Captain, but his day job could easily have been an assistant principal or Marine drill instructor. He had the right attitude.

“You can’t believe how fast people are, especially with those Smart phones. They just whip ‘em out of their pockets and click! They take pictures!”

“Why aren’t people allowed to take pictures?” I asked. After all, folks were there to look around someone else’s home and get ideas and buy stuff to put in their own homes. That’s why I was there, too.

“Why can’t people take pictures? Because it says so on the instruction sheet! Didn’t you read it?”

Of course I hadn’t.

This gig wasn’t as much fun as I thought it would be. And, as my husband, Hugh, says in art museums, beauty hurts the feet.

My two hours were almost up. I limped back into the kitchen for one last mouthful of chocolate, then left, too tired to take off my booties.

When I got home, Hugh looked at me, looked at the booties and said, “Too tired to take them off?”

I nodded yes.

He removed them for me and said, “Come here, I know what you need.”

We’ve been married for a long time. We don’t always need words to communicate.

He got a blanket from the closet and waved it at me like a matador.

“Am I right?” he asked.

I nodded again and lay down on the sofa. Hugh put the blanket over me, and that was all she wrote until much later in the afternoon.