Home for the (Highfield) Holidays 2022
Home for the (Highfield) Holidays, 2022. Oh, what a joyful treat!
From the moment you walk in the front door, you are enveloped in visual scenes reminiscent of places, homes, and times of holidays past. Decorator extraordinaire Rita Pacheco and her team once again transform the magnificent mansion into a buffet of vignettes, each identified by its own statement of “Home.” Enchantment reigns.
I suppose this is where I should offer that I have a personal investment in this year’s designs. Rita is an absolute master at re-purposing household items into her treasures. Her eyes are always open to finding just the right little thing to pull together a scene. On a visit to my home a few months ago, she asked about several pieces. The metal base of a fire pit for which I had not yet found a new top was to her “that thing” (and that’s a direct quote) she was looking for - but you will need to keep reading to learn how she used it this year. An old broken wood high chair I intended to “someday” repair and repaint, she looked at it and exclaimed with a Santa Claus twinkle in her eye “aha- I can use that!” And the excitement when she saw my father’s vintage glass barware, it was as if it was on her own personal wish list.
“What’s your theme this year?” I asked, curious as to what she would do with the items she borrowed. She wouldn’t answer. Just smiled and waved goodbye as she backed out of the driveway.
When I visited Highfield last week, she challenged me to a game of what she called “Mimi Eye Spy.” Could I find the things from my home she transformed in this holiday display?
In the Great Hall, themed “Home is where your heart sings,” my first find was an old framed piece of music that had hung in my family’s hallway growing up. The unique oval glass had broken, and I had not yet replaced it. That didn’t matter. In her hands, it became a treasure exactly as it is.
My tour continued in the office, transformed by the theme of “Home is where your story begins.” An antique Remington typewriter, director’s megaphone, and clocks set for various times of day - all alert us to the passage of time, and how our own personal stories begin, then evolve. A black and white photograph of a young girl in front of the fireplace on her new toy telephone on Christmas morning captures my attention, and transports me. Through her eyes I felt five years old again, warmed in the wonder of a child's delight.
Next to capture my delight was the dining room, with the theme “Home is the heart’s nesting place.” Two photo albums from my youth, circa 1960’s, from which I had removed the black and white photographs, sit on a table, celebrating the Scottish crest theme. Honestly, I had never even paid attention to the front of them. They fit in perfectly. This room is, I think, my favorite of the entire display. My imagination placed me in the chairs at the dining room table, ready for a Christmas morning brunch, a plaid scarf wrapped behind me on my chair, shaking off snow fresh from a playful game outside with siblings, open gift packages on the settee beside the tree. This is also the room where the refurbished high chair appeared, now a teddy bear’s perch.
In the living room, “There’s no place like home,” I spied my father’s barware, polished to a new gleam. And the top of my grandmother’s side table, another piece I had intentions to restore, she painted gold and used to create a dressing table in the bedroom at the other end of the room, conveying “Comforts of Home.”
Another area to catch my eye was the space next to the grand staircase, normally home to the grand piano (pulled into the center of the Great Hall), instead set up as if an outside “Niche Forest.” The marshmallows on sticks caught my eye immediately. It’s a nature scene, reminding us of how not so long ago, like, um, the past two years (!) many found creative ways to gather outdoors around fire pits, when gathering indoors was not always advised. Rita appeared behind my shoulder. “Look. Look closer” she nudged me. There, under those marshmallow sticks, the old fire pit base, and an old pair of red rubber boots, from the 6 year old with whom I reconnected earlier in this story.
Honestly, I didn’t want to leave, walking through the rooms as if in a dream, or perhaps a holiday movie, with that idyllic, iconic feel of holiday warmth. Though this story is most certainly not about me. It is, rather, about how the simplest of things in our lives can become treasure, not because of what they are, but because of the memories they hold, and the new inspirations they invoke. Travel through the halls of Highfield this holiday, and you may find yourself looking at your own things with new eyes when you return home.
Four additional vignettes beyond those I’ve mentioned await you, as well as a crèche gallery, featuring an intentional crèche collection, a craft room, holiday baking classes in the kitchen, and the gift shop and gallery on the second floor where you may shop for handmade crafts and original designs.
One week remains to take in this holiday feast for the eyes, on display through December 11. Reservations are recommended and may be made online at highfieldhallandgardens.org. For a brief introduction and visual tour, you may also watch this YouTube video, courtesy of Falmouth Community Television.