■ BY MARY BESS
The posts of the wall surrounding the Stevenson Estate are capped by turtles, outstretched legs flailing in the balmy breeze, doing their best to keep from toppling off their perches.
Passing through the gate, an oasis appears, its stately royal palms adorned with white lights, brilliant in a sea of inky sky.
A ferocious alligator guards the lane’s first bend. If you evade its jaws and turn right, you will perceive a chimerical kingdom in the distance.
Approaching the steps I am accosted by two terriers. One, though somewhat leary, shyly approaches to get a sniff, but the other is implacable, a good dog/bad dog routine they’ve perfected. A door mat warns, “Dog does not hold his liquor.”
A knock brings Bayne to the door, resplendent in a holiday suit of red and green whose description would challenge Diogenes Teufelsdröckh, Carlyle’s fictional author of “Clothes: Their Origin and Influence.” Late on his way to Yacht Club festivities, a bottle of spirits tucked under his arm, he streaks across the landscape like a Christmas comet. Looking back, he shouts, “Call Jeanie 6464.” Jeanie is Bayne’s bride of many years, looking every bit as fetching today as she must have when they met.
When the Stevensons decided to build a new house on Boca Grande, they cruised the streets and byways, taking note of every house that appealed to them.
Turns out they were all designed by the same person, Diane Weinman, who obviously shares their sense of fun.
A gracious porch encircling the house seems to levitate, anchored by oversized rocking chairs. Is that Lily Tomlin’s Edith Ann? Tucked into the corner of a rocker, she is sharing a tantalizing bit of Boca Grande folk wisdom, with the admonition “and that’s the truth,” followed by a sloppy raspberry oozing from her lips. Problem is, few oldtimers agree on anything.
A peek through the front doors reveals a setting appropriate for afternoon tea. Is the Mad Hatter expecting us? If he forgot, that’s very, very rude indeed. Fanciful torchières illuminate a wonderland of diversions. The shimmering sea beyond beckons. I am down the rabbit hole.
Join us on Thursday, Jan. 31 for the Boca Grande Historical Society’s Tour of Homes and Luncheon. In addition to the Stevenson Estate, five more homes will be open to the community. Watch the Boca Beacon for details.
Tour tickets are $60 for members, $70 for guests. Members may purchase as many tickets as they wish at the member discount. To purchase online, go to bocagranehistoricalsociety.com. You may also purchase tickets by calling 964-1600 or stopping in at the History Center at 170 Park Avenue, Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Gossip is free. Sorry, the luncheon is sold out.