Here & Now
Alice has been misbehaving again. I haven’t actually seen her doing mischief—in fact, I’ve never seen her at all, because she is a ghost. That’s the only rational explanation I have for things that have been disappearing around my house, only to turn up in another room, drawer or someplace I definitely did not put them. Reading glasses are her favorite, but in January I outsmarted her. I bought 24 pairs and scattered them everywhere. If you count the two pairs I sat on, I still have eight pairs left.
Still, Alice is an amateur compared with Mona Burroughs Wandrack McCurdy Fischer. Workers would show up at her home some mornings to find her bath water running and the tub overflowing. Mona would be nowhere in sight. Because, the thing is, she’s been dead for more than 30 years now.
Mona and her sister, Jettie, were the daughters of Fort Myers socialites Nelson and Adeline Burroughs. Back in the early 1900s, they entertained the crème of society at their lovely estate on the Caloosahatchee River. Guests, including the Edisons, Fords and Firestones, attended garden parties and lavish dinners, and danced the minuet on the concrete tennis courts. Mona loved the glamorous life. They say she was always pushing the envelope, sneaking out late at night and playing practical jokes. Jettie was the proper one. Mona married three times and traveled the world. Jettie never married. Eventually the daughters inherited the beautiful Georgian Revival home. After Jettie died, Mona had the verandah widened into a dancing porch, and the parties resumed.
Over the decades after Mona passed away, the estate fell into ruin and was closed up. Even then, some people claim to have seen Mona’s ghostly shape on moonlit nights, dancing on the sagging verandah.
In 2008, Uncommon Friends Foundation took over the management of the Burroughs estate. Now, Mona and Jettie, in period costume, give tours of the home and gardens every Friday morning.
Too bad Mona never knew Wade Keller, who came along too late to help her write her memoirs. I’m sure she would have told juicier stories than the ones straight-laced Jettie allows her sister to tell on those Friday tours. Wade, who lives on Marco Island, helps people assemble their life stories into books. If they write, he edits; if they don’t want to do the writing, he does it through a series of interviews. He helps organize photos and memorabilia, then designs a professional book cover and takes the finished work to press. Among his clients are captains of industry, Hollywood luminaries, quirky local characters and everyday people with stories to tell and legacies to leave behind. Just off the press are the memoirs of Bernie and Rita Turner, founders of Naples’ Walden University (and much more), and furniture magnate Paul Broyhill of Naples.
When Wade figures out how to interview feisty ghosts, I’m sending Alice over for a session. She has an earring, a brand new pair of socks and half a dark chocolate Hershey bar to account for.
Despite the antics of Alice—which some of my so-called friends say may be related to my rapidly accumulating birthdays—life is good. Thanks to my vigilant reading of package labels, I’ve shrewdly managed to escape bodily damage from various goods. For example, my new mini-steamer warns, “Steam is hot” and my travel iron is labeled, “Do not iron clothes while wearing.” And that bag of yummy-looking green fragrance crystals for my vacuum cleaner practically screams “Do Not Eat!” Oh, shoot; I wanted to sprinkle them on my yogurt.
The truth is, anything that appears to be chocolate is fair game for me. So you can imagine my confusion when another dancing lady, Lesley DeSanctis, recently unveiled her unique confectionary creation: a chocolate shoe. Not just any shoe, but a glitzy, diva-worthy, Dancing-with-the-Stars stiletto. One-and-a-half pounds of dark, milk or white chocolate.
“Ever since I got that first Easy Bake Oven as a little girl,” Lesley says, “my culinary desires kept blossoming.” So far, her passion has taken her to New York’s Culinary Institute of America and a dozen workshops and boot camps for the pastry arts. She recently completed the intense personal chef program at the Culinary Business Academy in Atlanta.
There’s no doubt in my mind that this gifted artist is going places. If I’m wrong, I’ll eat my (chocolate) shoe.
Meanwhile, we’ve rounded the corner on the 2011 winter season. It’s been perfect so far, hasn’t it? Warm, sunny days and cool nights, unlimited menus of delicious things to eat and delightful things to do, requiring just the right balance of bare toes and glitzy stilettos. Scores of fundraisers brought new chances of life, health and safety for those in need.
If the winds of generosity have blown steadily here, so have those beautiful Gulf breezes, creating ideal conditions for champion kiteboarders to demonstrate their jumps, loops, jibes and rolls 10 or more feet in the air. You can view this living canvas of athletes in motion beneath rainbow-hued kites all along Southwest Florida beaches. My favorite viewing spots are Seventh Avenue South and 19th Avenue South in Old Naples, and Marco Island’s Tigertail Beach.
What’s on your April to-do list? Have a wonderful time checking it off, savoring every breeze, every blessing you are able to share, and every small, sweet self-indulgence, here and now.
Friday tours with Mona and Jettie $10;
tour and lunch, $20.
Tea Time Tuesdays, April 5 and 19, $28.
Personal Memoirs by Wade Keller
Sweet Indulgence by Lesley De Sanctis