I drove with my father and John Brown, a Jesuit novice close to him, down to the Browns' home at Cheneyville, LA. The scene of their house upon arrival is best described as classic and timeless: a white southern plantation home set behind a drive lined with centuries-old oaks, complete with wraparound porch, wood floors, tall ceilings, stained moulding and panelling, and pocket doors with leaded glass. Amazingly, this was built over the last two years, replacing an unsalvageable one on the site. Ms. Judy Brown saved the doors from the old house (and found other antiques) and carefully selected every detail so that she moved into a home that already had the character of experience. I've never seen new home construction so beautiful and welcoming.
We had dinner with Ms. Judy and Mr. Bruce, and their sons John and Chip. They are each so gracious and good-humored that you immediately feel you've known them your entire life, and expect to simply look next door to your childhood home. The Browns are both in their 6th decade, but their vibrancy leaves the impression of 30-year-old actors artfully aged for the set. Ms. Judy has admirably raised 12 children while Mr. Bruce tended and grew a farm to thousands of acres, and neither seems worse for wear. To know these folks is to adore them.
(On the trip down, John had mentioned that the house was a major project, and speculated his father had been doing well for himself. He hadn't seemed to consider that 12 children growing up frees up a lot of resources.)
With only hours of interaction with the Brown family, I already felt quite at home and would have considered the trip worthwhile if we were to return immediately.