Personal Journey: Grandmother, what big memories you have

Pickity Place in Mason, N.H., is a 1786 cottage that served as the model for the 1948 Little Golden Book story "Little Red Riding Hood."
Pickity Place in Mason, N.H., is a 1786 cottage that served as the model for the 1948 Little Golden Book story "Little Red Riding Hood."
Posted: November 25, 2013

Little Golden Books bring me back. A childhood favorite is the 1948 Little Red Riding Hood written and illustrated by Elizabeth Orton Jones.

Do you remember this classic? The cover shows Little Red Riding Hood dressed in a hood and cape. Wearing her sturdy shoes, she stands on the threshold of Grandmother's open door. Framed by slices of cheery paper covering the exposed walls, she holds a fistful of posies in her outstretched hand. What makes this version so special is that the illustrator captured not only the child's innocence but also her hesitation.

If you are sentimental like me, you will be delighted to know that the house and grounds on which the artist modeled her illustrations are real. Now called Pickity Place, the property is located on Nutting Hill Road in Mason, N.H.

Follow the road through the dark pine woods. The 1786 cottage sits in a clearing surrounded by five acres of perennial and herb gardens. Although the building houses a Red Riding Hood Museum with a four-poster bed and a stuffed wolf under the covers, the primary focus for more than 30 years has been serving a five-course gourmet luncheon. There are three seatings daily and a menu that changes monthly. My boyfriend and I, headed home to South Jersey from Maine, made it just in time for the last 2 p.m. seating.

How nice it was to slow the pace of interstate travel and enjoy the meal. From the appetizer, a Danish lemon dill dip, all the way to the dessert, strawberry rhubarb pie, the meal was prepared with fresh ingredients. We could have stopped at a roadside diner or a fast-food joint, but Pickity Place was an experience that revived me.

And what a thrill! I was inside the pages of a beloved setting with its crooked rooms, low ceilings, and wooden floors. Even though it was a sunny day, the stately ash tree allowed little light through the old double-hung windows. Herbs hung against the painted wainscoting. I kept expecting either Grandmother or the wolf to peek in from the kitchen door.

In Jones' book, there is a full-page illustration for every pair of pages. The text, on the accompanying page, is bordered in pine boughs, mushrooms, and wildflowers. At Pickity Place, the charm of the book came alive.

After eating, stroll through the gardens. There is playful evidence through the colorful plantings and garden figurines that Little Red must have visited. We learned that illustrator Jones owned a summer home not far from the historic cottage.

Travel is not for the faint of heart. In our efforts to slow down and relax, we tend to speed up and take in as much as we can. Pickity Place offers a respite. Our visit carved a quiet pocket into our journey.

When I came home and pulled out my tattered book, it became clear why the hand-scrawled sign "to Mason, New Hampshire" is the one that Little Red Riding Hood follows.


Betsy L. Haase writes from Pitman, Gloucester County.

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