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There is enough research to indicate when you lose one of your senses, your others are heightened. And even more recent studies reveal that there is more brain activity associated with the olfactory stimuli than with visual stimuli. That would also prove true for Judge James Sanders Guignard, who remembers Christmas at Still Hopes Retirement Community Columbia SC from when he was just a small child. 

While Judge Guignard is now nearly blind, his memory is as sharp as anyone’s. He grew up just a couple miles away from the Guignard estate, where he would travel as a boy to see his father’s aunts, most of whom lived together in the Guignard mansion, or what he unassumingly referred to as the “family house.”

Now, more than 100 years after it was built, Judge Guignard is a resident at Still Hopes (as is his sister, Emilie). As he walks through the house today, he remembers the scent of evergreens on the mantle, the candles in the windows, the beeswax of the floor polish and the lemon oil on the wood furniture, and imagines the bustle in the kitchen. He said those scents frame his memories, and take him back to holiday celebrations at the house, many years ago.

We had the pleasure to hear about his holiday memories, and wanted to share them with you in his words:

"I do remember coming to the house for Sunday dinners and big family feast days. And I remember Christmas. There was always a Christmas tree in the big hall in front of the large staircase. The big table in the dining room would be set for all of the adults, and a little side table for the small children. The children’s table would be set with the same china and glassware, except we didn’t have wine glasses. There were starched linen napkins.

One of the men in the family would say grace and carve the turkey… and a turkey leg or two would be carved for the children’s table. There would be every manner of food - green beans, rice and gravy, stuffing, peach chutney, watermelon pickles, chow chow, hot buttered yeast rolls, and plenty of Still Hopes scuppernong wine for the adults, and milk for the children. And dessert would be a trifle custard or some sort of cake or pumpkin pie. It was always the kind of feast you would see in a Norman Rockwell painting.

The food was incredibly good. They kept a garden in the back where they grew all sorts of vegetables. They had a cow that grazed out of the pasture. They ate wild onions and wild garlic and the milk tasted and smelled like it as well.

There were always candles. The house was generally chilly in the winter but fairly cool in the summer because of the thick brick walls. There was a fire in every room. They started the fire in the dining room early so no one had to sit too close to the fire and get too hot. And there was a fire in the front music parlor, one in the front library, a fire in the back sitting parlor, and a fire in the dining room fireplace. And the little children would run and play in the main hall. 

Just inside the front double doors was an enormous brass grate, which I remember as being about four feet by six feet, and under it was a big furnace that spit out hot air which heated the lower part of the house a little bit, and the upper part of the house a lot more. All of the upper bedrooms had transoms over the doors so the heat could go in there, but the bedrooms also had fireplaces.

The adults, of course, would have their time at the table. And there would be presents under the tree for the little children. I remember getting a wind-up toy car that would scoot across the hardwood floor. It was just a grand time for the children and for the adults.

There was a lot of conversation and hub bub… all around the table would be family, cousins, aunts and uncles and occasional guests. It was a festive occasion. I remember the warmth of the season, the smells, the turkey cooking in the main kitchen, the fire logs, the candles, the green decoration in the windows… just a whole layer of different wonderful smells."

Dr. Jane Bruce Guignard was the last remaining sibling, and after much discussion with the family, she decided to donate the home and it’s land to the Episcopal church to serve older adults in Columbia, West Columbia, Cayce, and Lexington.

Now as a resident, Judge Guignard says he knows that Still Hopes embodies what his great aunt had hoped it would be.

“Here I am, and all of the staff must have some sort of special quality about them that is a requirement for being hired. They are giving and caring people,” he said. “I can’t tell you what it means to me to be here to be with other people in similar circumstances. Not everyone here is blind, but everyone here is understanding that the caregivers are just incredible people. The staff and what they are doing to make this place is what Dr. Jane Bruce envisioned.”

You can learn more about the Still Hopes history and Dr. Jane Bruce Guignard here.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from our Still Hopes family to yours!