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In a 19th-century Napa mansion, Sunday afternoon was more than a time for tea and scones. It was a chance for mothers to take in the atmosphere of bygone days, and to share the experience with their children and parents and friends.

The dark wood paneling and stained glass of the Ackerman Heritage House formed a backdrop for a few dozen guests sharing family time on Mother’s Day. Surrounded by a restored mansion dating to 1888, many of the guests amiably retold stories of what their mothers’ guidance, support and love had meant to them.

Brenda Flanders of Napa and Michelle Wright of El Paso, Texas were meeting for the first time, but shared a table with Flanders’ daughter Camille Frausto and Wright’s daughter Mariah Beltran, college roommates in the Bay Area. Their dresses, and especially their beaded headpieces, seemed to match the throwback atmosphere of the mansion.

“It was Brenda’s idea to do the big fancy thing and dress up,” said Beltran ...

“...something the men in our lives wouldn’t be into!” added Frausto, completing her friend’s sentence to the hearty chuckles of their mothers.

The afternoon of finger sandwiches and delicate pastries was a surprise gift to Flanders and Wright, whom their daughters credited with raising them well as single parents. “I always admired her strength, taking care of us and also following her own goals,” said Frausto.

The hub of such warm-hearted sentiments was the Ackerman house on Randolph Street, a Queen Anne Victorian that gained its second life after its purchase in 2010 by Lauren Ackerman of the Ackerman Family Vineyards in Coombsville. Five years and $2 million in renovations later, the mansion opened to the public as a window into Napa’s early history, and has hosted tea lunches on its lower floor since 2017.

Among the dozen or so guests clustered a few feet away in the Ackerman house’s wood-paneled dining room, the Mother’s Day tea held a special meaning for the Cumby family of Sacramento – particularly sisters Colleen and Corinne, for whom the mansion’s genteel atmosphere stirred up recollections of their childhood.

Aphasia had muted much of Agnes’ own speech, but her grown daughters freely shared memories of the example their mother had set – from teaching them to stage tea parties to constantly bringing casseroles to sick friends, to simply supporting Colleen in her varied careers.

“She’s very adventurous, likes to try new things, does all sorts of interesting things – and I got that from her,” Colleen said of her own turns as a sheepherder, teacher and corporate trainer. “I’ve tried everything and I’ve loved everything.”

One woman’s December visit with friends to the Ackerman house sowed the seed for a return trip on Sunday. “I thought, wow, this would be fun place to take my mom and my daughter for a ladies’ day out – and my daughter loves dressing up,” Keli Manfred recalled as she, her mother Lori Imoto and 8-year-old Adeline sipped decorously from their teacups by a sunlit window.

Perhaps the greatest gift her mom had given her, Manfred added, was simply her time – especially compared to many of her friends’ parents growing up.

“Mom sacrificed everything to be there for me, stayed at home for me,” she recalled. “I was lucky to have a mom who was there for me, who could drive me to my games. She was like another mom to my friends, some of whom were working moms or single moms.

“I’m just feeling grateful for being a mom and having a mom, and being able to share a moment together.”

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City of Napa/Town of Yountville Reporter

Howard Yune covers the city of Napa and the town of Yountville. He has been a reporter and photographer for the Register since 2011, and previously wrote for the Marysville Appeal-Democrat, Anaheim Bulletin and Coos Bay (Oregon) World.