Monthly Archives: June 2015

Mom, We NEED A Swim Team!

team on boat

My heart sinks a little bit at Emily’s request. I know just how much work all of it involves. But I know too that she misses the swim team activities that we engage in when we live in Richmond. There we’re an east end team newly welcomed into the immense James River Aquatic Club that also includes big money clubs such as the Country Club of Virginia. The league is one of the largest in Richmond. We are Anirav. Varina spelled backwards. We are small. We barely win any meets but we are in the big leagues. (Still going strong Anirav won the JRAC Sportmanship Award for their division in 2014).

I know nothing about swim teams. As a teen, I once consider joining the newly formed team at my neighborhood pool, Swimland, in Whitehall, Ohio. But when I find out the practices are early mornings before the pool opens and how absolutely cold the water is, I quit before I start.

At Anirav five year old Emily is in swimming lessons with a friend whose brother is on the team. Missy is a powerful swimmer but she does not yet swim the length of the pool without stopping. Neither Emily nor I realize the significance of the feat but when she accomplishes this in her test to pass the class, she immediately gets drafted by Missy’s mom to swim on a relay team.

It sounds like fun. We agree. It’s an away meet at Sandston. Emily does her part but she is very slow. Still she completes an otherwise incomplete relay team. They win points and ribbons. And we’re hooked.

championshipAs the years progress I find myself team mom, creating a team name, gathering monies for t-shirts and accessories, and attending JRAC meetings as our pool representative. The league is divided by size of teams and so we are put together with our own kind. At the end of the season every member team joins in the championship competition. It’s days of heats and heats of swimming, camping out under any available shade to await your turn after hours upon hours of waiting. But you dare not leave, your parking place will be eaten up.

Win your heat and you advance. The best Emily does is come in 9th over all in butterfly her last year before we move. Not bad for a summer league only swimmer. Many of the summer league kids also swim in the winter and keep their skills at top notch level. That’s 9th out of hundreds the girls in her age bracket. Just a bit higher and she would have gotten a place ribbon.

lewisThen we move to the Outer Banks in the mid-eighties and settle into our new life. We have a great community pool but it lacks youth activities. And is so casually run! Our Inlet Court neighbor, Tom Piddington and I both volunteer for the board of directors at the same time with the same purpose in mind. To make the pool a safer place. He has come from northern Virginia and a strong community swimming pool lifestyle. We don’t know each other at all. His kids are all grown. But we hit it off. We become the official pool committee. We write guidelines. The board publishes them and every member gets mailed a copy. This takes an entire winter of our lives.

As summer rolls around I take charge of hiring a staff. I get my WSI certification and schedule swimming lessons. And we begin Emily’s swim team. The first year I watch. The next year I decide to coach. I have seen enough. I know how this works. Scott Zincone has come on board as a lifeguard for the pool and jumps in to co-coach.

rick & scott

Rick Gray from Duck Woods Country Club has also heard the calling, this time over beer and conversation. He’s in it too for his kids. Both pools have actually had teams in the past but neither in recent history. Being a willing rookie Rick follows my lead. We pattern our match ups using the JRAC footprint. We plan meets. Surprisingly to me Colington proves to be the power to beat.  Emily & Donald are used to the low on the totem Anirav team. So much that when a meet that the Argonauts can win is scheduled during our OBX vacation time, we voluntarily travel back to Richmond to help out and back to the OBX to finish our ‘hope this never ends’ vacation.

Duck Woods is our only competition. Okay to be accurate back up just a step. Nautics Hall in Manteo does join our adventure one year but after we organize the first (and only) Outer Banks Swim League Championship and they end up in third place Manteo fades from view.

hawk powerAnd so for years we compete weekly against Kitty Hawk neighbor Duck Woods. Our team is huge. We have a big pool to draw from. We get more points in the age for age, stroke for stroke match ups. But the real victory of the meets comes down to which team can take the blue for the all age mixed free style relay. We win most of the time but when DW does win those bragging rights they are elated. I can relate. Small team roots run deep.

Emily insists that we have team suits. Parents are willing to pony up for this matching uniform. I collect size information, monies and order suits. We pick a team name. I create a design. We get Hawk Power t-shirts made. We bake snacks to raise money for ribbons and team accessories. Through the marching years to stretch our dollar, I screen print swim caps. Hats. We get towels embroidered. And gear bags. And backpacks. And always more t-shirts. We are a team. We are the Mighty Seahawks!

 

 

 

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The JETT Set

cottage sideReedville, Virginia calls our name in the summer. Home to generations of Jetts since Peter first stepped off of the boat near Leedstown with his wife, Mary, and their two sons and two daughters in 1663, we head there like migrating monarchs year after year.

In the late fifties my grandfather, using free cinder blocks my uncle Dick got from a job, builds us a cottage on the Chesapeake Bay between Reedville and Fleeton, Tibitha to be exact. It is a one level affair, a basic rectangle, with a bedroom in three corners, kitchen in the fourth, a bathroom and one more bedroom between the kitchen and corner bedroom along the back wall. A T shaped open space for dining, viewing the bay through the trees and card playing by the rarely used fireplace make for socializing and overflow sleeping. Rope and pulley stairs to the open attic where we store inner tubes for swimming and snakes seek shelter for sleeping in the off season round out the deal.

cottage backWe have no TV, no radio, no air conditioning, no fans. We use wooden orange boxes from the grocery for clothes organizing and are happy to have real beds to sleep on. Screens only for the big windows. If a bad storm blows in we close the heavy wooden shutters.

We have mosquitoes. We are fair game night and day. We have chiggers. A trip into their territory becomes necessary when the septic system surrenders from overuse by so many people. My uncle rescues us from being total pioneers with a once a day trip to the local gas station.

We measure the success of a night by how strong the wind is blowing the smell of the fish factory away from us. When the ships come in, always at night, we rush in all cars available to see them unload. Such is entertainment. The smell cannot be masked even by perfume held under a nose. There just is no smell like a menhaden fish boat unloading.

reedville beachWe spend the entire day on the beach accessible by steps we carve in the sloping sandy drop to the beach dotted with eroding pine trees. Someone goes to the cottage, a short walk through the waving pine trees, to fix lunch for everyone else.

Mom and my aunts, Keese and I.G., make creative shade shelters for nap time. Many years into our summer adventures they haul water washed pine poles from down the beach back to our spot for my dad and uncles to build a dock. We play with black inner tubes that must be constantly turned over to keep from practically scorching a layer of skin off. We never use sunscreen. Sun burns are a rite of passage. Peeling each other’s burnt skin layers a labor of love.

lifeguardWe have sea nettles to thwart our best attempts at playing in the water. We have a wonderful tide that bestows awesome sandbars for wading in the already shallow water. We have tricky blue clay on much of our private beach that will humbles us in an instant with a gooey slippery spill. We have endless shards of sharp broken glass that my aunt Keese collects by the bucket full to make our beach more user friendly.

To get to this slice of heaven we, more times than not, hop in the car at our parents command as we spontaneously race to catch the last ferry of the night. We are crossing the Rappahannock River where a bridge now ages. But we only know the ferry. We sit on the dock waiting for it to return from across the river. We spy huge red sea nettles and crabs swimmings. The air is filled with night sounds of crickets and cicadas.

I find a stash of Nancy Drew books one summer and read my way through these originals. I find Ian Fleming another and meet 007. We invent games for our days spent on the beach. Fallen pines are ships and homes. Our inner tubes are boats.

screen with holeDrift wood of amazing proportions is everywhere. Mom loses her bathing suit top trying to hoist a big chunk up the sandy cliff. My uncle pushing from the bottom laughs at his unexpected delightful view. Neither are willing to forgo the goal. They win. Topped with round glass it makes a handsome coffee table.

We thrive on fresh foods. We pick crabs. We savor salt roe herring fried crisp and set aside for the warm roe tucked inside mashed with butter and spread on a hot biscuit. We shell butterbeans. We snap beans. We pop sugar peas. We peel peaches. We slice warm tomatoes. We shuck oysters and corn.

We catch lightning bugs and fill our mason jars with their wonder. We explore along the lane picking Queen Anne’s lace and yarrow blooms. Even when it rains the days are as hot as expected. We know nothing else and life is good.

 

 

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The PERKS of Being A Polaroid Camera Girl

camera girlAlways looking for ways to make quick money in college, I beg friend Sharon Gates Buskell to take me on as a Polaroid Camera Girl. It is a perfect job. Polaroid provides equipment, film, and jobs. You just show up, take folks pictures and sell the attributes of the camera.  Sharon agrees and I am in.

I float from one gig to another. Pay is good and somehow much of the film designated for any job gets used before returning the equipment to Sharon. She doesn’t mind. She is the queen of spreading the perks of our job around.

otis reddingAt one of our school dances she brings her camera and takes pictures for a dollar apiece. Otis Redding is the headliner. In those days headliners hung with the crowd and partied as much or more than we did. I snag Sharon just as she reaches the last shot in her last pack of film.

Friend Sandy Baker and her date Stevie Wonder (she called him that because he was short and sexy), get wind of my goal. They want to be in on the action. I agree but I get to keep the picture. (Years later I send a scan to Sandy in Germany where she lit off for right after graduation and never came back). It’s one of the best dollars I ever spent. You can barely see “Respect, Otis Redding” signed on the photo sleeve but it’s there.

polaroidA few years down the road I’m finished with school but still working a few Polaroid gigs now and then. It is the point where I have just met Donny at Church of Our Savior in Sandson. The annual Christmas bazaar is gearing up. Becky Upton has put Donny & I together making games for the kids. Donny makes my bean toss idea into a reality. First of a bazillion crazy ideas of mine he makes real. We have hit it off. But possibly the deal sealer that put us on our lifetime path together is when I volunteer to take Polaroid photos for bazaar goers in exchange for a few dollars to the bazaar funds. I have film. I have flash bulbs. I do not have a camera. Donny offers his Dad’s Polaroid. It has not seen a lot of use and needs batteries. Donny takes me to Sandston Pharmacy where I meet the local druggist, Tony Mehford. He considers us a couple and chats for a long time. And in hind sight I have just had my first date with my lifetime partner. The perks of being a Polaroid Camera Girl.

 

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ONE of the Things I LOVE About Our Family

guys and marie

Donald, Sebastian, Lewis, Donny, Stephen, Marie, Marty, Martin, Zach, Benji, Andrew, PJ

It’s wedding day for Hilarey & Lewis. After their lovely personalized ceremony and loading up on amazing hor doerves all made by Rick of Slice fame, impromptus photo sessions are commenced. First all the Ball women gather on the lawn, then inspiration commands that the guys be pressed to do the same. Marie is at the ready to be in every picture. As you can see from the photo the younger guys are a little less enthused.

Then we go for the big kahuna. All Balls all the time (with a handful of Desjardins and one Onstad added in for good measure). This involves nineteen of many ages. We assemble. We pose. Wait. Stop. “Lewis, where is your bride?” Hilarey is missing. She was just here. We all look around. The guests on the deck look around. No one sees Hilarey. Of course she must be in the photo. No one budges. No one sighs much less grumbles. We are at the ready. Still no Hilarey. Stephen decides that we should call her since no one can find her. “Hilarey,” we call out in pathetic non-unison.

“C’mon, we can do better,” Stephen urges. We try again. Still unison eludes us. “Y’all,” Stephen laughs, “We can do this. One more time.”

“HILAREY!!”

all the family

Lydia, Terri, Sebastian. Donald, Lewis, Hilarey, Donny, Sarah, Stephen, Sandy, Marie, Hilarey, Marty, Martin, Andrew. Zach,, Benji, Jenn, PJ

This time we are spot on. And she appears at the top of the stairs mouthing, “Bathroom.” Negotiating her dress explains her disappearance for so long. But no one in our group has broken rank or complained. Andrew has made a quick dash for the stroller to get M&M’s to bribe PJ but that doesn’t count. Even if  he does disappear just when we find Hilarey. “Now where’s Andrew?” is quickly answered as he reappears as fast as he left.

And this is just one thing I love about our family. We give room. We give support. We acknowledge each other’s individuality. Which is sometimes pretty close to quirky. But regardless we are always there for each other. Always.

slice plus one

Amanda/Jeremiah spawn, Amanda, Kelly, Mariah, Elizabeth, Mrs Rick. Tanner, Eric, Rick, Amanda/Jeremiah spawn, Hilarey, Ezra, Lewis, future Slicer Zach who wormed his way into the Slice photo.

HILAREY!

HILAREY!

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Happy Forty-Six to US!

We're married! June 7, 1969

We’re married! June 7, 1969

“Edward, can you tell me what Marie is saying?” I am feeding them dinner and while our three year old grand daughter is quite articulate I still cannot quite catch what she is saying. So after several requested repeats I turn to her seven year old brother, Edward, for help.

“Yes,” he replies. It takes me a moment to realize he is telling me that she is saying, yes. Not, yes, that he can help me. Her yes is in the form of, “Of course.” Maybe Edward figured that was too advanced for me and went for yes as an easy alternative.

Before Donny and I get married we chat one night about how so many couples don’t make it, often throwing in the towel without even trying to make things work when the course hits a rough spot. Neither of us want to consider that possibility. And so I say, “How about we give it forty years and see how we feel then.” It’s a deal. That I instantly forget about until Donny reminds me on our fortieth anniversary.

We meet in November. Start dating in January. Become lovers in February. Get engaged in March. Get married in June. Six quick months together and then a life time commitment. This year we are celebrating our forty-sixth year on this fabulous journey.

But back to our fortieth. Donny reminds me of our deal. Shall we keep going he teases. I need no time to think. “Of course!”

 

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