Tag Archives: Donald Athelstan Ball

Honeymoon Take Two

It’s the year of our 50th wedding anniversary and Donny decides that we will revisit the places where it all started June 7th, 1969. The kids would throw us a party if we ask, but since we just had a stellar command performance (a friend’s term for family events 100% attendance) for Donny’s 70th birthday in September, we let them off the hook. Not being big party people anyway Donny comes up with this perfect redo. We plan to combine oldest grandson’s graduation on June 2 with our honeymoon trip figuring that’s close enough date wise.

Photo 1 We go to see Funny Girl on our first date. Donny has me at buttered popcorn. Photo 2 And fifty years later. Photo 3 He surprises me with our own theater style popcorn popper.

For unknown reasons Market Square #13 (such an iconic number) gets renumbered (now #3056) and trying to book our original honeymoon room becomes problematic without knowing the new number. Donny & I actually take a picture of the room number (for future reference) a few years back when we’re in Williamsburg for the day with Donald & Terri and Sebastian but it lands in the digital maze of lostness.

Donny persists. He gets up with the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Architectural history department and they find the answer. He books our room explaining his intent and the reason for the request of our special room.

We have spent the day in northern Virginia with our West Springfield HS graduate and it is late in the day when we arrive. We need to check in at the Williamsburg Inn where reservations are handled.

The Inn has a cozy nook for this purpose with individual desks for the two clerks and plush wing chairs for guests if a wait is needed. Next to us a couple and teen are also checking in. The girl muses aloud about having to get up so early for their trip. We are curious. They tell us that they have flown in from L.A. Because of graduation, we have also gotten up early to make the drive to NoVA. We commiserate with her. The couple explain that they are taking their granddaughter on a trip to include Williamsburg, Washington DC, and lastly Monticello.

Ours is a charming room with its own outside door and narrow staircase to the snug space. Good friend Sherrie’s (yes, wedding dress Sherrie) mom is the public relations director for Colonial Williamsburg when we marry and has made all the arrangements for our original two night stay. She even surprises us with a sweet floral arrangement on our door stoop. And spirits our car away to a safe place to thwart any shenanigans Donny’s younger brothers might devise.

The room has barely changed with its steep stair entry, dormer windows and slanting roof lines. We are just as enchanted as on our first visit. Donny has opted for the romantic package and we are greeted with fresh flowers, amazing chocolate covered strawberries, and champagne. We have dinner at Chownings Tavern a short cobblestone stroll across The Duke of Gloucester Street and call it a very full day.

The following morning we have breakfast in the Inn dining room as part of our Romantic Package. As we leave the Inn, an employee passing by stops to comment on Donny’s shirt. He is Hawaiian and recognizes it as authentic. He has a good eye, I’ve purchased it from Newt’s at the Royal Hawaiian when Suzanne & I take a sister trip there in 2005.

We plan to spend most of our day meandering through the private gardens that connect to each other via low slung wooden gates kept in place with a cannon ball weight on heavy chain. We’ve done the tours before, the gardens are perfect because most people do not know they are open to the public so they are generally quiet with only an occasional other visitor or two. Colonial Williamsburg is fairly compact making our plan perfect for strolling.

We have a carriage ride on our schedule also as part of our Romantic Package. As we approach the carriage stop we are surprised to see our by chance new friends from check in. They have scheduled a carriage ride for the same time (several carriages are in service).

We chat a bit and then their carriage loads up. Ours is quick to follow and periodically we spy them as both carriages clop clop up and down the cobblestone streets. We arrive back first and as I disembark I see their carriage approaching. On an impulse I dash into the street and snap a few photos for them. They have my card, they can contact me later, that is if the card doesn’t get lost, it’s one of those small style ones. They wave thanks and Donny & I wander away.

We get ice cream at tiny Dubois Grocer and I show Donny the garden nearby with huge double hedge rows the guys loved to play in while eating their cones when we would take a stretch stop traveling between Richmond and the Outer Banks. Wandering on we discover a huge flat lawn perfect for croquet behind a lovely home on Nicholson Street. We spy an interesting looking area at the far end. We decide to investigate. We approach the split rail fence and a mason asks if we are lost. It turns out we have discovered the colonial brickyard. We tell him not really and ask him about his about his job and the entire fascinating scene. It’s new to us since we last visited Colonial Williamsburg. Later we learn that you need a ticket to visit the exhibit properly.

He tells us that he teaches folks (mostly kids) how to prepare the wet clay for brick shaping. It’s basically stomping it with your bare feet until nice and blended. Bricks are made all summer, dried and then stacked into a huge hollow rectangle box. This is fired in the fall to such an intensity that the brick shapes become usable bricks. A one time self made kiln.The amateur potter in me is delighted. Conservation at its best. We thank him for our lesson, wave goodbye and head toward our room. It’s time to dress for dinner with Sherrie.

(…to be continued. You didn’t really think that I could put the entire honeymoon redo in one post did you)

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Branch Leigh Arthur Jett

Mother Leigh & Other Dad

Mother Leigh (Leigh Jett) & Other Dad (Rev Starke Jett II)

“I’m your youngest daughter,” time and again I tell my grandmother, whom I am named after and whom I decide to call Mother Leigh. I live with my paternal grandparents (I name our grandfather Other Dad) so much in my single digit years that it feels like that to me. She smiles and pats me on the head, never a word one way or the other crossing her lips.

It is she who teaches me to cook, by example. Mom, a teen bride, becomes a great cook but in her early married life years she is just beginning to hone her skills.¬†Mother Leigh never lets lack of a recipe stop her. Once she chases a dressing that a chef refuses to divulge to her until she gets it to her liking. It’s simple but I can understand the elusiveness of it. It’s a sweet and sour combination dressing for a fruit salad. Donny & I both love it.

In my years with my grandparents (Other Dad is a minister on the Methodist circuit so they move a lot) I collect a plethora of amazing memories. Mother Leigh making me white sugar and butter sandwiches on the new time saver, sliced bread. Or scrapping the burnt topping off of breakfast toast and then convincing me that it is perfect. And she sells me on the chicken back. That piece that no one ever wants has a sweet chunk of hidden meat if you know where to look. Being a child of a successful gentleman farmer Mother Leigh learns this secret and more from her practical upbringing. She calls out a butcher if he offers her less than the prime cut of any animal. She knows where to find the best country hams. Usually in some out of the way gas station. She is onto the marvels of gas station food decades before it becomes popular.

Mother Leigh

Branch Leigh Arthur. She does not like the name Branch and always uses Leigh instead. She tells me that she is named Lee but that she changes it to Leigh when one of her brothers also named Lee keeps opening her mail.

A young wife and mother during the depression, she is never one to waste a thing. She has a continuous ball of saved string that she uses and adds to with such regularity that it hardly ever changes size. She gives me the task of turning plain lard packed in a new novel plastic sleeve into a buttery looking color by squeezing the red dot of food coloring tucked inside back and forth. She takes me with her to downtown Farmville, Virginia to buy real butter by the measure for special occasions. We walk. It is a short distance and ladies of her generation do not drive.

Mother Leigh spends her entire life going everywhere she wants to go, and she is a mover and a shaker, without ever getting behind the wheel of a car. Her oldest daughter, also a Leigh (Florence Leigh aka as IG. Go figure where that came from, no one seems to know. Not from me although I like it.) finally bites the bullet and learns to drive when she turns fifty.

I beg my grandmother to take me on a train ride and so she does, not once but over and over. We get our tickets at the tiny station in Farmville and patiently sit in the waiting room until our train arrives. The conductor helps us board, then folds up his steps and with a whistle the train leaves the station. We get off at the first town and take the next train home. It is all so exciting. I never tire of it.

When I am in college she quizzes the young neighbor girls and gets me the new fashion at the time, a wrap around skirt. (How could she know that I am wishing so hard for one.) She has no idea what they are but that doesn’t stop her. She takes the Westhampton bus to LaVogue (a very high fashion store) in downtown Richmond and tells the sales clerk what she needs.

evangeline

B Leigh (as she signs her books) plays the role of Evangeline in a ‘Colonial Tea’ at the local movie theater March 1911. Her note to me written in the flyleaf August 1968 just months before I meet Donny.

When we live in Whaleyville and there is no heat in the house, save a wood stove in the living room, she bundles me up in blankets warmed by the stove to make going to bed less chilling. And then rewarms the blankets as many times as I ask her. In Farmville she packs cold buttered rolls and the Sunday comics to entertain me while my grandfather preaches his sermon. No nursery for me. I will attend the service. But my young status is acknowledged. She knows the service will not ramble on. She taps her watch if my grandfather goes over his allotted minutes.

And the cooking, oh the cooking. She’ll gladly give you any recipe but it goes something like this. A lump of butter the size of an egg. About 3 cups of flour. Never an oven temperature or time with any of her recipes. She just knows and so will you after enough trials. She rolls biscuits from a huge ball of dough using a drinking glass to roll and then cut. She doesn’t own a spatula. Her knuckles do a better job of cleaning out a bowl than any tool.

wedding reception (1)

Our wedding reception at 6416 Three Chopt Road, June 7, 1969

She is her own woman. When she is a young adult, my grandfather is assigned to her family church in Alta Vista, Virginia. He pays all of his parishioners a visit. The day he arrives at my grandmother’s house she expresses no interest in meeting the new minister feeling that her sisters can cover the job well enough and sequesters herself in her room. Her mother will have no such nonsense and scoots her downstairs. At this point everyone is in the living room visiting. Slowly descending the staircase (think antebellum home) my grandmother pulls out her best manners for the young minister who rises to meet her, “So glad to meet you Rev Jett.” Her sister Clara’s up coming wedding at which he will officiate on her mind, she continues, “I understand that you will soon have the honor of changing one of our names.”

Already smitten by her charm and beauty he replies, not missing a beat, “I hope so Miss Arthur. I certainly hope so Miss Arthur.” She is teased the rest of her life for ‘proposing’ to my grandfather at their first meeting. She gives me her copy of Evangeline that seals the deal for their courtship. She writes their history on the flyleaf. She is the lead in the show and has gone with another but walks home with my grandfather who proposes to her.

And so there will be no other place for our wedding reception than her beautiful Richmond home. Miles from St James Episcopal Church where Donny & I are married makes no difference. I begin my formative years at her knee and I will enter my married life with her southern charm blessing our path.

With this I give you my last post for 2015 dedicated to the woman who set the grandmother bar for me. It’s a high one. I stretch up to reach it with her hand on my shoulder.

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Filed under family, Richmond VA West End, Three Chopt Road