Tag Archives: Midge Jett

Oh FUDGE

Mom starts it all. Somewhere along the way she acquires a recipe for fudge that does not involve a candy thermometer. And sweetest of all, it tastes divine.

Her fudge becomes more than legendary. It become a family legacy. To be faithfully carried on by Mom’s only granddaughter, our daughter Emily.

If you know the right people you might score some of your own Midge Fudge.

“Mom, you must get a fudge lesson from Granne. Not by phone. In person. Watch everything that she does. Carefully. Pay attention.” I paraphrase Emily, but not by much. And so I sign up for a private class of Learning to Make Fudge the Midge Way.

I visit Mom in Reedville as many times as I can make the three+ hour each way trip fit into my schedule. It’s usually a day trip because as much fun as Mom and I have together, my life on the OBX needs me too. Mom and I go to lunch, shop for savvy clothes, go to local events. And one time we make fudge.

I have actually never helped Mom make fudge, being a busy teen when she starts her mission and then I am off to college and later become a married gal and mom. So a lesson really is necessary. To get all of the fine nuances down pat.

Mom has been making Christmas fudge for years. It is the sweet treat every one of us fourteen gathered at 6416 Three Chopt for the Christmas festivities look forward to bingeing on bit by bit and bite by bite.

But as with most good stories there is the requisite tragedy. One year the bingers are left fudgeless. The fudge is sequestered on the second story (the house is built on a slope) screened in back porch adjoining the kitchen. Any food that won’t fit in the tiny indoor pantry is safely kept on tables on the back porch.

In the kitchen at 6416 Three Chopt (the window opens next to the crime scene porch) Keese tries to pin the missing fudge on Dad. He vows that he did not take it. He cannot believe that it has gone missing either. Cousin Jett wisely keeps to the side.

The six marathon bridge playing adults in this story decide to take a collective break and refuel with fudge. The tin is no where to be found. As Dad’s youngest sister, Keese, tells it, “We all start blaming each other, like three year olds, for taking the fudge. We cannot believe it’s really gone.” They quiz us, the children. We definitely know better than to sneak more than a tiny piece at a time. We are innocent and clueless.

Then, like a lightning bolt, the solution hits Mom. She has marked the tin “Richmond” in preparation for the trip from Ohio not to confuse it with other fudge destinations. She gifts deserving people everywhere.

It is the days of home dairy product delivery. Not wanting to believe her conclusion but having no other answer, Mom decides that the milkman from Richmond Dairy has absconded with the fudge. Of course he didn’t really take the fudge in a thievery manner, he thought it was for him. But the adults are fine with absconded, they have been denied any fudge until the next Christmas, a whole year away!

Emily is determined that the fudge legacy Mom has so faithfully woven into our family cloth will not fade away. She picks up the baton after Mom dies, insisting that as much as she will cherish every physical item Mom wants her to have (Mom’s list of who gets what is as legendary as she is) the one thing she really needs is the fudge pan. It’s nothing special, Mom’s humble cookie sheet pressed into service during her fudge marathons.

But Emily is right, Midge Fudge cannot be made properly in anything else. THE Pan oozes the flavor of all the fudge that has come before. And emits the loving touch of Mom’s hand as she prepared batch after batch.

Fresh fudge setting up in the one and only Fudge Pan.

At first Emily brings the fudge she has made with her for second Christmas on the OBX, individually packaged up. If someone cannot make it, their fudge is left for the next visit to the OBX. Then Emily upgrades everyone. Fudge is mailed as soon as it is made. It’s so much fresher. This year an unscheduled postal closing day vexes her as the fudge packages are en route and thus stuck somewhere aging unnecessarily.

Finally the mail gets moving again but Andrew’s package is lost in transit. Six year old PJ is terribly distraught. So is Emily. Lewis offers anyone else’s fudge to tide them over. No one volunteers. Ours is already consumed. Stephen says that it would have to be their kids portions, as he and Sarah have shown no restraint.

Midge Fudge getting ready for delivery! Emily includes a love note with each delivery so that recipients know the history of their treat.

I put a bug in Emily’s ear that cousin Peyton and I have been talking, among other things, about sneaking fudge at Three Chopt. When I tell Keese this, she says, “We all knew you kids were taking pieces. We just never said anything.” So much for stealth.

I suggest that a package of fudge to Peyton would not go unappreciated. And it is not. “Omg. Your sweet baby girl sent me Midge’s fudge with a cute picture and sweet card. You raised a fine daughter!  I’ll write her!!!!  Yahoo. My inner child will be shoving fudge in my mouth before I get caught!!!!!”

And she on the spot munches through two layers. Which turns out to be a very good thing because not long after the first text I get another, “Guess who got into Midge’s fudge. That’s throw up (she has sent a photo of a small but telling lump on her favorite rug) but I had it (the fudge) way out of reach. This is a dog that can’t climb up on the bed! Oy!!” Thankfully Alfie barfs up the little that he ate. Just proves that Mom’s fudge knows no boundaries. It’s loved by all.

Chocolate is bad for me? But it was so good. I admit it. I absconded. I really did. Guilty.

In fact when Keese and Emily chat at Mart’s memorial service, Keese asks if she can please have more fudge this year. The five or six pieces, while much appreciated, are just simply not enough. Keese is probably still scarred by the milkman denial year.

Oh yes, our girl knows her market, she sends you just enough to want more. “Emily,” as Peyton puts it, “is like the pusher man. First one’s free.” And when asked she says that a text appreciation message is quite acceptable, but a hand written postal note gets you more.

As much as she loved how happy her fudge made people, this photo of Mom in her pre-fudge making years is not far from how she felt after an endless fudge session.

Look what you started Mom! Thanks!! The legacy you built piece by piece over the years binds us all together in such a sweet way.

Epilogue

Cousin Peyton, slightly younger than her brother Rick, Jett & myself just read a short separate post I have put up about the fudge tragedy. When I ask her if there might be any missing details she replies, “I’m sure I was huddled in a fetal position with the shakes and chills jonesing for fudge. That’s probably when you caught me eating that candied grapefruit rind!!!”

Candied grapefruit rind? Yes, it is as awful as it sounds. Mother Leigh made it, not one to waste anything especially perfectly good grapefruit rind. As Peyton points out, it was truly an era of waste not want not. I try to like it. But clearly my personal sugar addiction has a line. Peyton and anyone else is welcome to the entire lot.

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Filed under ball family, Christmas, family

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. Other Dad’s (my name for him that stuck) original plan is to buy Bayview at the end of the tiny finger of land the Jett’s call home the family homestead Sunnyside being just around the corner on Taskmaker’s Creek.  A cousin who promises my grandfather first refusal instead sells it out of the family. Decades later a rich buyer razes (my aunt begs him not to do it to the point of laying down in front of the bulldozer) the original home saved from certain destruction during the Civil War by the Sutton sisters, and which was in pristine condition, to build a more modern style. Then he decides the mosquitoes are too horrible and sells. To this day Bayview is still the perfect setting with a yard that slopes to the bay unlike our spot with a steep hill to clamor up and down as well as being a constant erosion challenge. It sits next to the family cemetery where many of Other Dad’s young siblings are buried. The results of two first cousins marrying we are told. Three children survive to adulthood, my grandfather one. He is so sickly his mother promises his life to the church if he is spared an early death. He becomes a beloved minister on the Methodist circuit. He takes his family to Tibitha every chance he can get. The heritage of life on the bay runs deep within his veins.  And he wants his grandchildren to know those same joys so he buys three lots nearby, selling two off to pay down the mortgage on one.

Our cottage 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 fans, no air conditioning. 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 beach

Midge Jett (Mom), my uncle Martin Williams, my grandfather Rev Starke Jett II

We 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.

lifeguard

My brother Starke Jett V, me, my cousin Jett Williams, Mom, my sister Suzanne Reynolds, my friend from Whitehall Ohio, Carol Brenning.

We 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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Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Starke Jett IV & Margaret Ann Boschen Jett my parents

My parents, Starke Jett IV & Margaret Ann Boschen Jett. This photo pretty well sums them up, party and play and fight in between.

The title of this post could have been my parents’ theme. Life in our family was a yo-yo affair. Dad & Mom were at the top of their game when playing, few could out do them. And they always took us along. But this every day life befuddled them. They never could get the hang of it.

A friend recently posted a piece about marriage, divorce, staying together for the sake of the kids. Her thoughts are always well put, hit the target and make you think. She comments that staying together for the sake of the kids is a bad plan and one she and her husband will never follow.

I used to agree (and still do if there is physical or drug abuse). All through the years in my quirky dysfunctional family I dream of better. I yearn for my parents to divorce. Still we toddle on year after year. I figure that Mom knows her options and opts to finesse her cards in a way to keep things on a fairly even keel.

Then Mom tosses out a curve ball. She announces that she is throwing in the towel when my brother, the youngest, is college age. My mouth flies open. Why now? Why put us all through so much grief (Dad was classic bi-polar but few knew or used the phrase then) to now quit. Dad was philandering, but he had always been on that tack, nothing new to report there.

And so when she makes her grand announcement, I am pissed and confused for a long time. And then bingo one day it hits me. Sure we were in crappy places as a family much of the time. But we were also in some great places. Christmas and Easter were always magical times at my grandmother’s (Dad’s mother) antebellum home in Richmond. Were we split up as a family that would have never happened.

Summers spent on the shore of the Chesapeake Bay in the tiny cinder block cottage my grandfather (Dad again) built. No air conditioning, no fans even. Barely a bathroom. Most of the time we peed in the woods, and took dumps at the local filling station when my uncle would drive us up there because the toilet or septic was on the blitz. A shower that never worked but for thirteen people a hot shower inside was a lost cause anyway. Slashing a new path to the broken glass and rotting trees ridden beach through the undergrowth that grew rampart around the tall pines were standards. But it was ours. My family, my aunts, uncles, cousins, and we all loved it. Divorced, it never would have happened.

I can go on. Dad and I shopping for clothes for Mom. My parents together buying my first school dance dress. Spur of the moment vacations. Sundays at the zoo. The list is endless. As is my list of not great, not great at all, to down right miserable, horrible memories. But I count those as learning experiences of what not to do. I call it reverse learning.

Sure I don’t know what perhaps better things would have been in my future as a child of divorced parents. More peace probably. But I wouldn’t trade one day of my life with two child like adults constantly spatting and picking on each other for anything else. Thanks Mom for keeping the family together for as long as you did whether it was for the sake of us kids or otherwise, it is appreciated.

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Commit and Mean It

While I was running in circles at the monument today there was a small plane attempting landings and take offs. I say attempting because there was much screeching of tires and unnecessary revving of the engine. Now a pilot I will never be but my Dad was and as I painfully listened to the learning curve being applied I developed a new respect for his chosen career. To do the thing right you have to have confidence, complete and total confidence in yourself and your machine. You have to commit and mean it.

When I was a teen, Dad decided to take us to Florida to visit friends and his oldest sister and her family. In a Piper Cub. This Piper Cub. A four seater.

piper cub

From Ohio to Florida. And back. It was on the way back that the story takes place. Completely true and not embellished at all. (I actually thought I had already blogged about this but must have been a FB post only and you know how those get lost in the beast never to be seen again.)

We were at some small air strip in Georgia. Or South Carolina. There was a tiny visitor center, sketchy at best. We had probably mostly stopped for gas. We were miles from any type of civilization at all. A storm was approaching. One of those wall cloud type dark thunder storms. We were going to let it pass but then Mom saw the hand writing on the wall. Hours in this hell hole. My sister had already found rat poisoning in the bathroom and tried to eat it. “We’re not staying here another minute, Starke.”

Right. We loaded up. Dad was in his element. He headed us into the wind which was also into the coming storm. There were power lines at the end of the runway. Small low strung power lines. It was a short runway. Very short. Actually I don’t think it was even a runway. Just well packed ground. The plane was shaking and shimmying. We picked up speed but were not lifting up as quickly as we should have because of the storm. We were running out of runway ground.

I was riding shotgun which I switched out with Mom depending on whose turn it was to entertain Suzanne. Mom was surely saying prayers and covering my sister’s eyes. I could not close my eyes. We were going to hit the power lines or get taken out by the ferocious storm. I could see no other option.

florida

And then just as we reached the end of the world, just like that we lifted up, cleared the lines, cleared the storm, and headed home. Dad knew how to commit. He really was a master pilot.

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