Tag Archives: Sandra Leigh Jett 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)

Leave a Comment

Filed under ball family, Honeymoon

Waltzing Through TIME

Me, Mom & Dad in front of our new home at 6414 Three Chopt Road. We called it The Little House. It was the transformed double car garage of 6416 or as we called it The Big House. Photo credit Donald Loving.

I got an out of the blue email recently from the son of a college friend of Dad & Mom’s. All my life I have randomly but consistently heard of Donald Loving. More from Mom than Dad. It usually was a comment in passing. Donald was my grandmother’s pick for Mom. But not one to listen to her mother, Mom chose otherwise. Still Donald remained in her life. They even renewed their friendship after Mom moved to Reedville and Donald was living in Newport News.

Apparently Dad and Mom never left Donald’s thoughts either. This is note from Lee Loving (we have yet to meet).

Hello Sandra:

 I have struggled with sending this email for months, but being the “family historian” and happening upon your blog; I convinced myself to send it.
Up until my father’s death in 2011; I had heard the name Starke Jett my entire life. My father would talk about those days  on the North Neck of Virginia; growing up with Starke and maintaining a strong friendship through his college years at Randolph Macon.
 
It all came to head one fall day in the mid 1960’s when Dad came home and said this Starke Jett was coming for a visit. My Mother, Brother, Sister, and I were put to the task of “getting the place ready” for Dad’s best friend. My Dad was an Aeronautical Engineer for NASA, so we were used to keeping things in order. But this was a different mission. He pushed us like no other. We double cleaned, racked, cut, vacuumed, and dusted. I mean the placed look like an Embassy Suites by the time we were done.
 
Then, there he was. The man my Dad talked about more than anyone else was before my eyes. He came with his wife and son. He was charming, fun to talk to. His wife was a bit quiet but sweet. We went trick or treating with his son. I’ll never forget the amount of compassion my Dad had for Starke.
 
Now some 50 years later,  I have discovered that Dad kept every letter he received since 1932. What an adventure it has been. Among the many letters were letters from a Margaret Ann. I didn’t think much about it until I saw a letter from Starke Jett saying how much he had enjoyed meeting Margaret. Then they were more letters from both Margaret and Starke to my Dad. Around 1940 Starke was writing from Ohio, having enlisted in the Air Force.
 
I still hadn’t put two and two together until I decided to research Starke. And that’s when I ran across your Blog, your Mom’s and Father’s Obituary.  What a wonderful pair they made.
 
I hope this hasn’t brought up any ill feelings. You seem to appreciate your family’s history and memories. Thus, I thought I would share my experience with your Dad and how my Dad admired him.
A few weeks later a package arrives (Lee has advised me to look out for it). Inside are thirteen moments in time. All are treasures beyond measure. I’ve selected a few to scan. I posted them here  in time order. The first is from my grandmother. The second a fun art letter of Dad’s. The third has Dad already gushing over Mom (they married two years later). The fourth a letter from my aunt Keese (Clarice) to Donald. And the last married lady Margaret Ann corresponding with Donald. She did all of the letter writing after she and Dad married. Before that the bulk of the thirteen were letters from Dad to Donald, mostly of the moment typical guy chatter. On the second page of the shipyard letter below Dad tells about going to Cuba and how desolate it was, although the women were quite something else.
I received the lead photo a few weeks after the letters arrived. Guess Donald did finally get to see me! And Lee promises if any of us are in the Atlanta area and have time to stop in, he and his wife will have the house spotless.

Leave a Comment

Filed under family, Richmond VA

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.

Leave a Comment

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

All You Need is LOVE

The original Wellington Rabbit

The original Wellington Rabbit

“Write that it is all about love,” the bunny whispers in my ear. He tells me that Easter is slipping in popularity and his story will help fix that. I listen and write exactly what he tells me. But before that happens, this happens.

A long time ago, call it two decades, Easter approaches. The children have always received a stuffed animal, often one of the Beatrix Potter ones. I ponder how to make it work this year as we have no money for traditional Easter bounty. I decide to make them each a stuffed animal since I already have fabric and stuffing on hand. I quickly pump out five identical rabbits complete with a cape and a sack full of colored cloth eggs.

The first book.

The first book surrounded by the entire thirteen. Twenty years. 10,000+ words. 100+ illustrations.

Then I decide that the bunny needs a name and an introduction. A simple paragraph turns into a page and then more over the next few years. Other stuffed animals depicting the central characters emerge. The pages become a book, Wellington Easter Rabbit or the True Tale of How Wellington Became the Easter Bunny. He tells me what to write and I faithfully do so.

The first book is stitched together on my sewing machine. I make a pen and ink drawing of Wellington for the cover. This is great they all say, friends and extended family by this time. But we need more. Illustrations. Divide the book into chapters Donny suggests. So demanding, but they are right.

I get to work. Over the next few years their ideas for book 1 come to fruition. And then slowly at first but gradually picking up speed books 2, 3, 4, 5 and so on until book 13 (the final book in the series completed last year) become a reality. Some years Easter is so early and we are so busy that I only get half written.  By this time the book has a format. Three pages per chapter, one illustration. Ten chapters. The half book years it is a to be continued offering.

Every year I wait until the eleventh hour to begin writing. I am always amazed at how well the story comes together. I mean I do know where it’s going, just not how it’s going to get there. Donny my incredible editor is always there to drop everything and see that the book looks as good as it reads. He polishes and polishes and then we make a dash to get books in the mail (because by this time the children are grown and have children of their own) in the nick of time.

This year I am somewhat relieved to not have the self imposed pressure of The Book to write. But I miss it and at almost the eleventh hour (again) decide to create a new series. A simple set of easy to read books using all the characters from the original series as they fit into the story. And so happy readers I introduce you to the Wellington Rabbit Adventure Series, book 1, The Case of the Disappearing Eggs. Love! Sandy & Wellington

Wellington Rabbit and the Case of the Disappearing Eggs

Wellington Rabbit and the Case of the Disappearing Eggs

 

Leave a Comment

Filed under Art, family