Category Archives: ball family

Hamilton TO Hadestown

May 18, 2019

It is sometime in the early spring of 2018 when daughter Emily calls me up and asks what we might be doing May 18, 2019. I tell her I’m fairly certain our calendar is clear and she says to mark that date as saved.

I wait for the other shoe to drop and it is a heavy lifter. Son-in-law Marty has managed to secure box office price tickets to see Hamilton. In NYC. At Richard Rogers Theatre.

He has gotten on an email list that periodically offers up tickets to hot Broadway shows at box office prices. But you have to be quick. He jumps immediately and two minutes in gets some of the last tickets. He asks Emily how many he should buy and she tells him to go the limit. That is eight. So his parents, Donny & myself, plus the four of them (they have already gifted the kids with crazy money tickets the previous Christmas but you can never see Hamilton too many times) are the lucky eight. I am beyond excited & immediately start a count down calendar.

The year goes by as most do, sometimes at lightning speed, sometimes at a crawl. And then it is show weekend. The plan is to for us to drive from the OBX to Springfield on Friday. Then the six of us will pack ourselves into Donny’s Highlander Saturday morning to make the trip to NYC. Marty’s parents live in close by Allendale NJ so they will meet us for dinner and the show. The kids will stay with Marty’s youngest brother, Craig & Cynthia in their amazing midtown Manhattan apartment with a breathtaking panoramic view of The Empire State Building (until a new construction goes up in the wrong spot). We have reservations at a hotel nearby.

The view before intervening architecture

Cynthia & Craig have graciously invited us over for pre-dinner hors d’oeuves. Even with The Empire State Building hidden from view their vista is incredible. The delicious apps are hungrily consumed by our travel weary group. We prepare to leave to get ready for dinner and Craig sits down at his grand piano and begins a lovely jazz number. I compliment his command of the keyboard and ask if jazz has always been a favorite. He nods and springs up declaring that he has something to show us. He brings out a treasure passed to him by his music teacher. It is sheet music with much hand notation by Dave Brubeck. A friend of Craig’s teacher, Brubeck wanted her input on a ballet score he was composing. Possibly worth a lot at auction, it’s worth even more as a piano lesson treasure.

It’s time to freshen up for dinner and the show, we head back to the hotel, then on to negotiate through always active Times Square to the theater district restaurant, Becco, where Marty has made reservations. Bob & Karen met us there. Dinner is so good and filling but I cannot resist a fruit type dessert. Bob has asked for a single scoop of vanilla ice cream and is told there is none. My dessert arrives with a side scoop of ice cream. Bob expresses his disappointment to the waitress. She is nonchalant. I give my scoop to Karen to share with Bob. New York City idiosyncrasies can be so oddly charming.

Cynthia & Craig head home, they’ve seen the show, but she takes our photo first. The theater is packed. We are in three different parts. Emily & Marty, Donny & I are in the very back of the mezzanine, the kids upstairs in the balcony, Bob & Karen on the lower orchestra level. The show is worth all the hype and more. Everyone delivers, not one dial in. The lighting and set simple and innovative. It’s easy to see the influence both have on Lydia’s designs for West Springfield HS productions.

It’s been a great trip even riding in the third seat cramped quarters. Lydia and I declare that next trip will be in another vehicle or barring that we bring along donuts, both kinds.

The theater bug is strong with us and when Emily decides that we need to see Hadestown, Donny & I are immediately on board. In early 2019 she & Marty have taken the kids not once, but twice on back to back weekends (it’s a great story) to see the show. She wants us to see it. We begin our plans. It’s still fresh enough that box office prices are possible and tickets obtainable as long as you can make the openings in the schedule. Emily goes for a date post her figure skating competition in early March.

Happy Valentine’s Day from Emily!

We discuss various means of getting there. Drive into the city and valet park. Do the across the river ferry car park thing, the hotel is close. Park in the designated lot and take a shuttle to the hotel. Take the cheap Chinatown bus. Take the train, I offer this as a bad weather option. At one point our text messages look like this.

As it gets closer to time and my joking becomes reality, we decide on Sunday March 8, to cancel our hotel room but continue to discuss us driving to Springfield on Wednesday and then the three of us continuing to NYC the next day to see the show and drive back to Springfield afterwards. I agree with Emily, even with three drivers, it’s a lot of driving. We try so hard to justify and finally completely surrender. We cannot risk bringing anything back to the Outer Banks, and more specifically Hilarey and baby grand Ball number eleven due in September. We will sacrifice our monies for safety.

And then Broadway goes dark. On Thursday March 12, 2019 the very day we are going to see the performance. Reprieve! I chose to believe that the day will come when we do get to see Patrick Page and his colleagues perform this amazing show. I still have not listened to the soundtrack. I’m playing the Donald card. He managed to avoid all Hamilton music until he saw the show. A good two years worth of tiptoeing.

Wait for me!

Epilogue

The day after I published this story Rhyson Jett Ball joined the family. He was born at Outer Banks Hospital in a speedy eventless delivery. He checked in at 12:53 September 15 weighing 6 pounds 12 ounces and measuring 20 inches long. Welcome second namesake!

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Peter, Paul & Mary and ME

Peter Yarrow, Paul Stookey, Mary Travers

Nephew Jake sends a text this evening asking if I was ever a fan of Bob Dylan. I laugh and tell him he’s opening a can of fun worms. I dig out my epiphany post and send it to him. He then asks about Elvis. Nada there but I tell him I do have an awesome PP&M story and wander over to my blogspot world to dig it out to move over here.

I first *meet* Peter, Paul & Mary when I am a green freshman in college at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. The monied gals all belong to Columbia Records Album of the Month Club. You get mailed their selection or one of your own. Most gals opt for Columbia’s selection and so it lands on Peter, Paul & Mary to be the chosen album for September or October 1962, I forget which one, the weather is still nice though. I did not have enough money to buy albums then but get a lot of free listening as most dorm room doors stay open all of the time.

After college, which involves my moving to Richmond Professional Institute in Richmond, Virginia in my sophomore year as my folks have left Ohio and out of state tuition is pretty steep but more than that my family too far away, I buy every PP&M album available.

And then, happy day for me, I read that PP&M are coming to the Mosque, THE venue to be at in Richmond in those years. My apartment and work mate Sherrie and I make plans to go. As the day of the concert approaches our plot thickens. I know the Mosque pretty well. All of our college dances and those of MCV (Medical College of Virginia) are held in the opulent basement ballroom. Concerts of all kinds are held upstairs in the massive domed theater complete with two balconies and box seats. There I saw Bob Dylan, Roger Miller. I weaseled my way into a Sam & Dave concert. The Mosque and I have spent many grand hours together. Back to my PP&M story. Sherrie & I want to talk to them, meet them, rub shoulders with them after the concert. But we don’t want to walk home late at night by ourselves even if our apartment is only a few blocks away. So the afternoon of the concert we park my Carolina blue Volkswagen Beetle, Velma, vintage 1962, in the Mosque proper parking lot. It is legal but there is only room for about a dozen cars.

We are ready! The concert is all that we expect. Just the three of them on that huge stage owning the show. Well there is one more, Dick Kniss, their bass player. He is always introduced but remains well separated from the group even though still on stage. That was it, no fancy lights, good sound but no headsets, just acoustic guitars. You know the picture. Simplicity delivering quality music. Then near the end of the sold out concert, Mary announces that as much as they would love to stay and chat, they have to get to Baltimore to catch a plane. They have not one minute to spare. We are all crushed but that is that.

Concert over, Sherrie & I head through the packed crowds thronging the sidewalks. Bumper to bumper traffic clogs the streets surrounding the Mosque. We sigh, we are never going to get out of our tiny parking lot any time soon. Still we forge ahead and beg with Velma’s vintage charm to let us out of the lot. Some kind soul does. We are now part of the bumper to bumper traffic. Suddenly a head pops out of the car window in front of us and yells back to me, “Do you know how to get to the interstate?” Sherrie and I gasp! It’s Mary!!! PP&M are (beat) in front of us! They need our help!

“Sure!” I call out. I hand wave them to a quieter side street close by and our cars switch places. I am thinking fast. I never use the interstate much; old car, not much gas, working girl, all spare money spent on music. I think I remember how to get there. We twist and turn through the fan streets. Surely they think I am taking them on a wild goose chase, but what choice do they have? They are trusting…ME!! Completely forgetting about the Belvidere Street on ramp only minutes from the Mosque, I am taking them to the Boulevard Street ramp. It really is fine though because they will have lost no time, we’re going in the right direction. We get to Broad Street, only a few blocks more to the Boulevard and I-95. We need to turn left. There is a lit no left turn signal. I wave to them to turn anyway as I am doing, certain a cop is going to ticket us any minute even though there is absolutely no traffic anywhere. We are lucky. No cop, interstate ahead. We scoot onto the on ramp, as they do. They wave as they zoom past us in their snappy new car that can move. We consider following them. But, we have no gas, we have a pathetic car for a chase, we go home. We cannot let it go. A few hours later, we have a plan. We call the Baltimore airport and explain that we need to page Mary Travers. We have a message for her. They page her (this is 1967). Mary comes to the phone, surely thinking something is wrong with her family. No, it’s the crazy girls from Richmond. How can we get in touch with you? She is civil. She gives us an address. That’s our Mary.

After Donny and I get married we see them together in Richmond and we even chat with Mary through the window of her dressing room. Us outside in that same tiny parking lot standing on tip toe on the loading ramp that lets you get fairly close to the barred window. Close enough to shout.

We take the kids to see them before we move to North Carolina, again at the Mosque.

And we see them one more time at Wolf Trapp in Virginia in the mid 90’s. Donny has the cool story this time. He hung out with Paul, for real. I am taking a cranial-sacral training course and as PP&M are going to be in town we get tickets to the concert. Donny has time on his hands while I am in class. Here is his story about how he spends that time…with Paul Stookey! “In one of the local handout papers I read that Paul is teaching a songwriting class the afternoon before the concert, and I go to it! There are only 5 or 6 other people there, and mostly we just talk about music.” Can you imagine? You and Paul and a handful of other people, sitting around talking about music. How cool is that!

Thank you Peter, Paul & Mary. I cherish the road we traveled together.

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Honeymoon Take Two Part 2

In case you have not read Part 1 or if you did but need a refresh click here. If you’re up to speed carry on. We saunter, is there any other walking mode in Colonial Williamsburg really, back to Market Square #3056 (#13 is so much cooler) to get ready for dinner. We chance upon a couple staying in one of the rooms under ours and we exchange stories about how we each become enchanted and attached to Market Square and not only that but to a specific room. Their story is that they vacationed in CW for many a year to the point that their son & his now wife started vacationing there and even got engaged on one of those trips. Both couples always took the room under ours because it is at the back of the building with a covered porch entry. And like ours, opens onto a small courtyard with a stone well & quiet side street beyond. Plus theirs has a working fireplace. We get it. The colonial style rope hand rails on the stairs to our dormer room has always intrigued us. Donny asks the maid freshening up our room why there are wooden rails now. She explains that a friend took a tumble lugging the vacuum using the rope rails and CW replaced the ropes. It’s still a perfect room. Our room.

We get ready for dinner and decide to meet Sherrie outside as we have kept pace by text but not made final meeting arrangements. We are reviewing activities at the magazine next door when a familiar voice calls out, “Does it all look the same?” or words to that effect. Sherrie has arrived and time melts away. The three of us secure a table at Chownings. We have discussed dining elsewhere but we all love it and it is right across the street. After dinner over much catch up chatter complete with some fun memorabilia photos Sherrie has dug out of her archives, the three of us go back to our room. Sherrie has never seen it, only heard the stories of its quaintness and name change and such. She quickly becomes enchanted with Market Square as well. The common room has a piano and games and classic wing chairs and it’s all ours for having a drink but we elect to adjourn to our room and hang out there until Sherrie feels Mr Sandman calling her and she heads home.

The next morning we pack up to leave but are not skipping breakfast at the Inn. As we head to our last breakfast in Williamsburg, Donny & I see our Hawaiian (details in part one) friend again and wave.

As we enter the dining room I spy the couple from LA that were checking in when we were. She sees me at about the same time and we both jump up in glee at running into one another for a third time. She is charmed by my bibs & braids. And now I can get her name and air drop her the photos I have taken of their carriage ride. At the time Donny & I both decide that she must be in the movie business, she has that own the room in a good way air about her. I have even asked her that the day before. She tells me that she used to be but moved on. Of course I look her up when we get back to the OBX and my laptop. She’s Lisa Friedman actress in several movies including Stardust Memories starring Charlotte Rampling (on one of our trips to Paris we walked by a tiny shop daily that had a note in the window saying that Charlotte Rampling was a patron. It, as did she, always intrigued me, but it was never open so I could not find out more). Lisa was in a lobby scene with Brent Spinner. Two of my favorite icons! She’s definitely a star in my book.

It’s been a wonderful stay in Williamsburg but it’s time for the next part of our honeymoon redo. We are headed to the family cottage on the Chesapeake Bay where we spent the balance of our first honeymoon. It’s a simple affair built with free supplies more or less and much love. It has provided the family with a place to have summer vacations for years. Memory upon memory are created there, to be dragged out and laughed over endlessly. Games of Pig, sunburns complete with peeling sheets of skin, a smell from the fish factory that out rivaled any slaughterhouse, trips to Sunnybank via the two car ferry to get fresh orchard peaches. Mom & Keese, my dad’s youngest sister, have cleaned it from top to bottom for our honeymoon. This trip is for a photo op only. The cottage still stands but is no longer viable for staying in. Keese now lives down the lane and has offered us lunch on her porch, the perfect end to our tour.

But to back up a bit we will pass by That Damn Mary where my nephew Starke VI (yes six generations) is brewmaster and a stop is called for. We pull in to the parking lot. It’s pretty deserted. We see someone in the garage like addition. We ask if Starke is around. “No,” we are told. We explain why we are looking for him. “I’m Mary,” she beams. “We all love Starke! I only stopped by to check on something, you got lucky. We open later.” We ask if we can buy a t-shirt and she obliges. Donny takes our picture.

It’s been a marvelous honeymoon take two. Fifty years. And actually this post is being written on our fifty-first anniversary. I tend to procrastinate.

Thanks for reading. Thanks for being a part of our journey. We absolutely do have FUN!

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Surprise AWARDs are the BEST

Middle school grandson Benjamin receives a surprise academic excellence award prompting me to recall two surprise school award events of my own.

The first comes about when I am in the 8th grade at the then brand new Whitehall-Yearling High School in Whitehall Ohio (enclave of Columbus). It is near the the end of the school year and several of us are on stage at an assembly receiving some sort of forgotten award. When he is finished acknowledging the awards, Principal Peel whispers to me to remain on stage which of course I do. Later my friends laugh at me saying they thought that I was choosing an odd time to ask our principal a question.

With me standing clueless by his side, Mr Peel gives a speech about a new academic award, the Charles Palmer Davis Award, going to the student who has the highest grades in history in the eighth grade. He then turns to me and presents me with a beautiful bronze medallion. I am flabbergasted. I have good grades but none of us knew we were competing and I am always beat out by my friend Carol Brenning anyway (she gets to go to Girls’ State when we are in high school, I am the alternate. She was third in our graduating class, I was fourth).

But this achievement is mine. And it is a complete surprise. It has always puzzled to me what Charles Palmer Davis had to do with history or current events but I never asked. In doing research for this post I discover that he was a newspaperman from Pennsylvania where he started a publication called Current Events for his middle school age daughter and classmates. Later he joined forces with The American Press in Columbus to publish The Weekly Reader, my go to reading material as a kid!

Before I move on to my next surprise academic achievement story a tiny addendum. The school year is coming to a close. We only have to come to school the last day to pick up report cards. We have a strict dress code. Shorts are on the forbidden list. Several of us decide that Bermuda shorts, the current rage, are okay for such a short time at school. We even talk some of the guys into joining our fashion protest. Our teacher (self contained classes in those days) will have none of it. She refuses to give us our report cards. We need to get them from the principal’s office. Mr Peel in not amused. He gives me the once over muttering, “You of all people,” as he reluctantly hands us our freedom.

Good sport Ron Paxson

My second surprise award comes during an assembly my junior year at WYHS. Still a new school (we are not the first graduating class but close enough being the fourth) we have yet to establish a National Honor Society. I actually do not even know what National Honor Society is. This assembly is poorly timed by my account as I have last minute homework to polish off. Nevertheless I do my best thankful for my homeroom’s seating assignment near the back of the auditorium under the balcony. I am deep into it, ignoring all going on around me. Suddenly I’m tapped on the shoulder. Rude, I think and do not respond. This time the tap is harder. I look up. Standing behind me is some strange teen indicating that I should follow him. I shove my books and papers under my seat, climb over a row full of classmates and proceed to follow this person to the stage where I join a very small gathering of recognizable students. Four seniors, three juniors including me.

We are the newly formed chapter of our high school’s National Honor Society. We have been tapped into service by students from an established chapter at a neighboring high school. In those days you did not apply, you were chosen by faculty members. We look at each other quizzically. The top two academic leaders in our class are missing. As we listen to the requirements of scholarship, leadership, service and character, we understand how lucky we are. First to be tapped as juniors, as a much higher academic standing is mandated, and second, despite heavy schedules, we take the time to join clubs, run for office, volunteer for interesting school projects, and occasionally even study.

Surprises awards really are a lot of FUN. Congratulations Ben!

Prior to the age of easy burst shots, we decide to toss papers into the air for a final yearbook group picture. Surprise, every face is visible!

Epilogue

Not exactly a surprise award but definitely a SURPRISE this post from a few years back fits in here pretty well.

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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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Bill Northern THE Horse Whisperer

Bill explains energy flow

“I didn’t get my apple.” Bill Northern, rookie dowser, stops in his tracks. He is on his way to the house to have a morning chat with a good friend. Her horse has something for Bill to tell her. Bill looks at the horse who repeats, not TV star Mr Ed style, but direct mind to mind communication style. “I didn’t get my apple today.” Bill nods, heads into the house to report. His friend assures Bill that she has given out the daily apple. And then she pauses, “Wait, no I haven’t.”

And with that Bill Northern becomes an official horse whisper. It’s his first real breakthrough. He goes on to make a career out of talking to horses and reporting their needs and concerns to owners. He and his wife travel to New Zealand first class paid by clients he is in such demand. He works in Hawaii and Florida.

Bill only starts out to be a sometimes dowser and takes a class out of curiosity. He isn’t very good at it and decides that maybe dowsing isn’t his thing. He practices at home but with little success until the day the horse speaks to him. Crystal clear, it is animals, horses in particular, that he is supposed to work with.

I read about Bill in a full page feature write up in The Daily Break of the Virginian Pilot. It is fascinating. I am delighted to see that he lives in Warsaw on the Northern Neck of Virginia which is the neck of the woods where my family hails from. I don’t know him but we are already bonded.

This is in the early nineties. A decade plus later I am seeking counsel with a long time lawyer friend, Gordon Wilkins, for help with my mom’s paperwork. He and his wife (dorm mate from college) live in Warsaw. The three of us are having lunch at a local popular always crowded eat and run place when in walks this person casually dressed wearing a dapper gentleman farmer hat. I notice him because he’s noticeable in a quiet but dynamic way. Gordon looks up just then and says, “Hey, there’s Bill Northern!”

Bill teaching dowsing

I cannot believe this. “You know Bill Northern? I’ve always wanted to meet him!” Gordon hails Bill over to the table and invites him to lunch with us. Bill is happy to do so. He gets his lunch. We all chat. I explain how much I am intrigued by his work. He says that he is getting ready to drive to Florida for some sessions and would I like to go. It’s an honest invitation, not at all a come on. I truly consider it for a moment but home responsibilities, although to their credit Donny & Lewis will support any decision I make, tug me to say not this time but ask me again.

Bill and I connect later when I discover through his webpage that he teaches dowsing classes. Donny & I want to take one. I check in with Bill. He explains that the way it works is if he feels like folks are ready for the experience he will add their name to his list. When the timing is right he will arrange a class of four and alert you. If your calendar is clear you will spend a day learning all about dowsing in the comfort of Bill’s home and he even includes lunch and gives you basic dowsing take home tools. Donny & I are accepted together into a class. Even though I’ve taken several cranial sacral workshops and so know a bit about energy fields, Donny does the best. He’s a natural.

Cathie Morrison & Bill. Cathie has tremendous light energy.
Bill explains a point to Lynda Wood

Months later I take a group of girl friends for a class. Bill is elated over my energy field exclaiming that it is so big. Mom brings her dog Molly for a reading. Bill has helped mom with a dog she fostered telling her that the dog needs to be in a one dog family that will fawn over her. Mom is a little skeptical but finds the right home for Ginger and of course Bill is right.

Bill only accepts people with the right energy flow. Once I suggested a friend that actually lives near Bill and he said that she wasn’t ready. Currently two friends have been accepted for Bill’s next class. I cannot wait to hear about it. They are definitely ready and in for an awesome day with the infamous Bill Northern.

POSTSCRIPT: When I ask Bill about Mom bringing Molly to our class for him to assess her, he cordially agrees. As we continue our conversation about whispering with animals in general, I ask Bill if he ever works with cats explaining that we have many adoptees. He shakes his head and says, “Cats lie. They are impossible to work with. If they are very sick, they will tell the truth but that’s about it.”

Bill Northern, horse whipsperer

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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 (my grandmother’s antebellum home in the West End of Richmond) 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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Christmas in the SAND

Living on Guam in the 50’s is everyone’s dream life, from kid to adult. We go to the beach, we party, we play, we bond. In later years whenever the subject comes up, my parents always refer to this period of our life as the time when everything is perfect.

We ride out typhoons, one a direct hit. I vividly recall Dad taking me out in the eye to show me how calm everything is. Only moments before the wind is blowing with such ferocity that anything not tied down (he and fellow crewmen have spent hours tying down planes so that they will not tumble like weeds) gets carried along.

Typhoon preparedness on Guam 1953

Almost every night that the weather is good, there is an outdoor movie on base. Folding chairs are set up. Attendance is always full, even if it’s a repeat show. There’s no bathroom so you either endure or go home, which isn’t too far away. Everything on base is within walking distance.

On Saturdays, all the base kids pile onto a bus and get driven off base to a local theater somewhere short of nowhere. We fill the theater, dozens of screaming wild ones with pennies to spend on candy and popcorn that if selected wisely will last the entire morning. I am sure the only adults around are the bus drivers and the film operator. We form new friendships, dissolve old ones, fight over seats, food, and anything that strikes us as worthy. We love it all.

I go to school off base that is a series of quonset huts, one per class all connected by a concrete sidewalk. There is a big hut to serve as an auditorium. And in the middle of the complex a walk in refrigerator where cold milk is served to go with bag lunches. No cafeteria. We eat on the porch of our classroom hut.

On base we entertain ourselves by running behind the DDT truck spraying for mosquitoes, getting as close as possible to the back of the truck so to be entirely enveloped in the cloud of poison. You have to hold your breath, the smell is so awful. I am bad at it and give it up after a few tries. Still our kids marvel at why they are not malformed head to toe.

We sneak into the sugar cane fields behind the base, always leery of the possibility of lurking Japanese soldiers, to get stalks of cane to suck on. The sugar taste is so good.

Dad brings me exotic dolls and clothes from Japan whenever he goes there. A doll with wigs to change her status from young unmarried, to geisha, to wife; covered cloth slippers with a separation for your big toe. And straw open shoes with a velvet thong between the big toe and the rest, you would know the design as a flip flop, but then the concept is totally new to all of us. Learning to walk in them is hard even if they are pretty, the strap is annoyingly uncomfortable.

But the absolute best of all for a kid on Guam, is Christmas. The Navy shipmates decorate their ships within an inch of their smoke stacks. They are gaudy beauties to behold. I never tire of a trip to see them.

Decorated Navy ship on Guam 1953

A huge hanger is set up with presents for every kid on base. We get a collapsible cheap glass wind chime packed in a flat cheaper cardboard box lined with thin tissue. It smells divinely of the orient. I am always sad when mine breaks. We get a mesh stocking full candy. And, as if that is not enough, there are individual gifts. There is a line by age for girls and one for boys. The presents, identical according to specific sex and age, are wrapped and hidden behind screens and carefully handed out by an adult as you reach the front of your line. This glory stops at age twelve. I have figured out that the twelve year old girls get a toy red piano. I really want a piano. I’m only ten plus I won’t be on Guam when I’m twelve, our tour will be up. I get in the line for twelve year old girls and lie my way forward. I have not one bit of guilt about my deception. Mom doesn’t know how I have come by my treasure, she’s clueless about the details of the process, so I’m spared any inquisition.

Christmas 1953 on Guam. Me holding seven month old sister, Suzanne. Note the red piano behind my left shoulder. And next to my knee, the unique Japanese forerunner of the now common as sliced bread, flip flop.

The piano is only eclipsed by a German doll that I get for Christmas. I have sleuthed out my gifts, so this doll, a last minute addition, is a complete surprise. Mom tells me later that she initially passes on one for me because she’s done her shopping. But when she realizes that I will be the only doll age girl on base without a German doll, she picks a simply dressed one for me. It seems that a ship has come in mere days before Christmas with the dolls and there is a scramble for the most elaborately outfitted ones. I am impressed with the girls who get dolls dressed in over the top clothes and accessories but I love mine, simple dress and all. She’s absolutely beautiful.

Just as is life on Guam for those of us lucky enough to have our Christmas moment in the sand.

EPILOGUE

When your past gobsmacks you, in a good way, you just have to laugh and pay attention. Preparing to start a post about Christmas on Guam I see feedback from from the youngest daughter of Dad’s pilot partner in crime.

She has happened upon my blog post about her dad. She’s my sister’s age so I really do not recall a lot about her. Both born on Guam, they were but babies. Her older sister, still younger than me, I very much recall as cute and fun.

Normally I write and rewrite and put a draft aside but like I said when you’re gobsmacked you rise to the occasion, so Merry Christmas Yvonne aka Bonnie and Marianne!

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The GRADUATE!

hilarey get diplomaShe’s a graduate. With highest honors, summa cum laude with honors in English. That means she maintained a 3.9 grade average or better and wrote and defended a thesis. Her topic is Gender Parity in the Film Industry. She tells me when we chat about the process, that her paper is accepted on the first presentation (one student in the department needs four attempts). The committee is very impressed with Hilarey’s writing, her supporting visuals and the work she put into all of it.

Donny & I want to go to graduation. Hilarey and Lewis want us there but they know all too well that it is a five hour drive. They keep saying not to feel obligated. And we don’t. But we really want to be there. It’s the getting up at 3:30AM that stalls us. We vacillate back and forth for days. Finally Donny decides. We’re going. There are the ceremonies plus the moving. One more car will be a help. We end up with all four vehicles packed full.

As I am taking a picture of Hilarey’s surprise departmental award, she tells me that when her parents drop her off four years ago she decides that if she has to be there for four long years she will make her mark. She will do her best and make it count. And she does.

IMG_3869  graduatedadjusting the mortar board hilarey & lewis

Not only does she graduate summa cum laude with English honors she receives the departmental Outstanding Graduating English Major award. This award is voted on by the entire department faculty. After nominations from faculty members and much discussion, votes are taken and the student with the most wins. It’s not an award sought after because few, if any, even know about it. Hilarey has no clue. She is there to simply make her mark.

Hilarey’s mentor, Hannah Abrams, is determined that Hilarey will receive this prestigious award. She speaks on Hilarey’s behalf. Eloquently, she reports when she meets us as we finish our lunch at Blue Surf. In telling the story, through occasional tears as she is still so passionate about it all, Hannah explains that while set on Hilarey winning , she didn’t want to over sell her nominee so keeps things brief. The professor that follows reads a poem and more for that nominee. “Do over,” she cries. “I need to tell you more.” She is granted more time. She explains how Hilarey is the exemplary student for the award. This bubbly professor has a winning personality and I can just picture her sincere enthusiasm. “We get it,” her colleagues finally say. Hannah wants to be absolutely sure.

She continues her praise. Not only is Hilarey a scholar, she competes (and wins) in SUP races. She has a long time supportive boyfriend (now fiancé). She has a life. Yes, Hannah’s fellow professors really get it. She thanks them and leaves. The committee is seriously considering another candidate but because of Hannah’s empassioned delivery, both students receive the award. That’s our Hilarey. Anyone will go to bat for her because she is just that good. And she deserves every single accolade that comes her way.

And soon she will be our daughter-in-law joining our three other amazing daughters-in-law (and one not to be left our awesome son-in-law) that complete our family. Welcome to the family Hilarey! And congratulations!!

honor graduate

Summa Cum Laude with English Honors May 9, 2015

 

 

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My Little Sunshine OBX = Success

val

Val beaming as she heads off to the store.

May 1, 2015 marks the grand opening of good friend and soon to be family, Valerie Netsch’s, awesome store, My Little Sunshine OBX. It’s a blend of new and may as well be new off beat items for that youngster everyone has at least one of or knows someone that does.

When she tells me of her plans I am in awe of all the work ahead. I cannot get beyond the thought of hangers and tags by the hundreds. Plus everything else that goes into opening a new store. But she’s done this before so she knows the drill. Val and Robert knock it out in their impressive to witness work ethic mode. All the while smiling. And being cleverly creative as well as economical.

My job is encouragement plus a plethora of little people SLAPBoards I create just for her shop. And some SandyBands for the younger set of course. And lastly, I need to be sure that she is launched properly. I dream that I am her first official paying customer (she is so successful at marketing she has people begging to buy before opening day). And so I set out to make it so.

mls

My Little Sunshine OBX

I arrive a bit before 10AM. I sit a few minutes in the car and then go up to the door. Val and helper Gail are doing last minute things. Like try to figure out just where the key to unlock the iPad is so music can be played. Tiny panic when Val thinks that she has thrown it away. It’s found. Music floats through the air. I select my items and hand Val paper money. Who keeps their first dollar bill anymore but I think it’s a fun tradition and want her to have all the right karma. She takes a picture of it.

Customers are filling the store. A lady checks out. I’m not sure if she uses cash or credit, but I am next with my real purchase using my credit card. Surprise for goddaughter Haley Rea when she graduates. Donny later tells me that he thought of Haley when he saw the item too.

So I may have been first cash and credit customer on opening day. At any rate my job is done. I have brought my dream to fruition. And brought in customers for Val. Not that she needed me for that. But Donny & I are awesome customer magnets. Everywhere we go a shop can be completely empty and sheer moments after we step inside it fills up. We have considered hiring ourselves out. Customer magnet anyone? We are willing to travel.

Congratulations Valerie! You are a ray of sunshine in everyone’s life and your store beams.

 

 

 

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