Sunday, October 28, 2012

When Willow Calls......We Dance!

Ah, 'tis the one night of the year when my blogging takes a wondrous detour into the land of timeless temptations. What could be more perfect than entering a space that bows to no negative forces? No time, no age, no lack or grief, no politics, no pending storms.....only a space that allows all dreams to come true for one day. For those of you curious about how such a place still have 24 hours to choose your fantasy attire and escort to join the THE blogging event of the year: The Willow Manor Ball!

With each passing year the pre-ball choices become harder, yet more exciting. It always seems perfectly impossible to trump the previous year's gown, and each former date holds a special place in my what is a girl to do? Oh wait....this year...we have Pinterest! With this thought, I practically skipped to the PC to create my Willow Manor Ball Board!! This new way of organizing my fantasy shopping did NOT disappoint!
After my previous years of silver/moonlight blue and sapphire, I was ready to move towards the burning flames and chose red as my theme color this year. And then our dear host threw us the best possible curve ball she could muster: it was to be a masked ball! With my red dresses, shoes and jewelry pinned I was delighted with this new addition, yet firmly ready to ditch all my previous plans if I found a mask that could not be denied!

This is where delicate planning and extensive travel came to my rescue. One of my lifelong secret fantasies has been to attend Carnivale in Venice....complete with uber extravagant masks and costumes....which meant there was only one place to aim the private jet this year for final plans: Venezia of course!

In all of my excitement, and as I strolled the shops of Venice, I suddenly had this shadowy date will also need to wear a mask. But my date is none other than the charming and deliciously handsome Dennis Morgan....who wants to cover up that adorable mug on such an enchanted evening? So.....since the ball is so long....and since there are no rules.....I decided to select two different masks for our evening. One each for our grand entrance and early hours....and another each as the night wore long and exhilarating. So, with my selections made and my date busy purchasing flowers.....I jetted home to get ready!
For this evening, my gown of choice is this flame colored Versace gown that can't seem to make up its mind if it is red or burnt orange....chameleon gossamer layers that seem to gently dance along the smoothly fitted hips, almost as much as I will be doing along the dance floor!
Underneath this sheer layered confection of a gown is this pair of diamond and ruby heels.....with silk straps that twirl up my calves in a way that mimics the straps of my dress.
Of course, no ensemble would be complete without my jewelry......sigh.....and tonight, nothing would satisfy me but Liz's Taj-Mahal diamond. The combination of gold, diamonds and rubies is a perfect fit for not only my dress, but my chosen masks. Besides, this necklace was given to her on her 40th birthday.....which is fitting as this too is my 40th year....Liz has been gracious enough to give me charge of this precious jewel for one evening!
And for the mask entrance with feathers that match my dress perfectly....
But what about my delicious date? For his entrance mask, I wanted something that would contour and compliment his bone structure beautifully....not hiding that boyish grin and gorgeousness.....silver seems to go with his black tux perfectly....
Although, as soon as I had his silver mask delivered to him a few days before the ball, he exceeded all charm and thoughtfulness by choosing a car he knew would complete his debonair entrance, and set off the red of my dress in the most dramatic of fashions.....his 1959 Porche convertible....what color? Silver of course!
As I anxiously awaited the arrival of my date and fidgeted with my hair and handbag, I heard that purring of the engine as it approached and knew Cinderella's night was going to be perfect once again! As he got out of the car to open my side, he grinned and bowed gallantly....taking my breath away. Don't forget everyone, not only is Dennis Morgan simply gorgeous, charming and a genuinely nice person, but he can also sing.....and sing he did on our way to the manor...."Fly me to the Moon" as we drove under the stars with the light breeze dancing around us reminding us of the dancing that is soon to come....
Upon arrival, I had the hardest time deciding what to feast my eyes upon....the enchanting decor of the manor this year, or the adorable date on my arm.....I soon felt as though I were watching a tennis match! Not long after thanking our gracious and elegant host (how does she manage to be the belle of the ball every year while planning such a grand triumph?) and admiring the two men on her arm this year, I heard a soft chuckle in my ear as we had apparently made it close to the dance floor and my date was not about to hold off any longer! As I turned to take in the full impact of that adorable chuckle I felt myself whisked off into one direction and then twirled abruptly in many directions as we had made it to the center of the ball room! Dear Dennis then managed to whisk me off my feet literally for several hours.

Around the mid-point of our 24 hour revelry, the masks and elation were getting a bit to us and I decided to give our faces a bit of a break. Which meant switching out to the hand-held pieces of artistry I managed to pick up on my way back the airport. You see, not only was I concerned with comfort....but I did not want to go an entire ball without seeing that devilishly handsome face in all of its glory! Plus....with the masks aside at just the right moment.....perhaps out on a balcony...or in a quiet corner....I might be so fortunate as to receive a kiss from my 24 hour Prince Charming. A girl MUST prepare for all possibilities you know!
This year, I already feel a bit tipsy, but only from the we all continue to enjoy the ball, I still have a lot on my enjoyment to-do list: sip lots of champagne, sample the delectable delicacies, and savor the savories.....let this night never end!

Pssst....there was one moment on the balcony, when he started whispering....
      "At last a soft and solemn breathing sound
Rose like a steam of rich distill'd Perfumes,
And stole upon the Air, that even Silence
Was took e're she was ware, and wish't she might
Deny her nature, and be never more
Still to be so displac't."
...........followed by.....can you guess?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Heirloom Trails and Tales

 Our family has been blessed with a treasure trove of sentimentalities that reside in nooks and crannies throughout our homes. When we view one, even out of the corner of our eye, the story or memory associated with the object is immediately recalled - or in some cases, vaguely recalled. Beyond items, there have also been unfortunate stories passed down that tell of a lost family heirloom and how it was of great family import. Just a couple of weeks ago, I was reminded of this subject by a dear woman who understood not only the importance of family heirlooms, but also the delicate family relationship balance that always threatens to tear families apart if this subject is ignored until a will is read.

The woman I speak of is Alisonia B. Todd of Franklin County Kentucky. Isn't that just the coolest name ever? Her husband, James H. Todd passed away in 1897 and left a very brief will, passing the whole of his possessions to his wife Alisonia. Within a couple months of the filing of his will in the Franklin County Court system, Alisonia took the wise measure of creating her own will to prepare for that certain eventuality, which unfortunately, took place within the next year, 1898.

The most amazing element of Alisonia's will is an addendum section called "Schedule A". This section takes up about 3 full ledger sized pages and details not only how she wants her belongings to be divided amongst her children, but also the origin of each piece. In some cases she explains the family importance of the item, and in others, she gives a justification of why a certain person should have the item she is bestowing upon them. I will not post the entire three pages here, but am including some transcribed snippets below:

"To Letty and Jim I want you to distribute my old traps which have served their purpose for forty five years and became so worn that they only serve as Momentres of the old Home in which our children and Grandchildren have passed so many happy hours."

"Alex asked me years ago to give him his Grandfather and Grandmother Todds portraits by Janett. We looked upon them as his own and was proud of them.....if he dies without heirs or Lilian dies without heirs they must go back into the Todd family."

"[to Johnston]...also I give him my Grandfather Lee's writing desk and his sword that he used in the War of '12' being Major of his regiment."

"....also the fish desk presented to Mrs. Gov. Garrard by my uncle Elija Graig while she was occupying the Governors Mansion."

"We gave Jim the Liquor set inherited from his Grandfather Todd, also two napkin rings of the 25th anniversary 1 plated tea pot 1 molasses pitcher 1 spoon holder and soup turene the only value in these things are that we used them on our table so far back as he can remember."

"The big haircloth rocker is for Arthur and the sewing machine I give to Nettie to help make her stout boy James clothes...I want to furnish one of Nettie's attic rooms also one of Lettys. Into Netties I want the bedroom set that I found in my room when I entered it as a bride consisting bedstead wash stand dressing table and wardrobe the feather mattress bolster and cases pillows and cases the large looking glass in the room..."

As you can see, Alisonia also interjected little family memories and personal comments among her acts of distribution. It also appears that she details when some things were given away prior to her death, to whom she gave them and why. Towards the end of Schedule A she also details who has borrowed some of her furniture and whose furniture she has borrowed which must be returned at her death.

I find Alisonia's will addition to be priceless - not only for her family - but for those of us interested in 19th century Kentucky life. The entire document has reminded me that the stories behind heirlooms hold great keys to our research. After all, just by reading Alisonia's heirloom distribution, we learn which ancestor was in the War of 1812 and his rank....we learn that her uncle was an acquaintance of Governor Garrard.....we learn about her life as a young bride.....we learn about the gifts the couple was given at their 25th wedding anniversary.....we learn about upholstery and fabrics, even color (yellow)....we learn about paintings.....and we learn about warm family memories.

As we document and organize our genealogy research for the next generation, I look upon this task of heirloom distribution and story documentation to be a vitally important makes me wonder if the majority of items for sale in antique stores are not always there because of financial hardship or apathy, but rather because the previous generations forgot about their importance....the story trail ended and so did the family's legacy. There is also one other motivation for me....don't you just love the idea of filing this kind of heirloom heavy will with the courts and imagining an excited descendant finding it generations later? Oh yeah, one more thing....any attorney today will tell you that more family rifts happen because of estate dispersals, or a lack of planning in this your family the grief and strife - include your own "Schedule A" today!
Happy Heirloom hunting & sharing!


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