the august cocktail hour: sultry days & sunflowers {escape to iceland tomorrow!}

Friday, August 12:  Welcome to my almost-finished house for our final happy hour of summer! This is our last time to mingle before I head off to Iceland tomorrow.  Come right in, get comfortable and I’ll mix you up a drink.  I’m sorry to say I haven’t graduated from my Moscow Mules (vodka, lime juice and ginger beer); I’ve been quite content to drink these since our last cocktail hour.  I imbibed on some strawberry daiquiris when I visited my sister in Maryland this month.  If you’d like one of those, I’d be happy to whip one up, or I can offer wine, beer, or even some soda or seltzer water with lime if you prefer a non-alcoholic beverage.

It’s been the most hot and humid summer imaginable, so I think we’ll just sit on our new counter stools at the bar. They finally arrived after our last happy hour. 🙂  It’s nice and cool inside, so it will be much more pleasant.  I’m sad to admit that we’ve hardly been able to use the screened-in porch because it’s been over 90 degrees and very humid every day.

Our counter stools are in!
Our counter stools are in!

Tell me about your summer. Have you been on vacation or explored new areas close to home?  Have you indulged in any daydreams? Have you changed jobs or gone into retirement?  Have you seen any good movies or read any page-turners? Have you tried out any new restaurants or cooked anything wonderful at home?  How’s your garden?  Have you had any special family gatherings?

summer flowers
summer flowers

I’ve been to a couple of movies, some wonderful, and others not so Absolutely Fabulous. My favorite was the intense and moving Dheepan, about an ex-Tamil fighter who cobbles together a makeshift family to escape his war-torn Sri Lanka.  He becomes a refugee in France. His “wife” and “daughter” are strangers to him and to each other, but they must pretend to be a family in order to get papers to leave.  He ends up in France working as caretaker for a rough property where a lot of criminal activity is taking place.  He doesn’t want any part of it, so he keeps his head down and tries to avoid being noticed.  The movie shows what it’s like for a refugee family to arrive in a new country without knowledge of language or customs, and to be cast into difficult, and even terrifying, situations.  I think it should be required watching, especially for certain people who want to close borders and build walls, those who would prefer to ignore the suffering of others.  This kind of sentiment is running rampant in the U.S. these days, and I find it appalling, heartless, and sickening.

I went to see Absolutely Fabulous and though it was funny in parts, I found myself getting annoyed by its overall silliness.  Actually, the only reason I went to see it was because I had met Joanna Lumley in Oman in 2012, and I wanted to see her again. 🙂 (absolutely fabulous: a surprise encounter with patsy stone)

At home, on Netflix, we finally watched the cute movie, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, partly filmed in Iceland.  I always enjoy watching movies and reading books that take place in our holiday destination.  The movie was quite charming, and really got me psyched for our trip.

We also saw the movie Concussion, starring Will Smith as accomplished pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu.  He uncovers the truth about brain damage in football players who suffer repeated concussions in the course of normal play.  Though I don’t often enjoy movies about sports, I found this exceptionally well done as it depicted the relentless attacks on him by the NFL, a powerful organization.  I’m always for the underdog!

On the last weekend in July, Mike went with his high school friends to Ohio, so I took the opportunity to visit Sarah and Alex in Richmond.  Sarah moved into a new apartment at the beginning of June and I hadn’t been able to see it yet, so after we met for lunch at Mom’s Siam, we went straight to her house to check it out.  She hasn’t gotten it fully furnished or together yet, but she’s slowly getting settled.

Mom's Siam
Mom’s Siam

Alex and Ariana met Sarah and I for dinner at The Black Sheep, mainly because I had a craving for their marvelous chicken and dumplings.  We had a great time.  Alex looked quite handsome with a new haircut given to him by Ariana. 🙂

Alex, Sarah, me and Ariana at the Black Sheep in Richmond
Alex, Sarah, me and Ariana at the Black Sheep in Richmond

By the way, we found out our prodigal son Adam is now in Maui.  We knew his retreat in British Columbia ended on July 11, and we assumed he was still in Vancouver until we got a call from him on Tuesday, July 19, telling us he had bought a one-way ticket to Maui on July 12.  He’d been there a week already and was working on a banana plantation for a room and fruit.  When he called, he had just started working at a hostel four hours a day in exchange for a room. He eats food from the free shelf, where visitors leave behind food. He’s always believed in living in a world without money, and I guess he’s doing just that, sort of!  I don’t understand it and never will, but he’s got to live life according to his principles and I have to say I admire him in some ways.  On the other hand, I know he has credit card debt, so he’s not fiscally responsible nor is he actually living without money!

Thank goodness, he’s been good about calling us once a week to let us know what’s going on.  He seems very happy and says he wishes he had gone to Hawaii back in October when he first thought of going.  I wish he had; he would have saved us and himself a lot of money and heartbreak.  Who knows what will become of him, but I’m happy that for the time being he seems at peace and is actually working, even if not for money.  This past Tuesday night, he called to tell us he is starting to work for a ceramic artist helping to sell his very expensive ceramics; he gets an hourly wage and some commission on any sales.  Slowly, slowly.  I’m trying hard to have no expectations and to continue to send love his way.

On Friday morning, Sarah and I went for a hike on the Buttermilk Trail along the James River.  The trail was quite muddy as it had rained overnight.  We then went shopping at Target, where I bought her some new bedding, a hair dryer, and bath towels, all of which she needed and was thrilled to have. We also had lunch together.

Later that afternoon, I drove an hour south and visited with my dad and stepmother in Yorktown.  We had dinner together and chatted until I went up to bed to read my book, State of Wonder by Ann Patchett.  I hardly slept all night because I was near the end and couldn’t put it down.   My lack of sleep made it hard to get off to an early start, as I planned, to drive to Salisbury, Maryland to visit my sister Joan on Saturday morning.

Here’s my review of State of Wonder on Goodreads: I loved this book about Dr. Marina Singh’s journey into the Amazon jungle to find her former professor, Dr. Annick Swenson, as well as to find answers to the questions surrounding the death of her colleague, Dr. Anders Eckman. They all work for Vogel, a pharmaceutical company in Minnesota, and Marina has worked with Anders for 7 years in a small lab. Forty-two-year-old Marina is involved in a kind of secret relationship with 60-year-old Mr. Fox, the CEO of Vogel, who is not a doctor but an administrator. She calls him Mr. Fox, which speaks to the type of arm’s-length relationship they have. Mr. Fox sends Marina to look for Dr. Swenson because her research to develop a drug in the Amazon is taking too long and Vogel is getting impatient with her lack of communication about her progress. Dr. Swenson is doing research on how the Lakashi women can bear children even into their 70s. Marina’s other mission is to find out what happened to Anders and to possibly recover his body to send back to Minnesota.

Of course, I love any kind of story that takes place in exotic locales, with characters I can understand. This is an adventure and awakening story, a kind of journey into the “heart of darkness;” I found it immensely compelling and I love Ann Patchett’s writing.

I’m now reading And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini, which I’m enjoying, as well as a book my sister recommended by Dan Harris of Good Morning America: 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works.  I’m also making my way slowly through The Mathews Men by Bill Geroux; though it’s well-written and interesting, my books of choice are not normally non-fiction.

In Salisbury, we sat out at Joanie’s pool bar, where my brother-in-law Steve served us up some mixed drinks.  My nephew Seth and his girlfriend, Julia, hung out with us too.  It was fun to visit with my sister and to hang out by her pool on Sunday too. 🙂

me, my sister Joan and my nephew's girlfriend
me, my sister Joan and Julia

On August 4, after a number of failed attempts to meet in May and June, I finally met with a lady who runs a wine touring company.  She asked if I’d like to try out being a tour guide for her company.  I agreed to give it a try on Saturday, August 6.  I went with tour-guide Jim, who showed me the ropes; we took a group of ten 30-something ladies on a bachelorette tour of 3 wineries.  Our first stop was Zephaniah Farm Vineyard, where the owner warmly welcomes guests into the main tasting room in the living room of her c.1820 house.

Zephaniah Vineyard's tasting room
Zephaniah Vineyard’s tasting room

Next we stopped at Stone Tower Winery, set on 306 acres atop Hogback Mountain.  This is a large more commercial enterprise, and though beautiful, was not as appealing to me as the other two more intimate wineries.

Stone Tower Winery
Stone Tower Winery
pond at Stone Tower Winery
pond at Stone Tower Winery
vineyards at Stone Tower Winery
vineyards at Stone Tower Winery

The tasting room was quite chilly, so we ate lunch in a cavernous and only a little-less-chilly room with live music.  We couldn’t easily sit outside as it was hot, humid and spitting rain sporadically.  The young ladies seemed to be having a wonderful time.  This venue is much less homey than the other two, although the setting is lovely.

Our last stop was The Barns at Hamilton Station Vineyards, a family owned and operated winery housed in a refurbished dairy farm. The restored hundred and six-year-old stone and wood bank barn has been transformed into a tasting room, surrounded by eleven acres of rolling hills and woods.

The Barns at Hamilton Station
The Barns at Hamilton Station
The Barns at Hamilton Station
The Barns at Hamilton Station

The tour was fun and the owner has booked me for two tours in September.  It’s very occasional work, she has told me, which is fine by me.:-)

This week, we’re having our entire basement painted.  It hasn’t been painted since we bought the house in 1994 and it was sorely in need of refurbishing. Our boys grew up hanging out with their friends down there, and you can only imagine what disrepair it was in. There were several holes punched in the wall from some wild activities.  As soon as we return from Iceland, the whole basement will also be re-carpeted, and with a new sectional we just had delivered, it will become Mike’s “man-cave.” I’ve gently nudged him out of the living room, where I have my desk and computer.  Now we’ll both have space to work and not be crowded together into one corner of the living room. 🙂

The house projects never seem to end!  It seems they have been going on all year, but I guess it’s to be expected after so many years of neglect.

Several weeks ago, I received my refurbished Canon Rebel back from Canon USA Inc. and I hadn’t had time to try it out.  I’ve needed to decide which camera to take to Iceland, my Canon or my trusty old Olympus.  Wednesday, I finally took the Canon out to Burnside Farms, where the sunflowers are now in bloom.  I didn’t take my Olympus, because I’ve already taken sunflower pictures with it in the past at McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area: an afternoon with light-crazed sunflowers.  Below are all the pictures I took with the Canon.  I’d love to know your opinion.  It seems to me that the pictures are sharper than they were before, but too many of them were overexposed and I had to adjust them in post-processing.  Any hints from the photographers out there?  I’d love to hear advice.

Below this batch of Canon pictures are pictures taken with my iPhone 6s.  Which do you think are better?  I think I’ve pretty much decided to leave my Canon at home and take my much-used and dependable Olympus to Iceland.

sunflowers CANON
sunflowers CANON
sunflowers CANON
sunflowers CANON
sunflowers CANON
sunflowers CANON

Click on any of the pictures below for a full-sized slide show.

Here are the photos taken with the iPhone.

Sunflowers at Burnside Farms (iPhone 6s)
Sunflowers at Burnside Farms (iPhone 6s)
Sunflowers at Burnside Farms (iPhone 6s)
Sunflowers at Burnside Farms (iPhone 6s)
Sunflowers at Burnside Farms (iPhone 6s)
Sunflowers at Burnside Farms (iPhone 6s)
Sunflowers at Burnside Farms (iPhone 6s)
Sunflowers at Burnside Farms (iPhone 6s)
Sunflowers at Burnside Farms (iPhone 6s)
Sunflowers at Burnside Farms (iPhone 6s)

Click on any of the pictures below for a full-sized slide show.

It’s pretty sad when iPhone pictures are better than a camera for which I paid $400, as well as another $300 for a telephoto lens. 😦

Thanks so much for dropping by for cocktail hour.  It was sure great to see you all again.  I really haven’t had a very exciting or interesting month, but I hope to have more adventurous things to report when I return from Iceland.  I hope you’ll share what you’ve been up to.  I may not be able to answer you until after August 25.

Enjoy the rest of your summer!  I’m so ready for fall and cooler weather. 🙂

“my old school” ~ the college of william & mary

Saturday, August 3:  It’s a hot & humid day in southern Virginia, but I’m determined to stop at the campus of my alma mater, The College of William and Mary, and traipse around taking some pictures.  New inductees for the fall semester happen to be walking around the campus in large groups today for orientation and I keep running across their eager faces in my walkabout.

The College of William & Mary
The College of William & Mary

I attended the College of William and Mary from September 1974 to May 1975.  After my first year there, I decided, in one of many career blunders throughout my life, to go to Riverside Hospital School of Professional Nursing in Newport News.  After studying nursing for a year and thinking I had the symptoms of every disease I studied, and after several months working on the neurology floor of the hospital, I decided that cleaning bedpans, bedsores and open wounds were not for me, and I went back to the College to finish my education.

The Christopher Wren Building, where many of my English classes were held and where I got married the first time around
The Christopher Wren Building, where many of my English classes were held and where I got married the first time around

Though I originally wanted to be a Psychology major, every person I encountered questioned the practicality of that (What on earth will you do with that degree?), and I switched my major to an equally impractical major: English.  I finished my B.A. in English in December of 1978 (after having lost credits during the year in nursing school), with a minor in secondary education.

One of my English classrooms
One of my English classrooms

The biggest negative of my time at William and Mary was that, since my family’s home was in Yorktown, only 30 miles away, I had to live at home and commute.  This was a horrible experience for me because I didn’t have much confidence socially and always felt like an outsider.  This was the biggest regret of my college years, that I didn’t live on campus; I felt like I missed out on a big part of growing up.  I think that’s why I’m still trying to capture the young adulthood I missed out on!

hallway inside the Wren Building
hallway inside the Wren Building

The Sir Christopher Wren Building is both the oldest college building in the United States and a National Historic Landmark.  The building, colloquially referred to as the “Wren Building,” was so named upon its renovation in 1931 to honor the English architect Sir Christopher Wren. Today’s Wren Building is based on the design of its 1716 replacement after the original building was destroyed by fire. Currently Wren’s relation to the building is being investigated (Wikipedia: College of William & Mary).

Most of my English classes were held in the Wren Building.  In addition, I got married to my first husband, Bill, also a William & Mary graduate, in the Wren Chapel.

The outside of the Wren Chapel
The outside of the Wren Chapel
inside the Wren Chapel
inside the Wren Chapel
how the Wren Chapel looked through the eyes of a new bride walking down the aisle
how the Wren Chapel looked through the eyes of a new bride walking down the aisle
The outside of the Wren Chapel
The outside of the Wren Chapel

Here’s what the College has to say about themselves on their website:

William & Mary is unlike any other university in America.

We’re the second oldest college in the nation, but also a cutting-edge research university. We’re highly selective, but also public, offering a world-class education without the sticker shock.

Our students are not only some of the smartest in the world, but passionate about serving others and serious about having fun. Our professors are teachers, scholars and research mentors, the cornerstone of a thriving intellectual community that produces experienced, engaged, successful graduates.

We’re a “Public Ivy”—one of only eight in the nation. That means we offer a superior education that’s accessible to everyone. We love our hometown of Williamsburg and the amazing Commonwealth of Virginia and we’re proud to be one of the reasons for their economic success.

The front view of the Wren Building
The front view of the Wren Building
closer up to the Wren Building
closer up to the Wren Building
Magnolia trees are all over the campus
Magnolia trees are all over the campus
bell tower on many buildings
bell tower on many buildings

The College website talks about its History & Traditions with a great sense of humor:

Not many colleges can say they’ve canceled classes because ‘the British invaded.’

The College of William & Mary is the second-oldest college in America. The original plans for the College date back to 1618—decades before Harvard—but were derailed by an “Indian uprising.” We couldn’t make this stuff up.

On February 8, 1693, King William III and Queen Mary II of England signed the charter for a “perpetual College of Divinity, Philosophy, Languages, and other good Arts and Sciences” to be founded in the Virginia Colony. And William & Mary was born.

Workers began construction on the Sir Christopher Wren Building, then known simply as the College Building, in 1695, before the town of Williamsburg even existed. Over the next two centuries, the Wren Building would burn on three separate occasions, each time being re-built inside the original walls. That makes the Wren the oldest college building in America, and possibly the most flammable.

William & Mary has been called “the Alma Mater of a Nation” because of its close ties to America’s founding fathers. A 17-year-old George Washington received his surveyor’s license through the College and would return as its first American chancellor. Thomas Jefferson received his undergraduate education here, as did presidents John Tyler and James Monroe.

The College is famous for its firsts: the first U.S. institution with a Royal Charter, the first Greek-letter society (Phi Beta Kappa, founded in 1776), the first student honor code, the first college to become a university and the first law school in America.

William & Mary became a state-supported school in 1906 and went coed in 1918. In 1928, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. chose the Wren as the first building to be returned to its 18th-century appearance as part of the iconic Colonial Williamsburg restoration. (William & Mary: History & Traditions)

the Sunken Garden
the Sunken Garden

The Sunken Garden is the central element of the Old Campus and is simply a long stretch of grass, lower than the surrounding area, that runs west from the rear of the Wren Building to Crim Dell pond. The area is very popular for students wanting to study outside or play games.

Looking across the Sunken Garden
Looking across the Sunken Garden

The Crim Dell bridge is a wooden bridge which is considered one of the College’s most scenic areas. Crim Dell itself is actually the pond that the bridge crosses over, but the bridge is commonly referred to as Crim Dell.

Crim Dell pond and bridge
Crim Dell pond and bridge

Crim Dell is associated with several myths and traditions.

It’s rumored that if two lovers cross the bridge together and kiss at the crest of it, they will be together forever.  If that couple separates at any point thereafter, however, the lady must throw her ex-lover off of the bridge and into the water to break the curse of being forever single.

Crim Dell Bridge
Crim Dell Bridge

Another similar urban legend is that if someone crosses Crim Dell alone, they will be forever alone (Wikipedia: Crim Dell bridge).  Oh dear, I cross the bridge alone today. 😦

Crim Dell Bridge
Crim Dell Bridge

On a mounted plaque near the bridge is a quote by Paschall to commemorate Crim Dell’s dedication on May 7, 1966. It reads:

“…that one may walk in beauty, discover the serenity of the quiet moment, and dispel the shadows.”

The Crim Dell plaque
The Crim Dell plaque

I come across this statue of Thomas Jefferson, and right as I’m walking away, a group of new students come to the statue with a guide.  The guide talks about the famous people who attended the college, including actress Glenn Close (1974) and political satirist Jon Stewart (1984).  And of course good old Thomas Jefferson himself.

Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson commemorative plaque
Thomas Jefferson commemorative plaque

I continue walking around the campus, where I come across other old buildings and dormitories.

building near the Sunken Garden
building near the Sunken Garden
Dormitory
Dormitory

The Blair Building was named for the Reverend James Blair (1655-1743), the Founding President of the College (1693-1743).

The Blair Building
The Blair Building
Exotic leaves in front of the Blair Building
Exotic leaves in front of the Blair Building
The Reverend James Blair
The Reverend James Blair
The Reverend James Blair, up close and personal
The Reverend James Blair, up close and personal

I also come across the Tyler Family Garden.

Tyler Family Garden
Tyler Family Garden

I pass by the Sorority Court, where the Sorority Houses are.  Since I never lived on campus and never knew anyone in these sororities, I never joined in the fun.  I’m not a group-joining kind of person anyway.

Sorority Court
Sorority Court
one of the Sorority Houses
one of the Sorority Houses

And finally, before I leave the campus, I can’t help but make a stop at Lake Matoaka, The Lake was named after Chief Powhatan’s daughter, whose nickname was Pocahontas. The lake was constructed by English colonists some 25 years after the College was chartered in 1693, making it the oldest man-made lake in Virginia and one of the oldest in the New World.

Lake Matoaka
Lake Matoaka

Lake Matoaka holds many memories for me. First, one day when I was heading down to the lake for a canoeing class, Bill, who worked on the train at Busch Gardens with me, stopped in his orange Volkswagen convertible and asked me if I was married.  Then he asked if I’d like to go out sometime.  That was the beginning of our relationship.

Later, while we were dating, I continued to take canoeing classes on the lake.  I never could gain control over my canoe and so was incessantly running into the shore or into other canoeists, namely Bill’s and my friends, Rick and Lilly.  Lilly was always making fun of me for my spastic inability to canoe and we had a lot of laughs over this incompetence on my part! 🙂

After Bill and I were married in 1979 in the Wren Chapel, we held our reception at a covered pavilion beside the lake.  The pavilion is no longer here.

Canoes at Lake Matoaka
Canoes at Lake Matoaka

Every time I think of The College of William and Mary, I think of the 1973 song “My Old School” by Steely Dan.

I remember the thirty-five sweet goodbyes
When you put me on the Wolverine
Up to Annandale
It was still September
When your daddy was quite surprised
To find you with the working girls
In the county jail
I was smoking with the boys upstairs
When I heard about the whole affair
I said oh no
William and Mary won’t do

The song has never made sense to me, and I’ve never been sure if Steely Dan was talking about a school in Annandale, Virginia (of which I don’t know any) or William & Mary.  Because William and Mary is mentioned in the lyrics, the song has long been a favorite of William & Mary students and alumni.  However the song is really about Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York and refers to an incident where the band members were arrested when they returned for a visit to the school in 1969.  The charges were dropped, but the grudge held by the band for this harassment is the reason the song was written.  Band member Walter Fagen was so upset with the school’s complicity in the arrest, that he refused to attend graduation (Wikipedia: My Old School).

Apparently, the band’s writer was not connected to the College of William & Mary and selected the College’s name simply because it fit the cadence of the song (Popular Culture References to William & Mary).

After my visit to the College campus, I take my dad’s advice and try out a Mexican restaurant in Williamsburg, La Tolteca, where I hope to satisfy my cravings for Mexican food by ordering a Chile Relleno and a Corona Light with a lime.  The Chile Relleno is good enough, but not quite the decadent thing I am used to from all my years of eating Mexican food.  It’s missing the batter and the excess cheese that a Chile Relleno usually has.  The restaurant is quite festive and clean though.

Chili Relleno, rice and beans at La Tolteca
Chile Relleno, rice and beans at La Tolteca
La Tolteca
La Tolteca
La Tolteca
La Tolteca

I do enjoy fortifying myself for the long drive home, especially since I’ve opted to drive the 30 minutes back to Yorktown, so I can cross over the George P. Coleman Bridge and drive up the Middle Peninsula where there is absolutely no traffic!

farmland views on Virginia's Middle Peninsula
farmland views on Virginia’s Middle Peninsula

seeing my dad in yorktown after a year away

Friday, August 2:  After leaving Sarah in Richmond, I drive down to Yorktown, as always via the Colonial Parkway along the York River.  I arrive at my dad’s house, after not having seen him for the last year while I was living and working in the Sultanate of Oman.  We have a lovely visit, except I’m sad to see him having a hard time getting around now because his knees are breaking down.  He’s 83 years old, so he’s doing well for his age, but I can see just a little slowdown in his movement.

the house where I grew up, in Marlbank Farms, Yorktown, Virginia
the house where I grew up, in Marlbank Farms, Yorktown, Virginia

He seems very happy though and is as talkative as ever; he and his wife Shirley even tell me all the details of my niece Kelsey’s wedding, which I sadly missed on July 13 because I was traveling through Spain and Portugal.  They make me a healthy dinner of pork tenderloin, stuffing with gravy (it’s like Thanksgiving in summer!) and collard greens (such a southern dish) and then Dad shows me his list of hundreds of DVDs he’s recorded, mostly British shows.  I really am glad to see my dad so happy, and I think Shirley is really good for him. They still flirt with each other as if they’re teenagers. 🙂

Dad and his wife Shirley in the front yard
Dad and his wife Shirley in the front yard

I’m trying to slowly but surely reconnect with my family and other people I had in my life before going to live abroad in February 2010, when I went to Korea for a year (catbird in korea) and again in September 2011, when I went to the Sultanate of Oman for nearly two years (a nomad in the land of nizwa).

Dad and me :-)
Dad and me 🙂

I spend the night in my little brothers’ old bedroom in the old house (my old room seems to have become a study/exercise room, although I don’t think anyone ever uses it) and take off on Saturday morning to visit Williamsburg and my old school: The College of William & Mary.

For posts I’ve written about Yorktown and Marlbank Farms, see below:
yorktown, virginia: my hometown
an evening in yorktown with dear friends
marlbank farms

I hope to reconnect slowly but surely with everyone I’ve missed in the last two years.  Hopefully, you’ll hear from me soon!

yorktown, virginia: my hometown

Wednesday, August 22:  Yorktown, with its tiny population of 220 people (2000 census), is the county seat of York County, Virginia.  Its claim to fame is the siege and subsequent surrender of British General Cornwallis to American General George Washington on October 19, 1781 in the American Revolutionary War.  Cornwallis’s surrender to a combined American and French force in the Siege of Yorktown led to the end of major hostilities in North America.

Cornwallis Cave: where Cornwallis hid during the Revolutionary War??

According to Remember Yorktown, Cornwallis’s cave, located along the water front, is reported to have been the hiding place of Cornwallis during the siege at Yorktown during the Revolutionary War in 1781.  However, the York County Historical Committee says that contrary to the legend that describes this as Cornwallis’ hiding place at the end of the 1781 siege, it was probably used by a British gun crew to defend the river from the French Fleet. The site is National Park Service property.

the Yorktown Victory Monument

The Yorktown Victory Monument was authorized by Continental Congress, October 29, 1781, just after news of the surrender reached Philadelphia.  Actual construction began 100 years later and was completed in 1884.  The original figure of Liberty atop the victory shaft was severely damaged by lightning.  A new figure replaced it in 1956. The shaft of Maine granite is 84 feet tall; Liberty adds another 14 feet.

a ring of figures on the Yorktown Victory Monument
a view of the York River & one of the schooners from the hilltop where the monument stands

Yorktown also figured prominently in the American Civil War (1861–1865), serving as a major port to supply both northern and southern towns, depending upon who held Yorktown at the time (Wikipedia: Yorktown, Virginia).

the inviting Hornsby House Inn in historic Yorktown

Yorktown has a lot of historic houses including the Hornsby House Inn, a bed & breakfast that has been recently renovated.  It looks similar in style to many houses in the town. (Hornsby House Inn)

Side view of the Hornsby House Inn

I grew up in York County, not Yorktown proper, but as a child and teenager, my friends and I spent a lot of time at Yorktown Beach and on the Yorktown Battlefield, at the Yorktown Pub, on boats on the York River, and at Nick’s Seafood Pavilion, a landmark restaurant until it was damaged severely in a hurricane.  Every year on October 19, Yorktown Day, we went to the town to participate in the festivities, to gawk at the French sailors who came to town, and to eat Brunswick Stew.

this is the park at the far east end of Yorktown Beach where we had our senior class picnic. One of the schooners from the dock is sailing on the York River.
the Yorktown Pub

There are lots of great things to see in Yorktown.  The town is part of the national treasure known as the Historic Triangle of Yorktown, Williamsburg and Jamestown.  Yorktown lies at the eastern end of the Colonial Parkway, built between 1930 and 1957, which links the three communities, shielding drivers from views of commercial development; a major effort has been made to keep traffic signs and other modern roadside items to a minimum, and to make essential signs unobtrusive. There are often views of wildlife in addition to York River panoramas at several pull-offs.

Yorktown Beach with the George P. Coleman bridge in the background
Yorktown Beach in the direction of where the York River empties into the Chesapeake Bay
Yorktown Beach
Yorktown Beach with the fishing pier and Amoco Oil Refinery in the distance
Sea grasses and the George P. Coleman Bridge
Yorktown
Don’t break the rules!

The Yorktown Victory Center, which is the American Revolutionary War museum, shows our country’s evolution from colonial status to nationhood through thematic exhibits and living-history interpretation in a Continental Army encampment and 1780s farm.  People can visit the Yorktown Battlefield, Moore House, Nelson House, Custom House and Grace Episcopal Church.  If you want to visit Yorktown, please see: Historic Yorktown.

a little gallery of butterflies

Wednesday, August 22:  Today, fluttering around the butterfly bushes in my father’s backyard, I finally was able to take pictures of some Swallowtail butterflies.  I have never before been able to get good photos of these colorful creatures, so I was thrilled!!  Here they are:

Swallowtail butterfly
i love the blue coloring on this one! 🙂

Below is the gallery.  To see a slide show, click on any image.  Some are pictures of just the flowers, others are the butterflies.

marlbank farms

Wednesday, August 22:   The history of Marlbank Farms, the neighborhood where I grew up in Yorktown, dates back to the early 1700s.  It apparently began as the 500-acre “Wormley Creek Plantation.”  On October 19, 1781, while General Cornwallis was surrendering to George Washington in America’s Revolutionary War, Washington’s soldiers were likely foraging through Marlbank Farms for game and other food.  The decisive battle that won American independence was fought on the battlefield less than a mile from the plantation.

the overgrown approach to Marlbank Farm, originally the O’Hara’s house

Nearly a century later, in the spring of 1862, the plantation served as the base for Union forces laying siege to Yorktown.  The battle this time was against Confederate forces who were blocking Peninsula approaches to Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy in the American Civil War.

After the Civil War, ownership of the plantation changed.  In 1879, it was sold to William Hughes;  in 1945,  550 acres were sold to L. R. O’Hara.  Mr. O’Hara restored the manor house, named Marlbank Farm, and developed the Marlbank Farms subdivision in the late 1940s.  The O’Haras and descendents lived in the house until 1988.

the O’Hara’s house today… It was so much grander when I was a child. 😦

When the manor house was sold and refurbished in 1988, more houses were built close by.

A more modern house now stands next to the O’Hara’s house. Back in the day, only a huge farm surrounded the O’Hara’s house….. It was quite a grand entrance to Marlbank.
Another modern house built now on the O’Hara’s farmland…

Marlbank refers to the layer of marl (a conglomerate of mud, shells and clay) that lies below the soil surface along the York River. Early settlers used marl as construction material.

our family’s Colonial on Wormley Creek Drive

My family moved to Marlbank Farms in ~ 1966.  At that time, I was in 5th grade and I entered Yorktown Elementary School as the awkward new kid on the block.  My friend Louise loves to tell the story about how I arrived in the middle of the school year wearing a plaid crinoline dress, lacy ankle socks and patent leather shoes.  Yorktown was a different world from where I lived my first 11 years in Newport News.   I remember thinking I had moved out to the country from the big city, although that was far from the truth.

typical Virginia house flag…. on our house

Our family bought a two-story Colonial where my father still lives to this day.  Seven of us lived under that roof during those years: my mother and father, me as the eldest, Stephanie, Joan, Brian and Robbie.  I made the closest friends of my life in that neighborhood: first Martha, Melissa and Nancy; later Rosie and Louise.

the back of our house. It’s had several additions since I moved out.

I’m filled with nostalgia for my Marlbank years. In junior high school, Martha and I spent endless hours playing horses in her backyard, setting up an impressive array of jumps and having jumping competitions on the course.   Indoors, we sent colorful marbles racing down a multi-tiered plastic marble racetrack; each of our marbles was lovingly named after horses from Triple Crown races; many names we concocted ourselves.  We kept notebooks with descriptions of the marbles and their respective horse names.

Martha’s house. They just sold the house in recent years.

In my high school years, I practically lived in my friend Rosie’s house.  We played Yahtzee, watched TV, made tuna fish and olive cheese toast, and lounged around daydreaming about boys.

Rosie’s house, a place where I practically lived!!

We spent our days riding bikes around the neighborhood, swimming on the Marlbank Mudtoads swim team,  flirting with the lifeguards, and playing Marco Polo in the deep end of the Marlbank pool.

the Marlbank swimming pool
Home of the Marlbank Mudtoads

We went to dances at the Marlbank Recreation Association (MRA) building where we danced to songs like “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” by Iron Butterfly.   At slightly over 17 minutes, that song occupies the entire second side of the group’s 1968 In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida album.  I remember wishing certain boys would ask me to dance to that song.  When they didn’t, and I was stuck dancing to it with someone I didn’t like, the song seemed interminable.

the MRA Building ~ home of countless dances 🙂

Sometimes, when I felt sad and wanted to escape the hubbub in our boisterous house, I rode my bike to the pool and swung on the swings, even in the dead of winter.  The swings there today are a newer version of what was there in the 1970s.

swings of escape, and sometimes sadness…. 😦

Some of my friends had waterfront property, or access to docks, on Wormley Creek.  We went crabbing off those docks, tying chicken legs or wings to string and catching crabs with nets.   On hot & humid summer days, we walked through the woods on a trail at the end of Wormley Creek Drive to the creek itself.  There, the creek widened and fed into the York River.  We held our towels over our heads and swam across the creek to a sandy beach on the other side.  Sometimes Martha brought her little outboard motorboat and pulled us behind the boat on a rope dangling from the back.

heading down Wormley Creek Drive to where we used to eventually reach the creek

Nowadays, waterfront homes have been built at the end of Wormley Creek Drive, blocking all access to the creek. 😦  In my view, there should still be a trail down to the creek between the properties.

no more view of the creek because of the waterfront houses
you can catch a glimpse of the creek behind this house
We can’t see the creek, but at least we can see some huge beautiful flowers…
Another waterfront property. This one is about where the path to the creek was….

We did so many fun things over our childhood years; these are memories I will always cherish.

a little welcoming bench near someone’s driveway
ivy and a yellow maple leaf
vine-covered wall
everything grows here at this low elevation

One of the boys, Michael Sim, had a pony he kept at his grandfather’s stable near the end of Wormley Creek Drive.  The pony’s name was Maybe; maybe he’d buck you, maybe he wouldn’t.  This fickle and feisty little pony did whatever he felt like doing.  We used to ride him and jump him over low jumps in the big yard.  The quest was to stay on Maybe through the jumps.  Sometimes, while he was in the air, I lost my balance.  As soon as he hit the ground, he took advantage of my imbalance and started bucking.  Several times I remember hanging on to the saddle for dear life from the underside of his belly!  Another time we took Maybe to the Yorktown Battlefield.  I rode him as he galloped across a wide expanse of grass.  Suddenly, he stopped and put his head down, sending me flying off to land belly-down in the grass.  That pony was crazy, and we were equally crazy to ride him!

someone’s inviting house
my address:  Wormley Creek Drive

Today, 45 years after we moved to Marlbank, I visit my father and his wife Shirley, who, throughout my childhood, was our next-door neighbor.  I take a long walk through the neighborhood, which has changed yet somehow stayed the same.   Mostly it looks overgrown and shabby.  Most of the old-timers are still living here.  Maybe they are too old and just don’t have the energy to keep up their yards like they used to.  Many of the houses from the late 1940s and 1950s are looking a little worse for wear.   No matter.  Marlbank will always be home to me.

Shirley & Dad

Related article: York County, Virginia Community Network: Marlbank Cove Historical Perspectives

an evening in yorktown with dear friends

Tuesday, August 21:  Today I drive Sarah back to Richmond since she has to work, and then I head another hour right on down the road to Yorktown to meet two of my oldest and dearest high school friends for dinner.

the fountain in front of Riverwalk in Yorktown

Yorktown is my hometown in the Tidewater area of Virginia.  It’s about 3 hours southeast of where I live in northern Virginia.  Louise and Charlene are two of our group of 4 high school friends; we jokingly called ourselves the Fearsome Foursome.   We have remained fast friends to this day and have followed each others’ lives throughout 40 years!

The Schooner Alliance, 105 feet tall, on the left, and the 65 foot tall Schooner Serenity on the right
Schooner Serenity
Schooner Serenity ~ the place to go for a pirate cruise!
Schooner Alliance
the George P. Coleman Bridge, crossing from Yorktown to Gloucester

We meet at Riverwalk, a restaurant overlooking the York River.  We sit down outdoors under an awning, but it starts sprinkling the minute we sit down.  Raindrops start falling on our heads because the awning is not waterproof.  So we move inside, where we shiver and freeze under air conditioning set to sub-zero temperatures!

me with Louise
Charlene, me and Louise

No matter.   We have fun catching up with each other, as if a year hadn’t passed between our last meeting.  The food is mediocre at best, but the wine makes it palatable.  Louise tells about her son Larry who is now serving in Korea.  Charlene talks about her grandchildren.  We talk about people we have known our whole lives and then about Charlene’s work, Louise’s retirement, and my time in Oman.  After dinner, we take a walk along the river, talking and strolling and admiring the York River, the beach and the George P. Coleman Bridge.

the George P. Coleman Bridge as the sun goes down

The George P. Coleman Bridge is a 3,750-foot-long double-swing-span bridge built in 1952 with 2 lanes, connecting York and Gloucester Counties.  For two years ending in 1996, it was widened to 4 lanes.  The bridge has movable spans which allows ships to go upriver to military installations including the Naval Weapons Station and Camp Peary. The bridge was named after George P. Coleman, the Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Highways from 1913 to 1922.

the bridge all lit up and reflecting on the York River

We grew up in this place.  We sunbathed on the sandy strip of beach, we ate at the Yorktown Pub, we sipped on limeades from the drugstore that is no longer in existence.  We celebrated birthdays and graduations at Nick’s Seafood Pavilion, which was ruined in the last hurricane and then demolished.   We flirted with boys, slathered on coconut oil, frisked about in the water.  We hopped on friends’ motorboats or motorcycles when they dropped by the beach and cruised on the river or on the roads through the little historic town of Yorktown.  We have memories of this place, and even though it’s changed more than we believe it should have, we can walk along and recognize enough to reminisce.

Riverwalk Landing all lit up at night

It’s always a great thing to spend time with long-time friends, people who will be in your life until the day you die…. 🙂