These pictures are from the Gloucester Court Green. Above is the Clayton Building, which houses artifacts recovered from John Clayton's home and old office site. Below is the entrance to the court green, still sporting her spring finery.
Gloucester is where my mother's family comes from. Her grandfather, the blacksmith at Flat Iron, had three daughters and one son. One of the daughters was my favoritest* grandmother. Another is Great Aunt Nellie, who turns 85 today. In four days her husband Bill, who was her high school sweetheart, will be 93.
Aside from my mother, Nellie is the closest living relative to my favoritest* grandmother. She looks a lot like my mother, but she sounds exactly like my grandmother. Even though she hasn't lived here for decades, she retains that beautiful Tidewater accent. Her laugh is distinctive and contagious; thankfully every interaction with her is full of it.
Nellie and Bill, as I said, were high school sweethearts. Although they intended to marry in their youth, they didn't. They lived separate lives, married other people, had families, and carried on. But some how or another after their spouses passed away, they reconnected and finally married in 1999 . They are a most remarkable couple.
Bill is a published author, and the epilogue in his first book does a grand job of illustrating their philosophy on life:
92 YEAR-OLD GETS 30-YEAR HOME MORTGAGE
How does that look for a headline in your local newspaper? No kidding! I have told Nellie we should get in on these good deals for homes where the banks have foreclosed on so many loans, especially in Florida. My better sense tells me it would be foolish to take on a 30-year mortgage at my age, but one can't help thinking about it. In actuality, the lenders look at income, estate assets, and protection during probate, and we should qualify on all accounts. What is 92, anyway, but just a number.
Secrets to a Long Life?
We have just received our latest drivers' licenses, and we have applied for a new passport to get ready for our new adventure. The license is good for six years, and the passport for ten, so it isn't as if we're hanging it up for good. Actually, I am looking forward to a few more years, for I have a few more places to visit, a few more sights to see, a few more acquaintances to make, and most importantly sharing them all with Miss Nellie. As long as the both of us continue with our good fortune to enjoy relatively good health, traveling seems to be good for us, injecting an anticipation which may very well be the "Fountain of Youth."
There is much more of his story to share, but I'll save it for another time. Right now, I'd like to share something Chesapeake Bay Mother wrote in honor of their birthdays:
"Two important members of the Chesapeake Bay Family are celebrating birthdays this month. It marks the 93rd year for Uncle Leon E. "Bill" Braxton, Lt. Col. USAF, Ret., whose second book is imminent. Born in a hand built house, completely composed of local lumber and materials, he arrived one of nine children to be born on Chicken Foot Lane, Cumberland County, North Carolina. Bill achieved and gloried in life to the fullest and continues to amaze us.
For Aunt Nellie Pearl Berger Braxton, we toast her 85th year of living in complete love and grace. She unfailingly calls her nieces and nephews, who have lost their parents, to tell us how special we are and to always say, "I love you." Her oldest sister claimed she was born small enough to fit in the teapot (hopefully the rivalrous siblings didn't try to stuff her in one) and was the cutest baby ever.
Happiest of birthdays and bon voyage, if you go to Italy! We so admire and love you both!"
Uncle Bill and Aunt Nellie, thank you for being such an inspiration and for helping us see that there really is such a thing as true love. - CBW
*Favoritest is indeed a word.
Bill's book is called From the Cockpit to the Classroom, An Only-in-America Saga from the Depression-Era Cotton Fields of North Carolina Through the Skies of World War II to a University Professorship, by Lt. Colonel Leon E. "Bill"Braxton, USAF, Retired, with Capt. Arthur H. Wagner, USCG, Retired. His second book is about to be published. Did I mention he turns 93 this week?