Just over a year ago, Beth Prentice entered into her inheritance from her grandfather, which included the property at 1226 S. Walnut. After looking over the property, and discussing it with David Harvey Senior, Beth authorized Harvey Brothers Construction to completely update the property. As most of the renters were students who left with the conclusion of the academic year, work got underway in the summer of 2015. But, as David warned them, it would not be a quick job. First of all, quick jobs often were sloppy jobs, and Harvey Brothers did not do sloppy jobs. Second, Harvey Brothers had a full schedule. They would work in the new job as soon as possible, but it would be Christmas before they could move in. Even before that, Jay and Beth were married in a civil ceremony in reaction to the extravaganza proposed by Father Bob at St. Polycarp. Their ceremony took place on 15 May, 2015. After the ceremony, Beth insisted on putting the property, the bank account, and the investments in their joint names. Mr. & Mrs. Joshua Prentice Brooke were quite well off.
One of the reasons for the wedding was that Beth was pregnant. Utilizing a birth certificate which did not reflect his true paternity, Jay married Beth, so their child, even though the child of incest, would be legitimate. Beth was actually on campus, having lunch with Jay, when she felt the onset of labor on Wednesday, 2 December. He got her to University Hospital right away, where she gave birth to their son at 2:54 p.m. The boy was named Braxton Carver Brooke. Jay quipped that the Carver would cancel out any negative vibes from the Braxton. He was baptized at St. Martin de Porres, where the young couple were now attending, with Beth’s Uncle Bobby as godfather and Jay’s grandmother, Eudora, as godmother.
Jay had moved in with Beth in the Balaclava home she inherited from her grandfather, but they were never really comfortable there. The exorcism of the ghost of Forrest Prentice seemed not to be completely effective. Even when, after the wedding, Jay’s grandmother, Eudora Brooke, and his Aunt Melissa moved in with them, they still felt completely out of place in Balaclava. Hence, they were extremely pleased when David Harvey Junior informed them that the house on Walnut would be ready on December 16. The city inspector gave it a final going over, and signed off, and the final papers were signed and check written to Harvey Brothers on that date. Over the next few days, movers brought furniture and other heavy items to the house, and Jay and Beth brought personal items, as did Grandmother Eudora and Aunt Melissa.
Most of the furniture came from what had been the Forrest Prentice home. There was very little from Grandmother’s apartment which was worth saving. Most of that was donated to local charities. While Forrest’s furnishings were not always to the taste of the young couple, they decided to use it now, and gradually replace it with items to their own taste on a piece by piece basis. That way, they could move in as soon as the house was finished and not worry about furnishings until they were ready to tackle that issue.
Shortly after they moved in, they invited Father Lamar Todd over. He had been a favorite of Jay’s grandmother for some time. He blessed the house, but more significantly he also blessed Jay and Beth, validating their marriage. This was much appreciated by Grandmother Eudora. Lamar simply took the birth certificates they used for their civil wedding, even though he knew there was more to the story. He decided not to raise awkward questions.
Both Jay and Beth were registered for the fall semester at the University, and, despite giving birth on December 2, Beth was determined to take her final exams. Finals came late, being scheduled for the period from December 16 to 23. That meant they were very busy at that time. In addition to finals, they had the move to the new home and decorating for the holidays, plus getting used to having a new baby around, demanding attention. Consequently, they were extremely grateful that Grandmother and Aunt Melissa also moved to Walnut Street with them. It was something of a miracle when, on Christmas Eve, they could look at their front parlor, with its Christmas tree and other decorations, and piles of presents under the tree, and simply enjoy where they were at this time.
Of course, the Brookes were invited to the Todd Christmas Eve Party, along with Grandmother and Aunt Melissa. Aunt Melissa declined the invitation, and stayed at home with the baby. Jay’s cousins Leon and his family and Clarence and his would also be at the party. They enjoyed the party, but did not go out to the Todd parish, St. Rose of Lima, afterwards. Instead, they all went to St. Martin de Porres for the midnight Mass celebrated by Father Lamer Todd. Father Lamar had been at the party, but had left in plenty of time to prepare for Mass. Despite their residence in the Neighborhood, the family intended to continue as members of St. Martin de Porres Parish, at least as long as Lamar remained pastor there. He admonished them about turning attendance into a matter of personalities, but they insisted. Lamar had been appointed pastor in 2014, and the usual term was seven years, with the possibility of a second term before moving elsewhere. Hence, it might be 2028 before there was a change, a long way off.
Everyone slept late on Christmas morning, as young Braxton was not yet old enough to insist on opening presents at the crack of dawn. But eventually they were all awake and ambulatory. They gathered in the parlor, sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to Jesus before the crèche, and opened presents. Each seemed more precious than the other. They had chosen presents with great care, especially for the individual concerned. There was much crying and hugging. Brax seemed quite happy with his new fluffy blanket and colorful rattle. After a great breakfast, prepared by Grandmother and Aunt Melissa, they dressed and spent more time en famillie. During the day, they were visited by relatives from both sides. Although Beth’s mother was not at all comfortable with her daughter’s situation, she put in a visit, and exchanged presents. She was actually pleased that they had decided to move out of Balaclava. It would reduce occasions for the neighbors to make comments about the racially mixed household. Whereas Jay and Beth did not care about what the neighbors said, Sarah Greene Prentice did. Uncle Robert also visited, along with his partner. He would assist his niece in his area of specialization, as he was an interior decorator, and the house still lacked an individual style. He said he was at least somewhat familiar with the Neighborhood, as he was acquainted with a number of people who lived here. The Neighborhood was home to several gay couples.
Visits also came from Jay’s side of the family, of course. Leon Luttell, Jay’s cousin, called, accompanied not only by his wife, Anne Nicole, and their children, Shayne and Annie, but also by his father, Mike. Mike had been released from prison in the spring of 2015, and was now full-time with Harvey Brothers. In fact, he had worked on the Brooke house earlier in the fall. He said it was his son and Father Lamar who were responsible for him making a turn around, and actually deciding to go straight after being released. It was during the Christmas season that an arrangement was worked out between Mike and the Brookes. He was living at the Warren, a boarding house, since his release. Jay offered him the carriage house apartment on the property at 1226 Walnut in return for handyman assistance around the place. Grandmother and Aunt Melissa continued to insist on doing the cooking and the housework, but with the new property came the need for regular maintenance. Thus, they could drop outside workers entirely. Mike was grateful, not so much for the work as for the acceptance which it represented, and Leon really appreciated this acceptance of his father as well.
Of course, the other cousin also called during the day. Clarence Brooke showed up with his fiancée, Bernadette Ngolo, and their son, Leon. Jay kidded him that, now that he was about to graduate from high school, it was time for him to get serious and marry Bernie. But he responded that he was intending to enter the University, and so was Bernie, but maybe in four years they would be ready to settle down. Grandmother rolled her eyes at that.
After the Christmas holidays, things settled down at the new Brooke home. Jay and Beth were back in school at the University. Both had done well the previous semester, and intended to continue to do so. In one sense, they did not have to do anything. With Beth’s inheritance, they did not have to think in terms of finding a job. But both were interested. Jay was in a History/Pre-Law curriculum with the idea of helping people like his family had been before the inheritance. Beth had been majoring in Secondary Education with a concentration in history. As a result of observing Jay’s relationship with his professors in the History Department, and comparing it to her relationship with the faculty in Secondary Education, with the new semester she switched, now majoring in History but still with the intention of obtaining secondary certification. She, too, wanted to help, but to help students have a greater appreciation for their country through greater knowledge of its history. So, they were both committed to continue in school.
At the same time, they began to fit into the Neighborhood. Sandy Todd had informed them of the work of OUNPRA and its affiliated groups long before they actually moved into their new home. But it was only after the move that they became regular attendees at the meetings on the first Saturday of each month. They really did appreciate the ambiance of the Neighborhood, and took in a display at Caldicott House, the OUNPRA headquarters, showing the improvements wrought since the 1980s. They were also commended for the restoration of their home. One more shabby property restored to its former status as a single family dwelling in good condition. And, they were only a block away from Mansfield Park. When young Brax got older, he would love playing there, and even now his parents enjoyed bundling up and taking him for walks (well, he rode in his stroller) around the Neighborhood, with special appreciation of the park. There was nothing like Mansfield Park in the part of town where Jay grew up. And they usually encountered other kids in strollers, possible future playmates for Brax.
As a result of many comments over the months, Beth and Jay became aware of the role which the patriotic and lineage societies played in Neighborhood society. Beth was familiar with them somewhat, as her mother was a member of the Martha Washington Chapter of the DAR, and she had been signed up for the Orton Chapter of CAR, but those chapters were associated in her mind with the elitist, racist, and snooty attitudes which she had abandoned. In the Neighborhood, she became aware of those societies as patriotic and civic groups, actually devoted to the same thing she was in her academic program. There were essay and oratory contests which were open to all, not just to students at Prep, and likewise to those in JROTC and scouting programs. The James Madison Chapter the ladies of the Neighborhood talked about actually sought out deserving citizens for its good citizenship award, not just someone who would serve as an opportunity for a picture in the newspaper. As a consequence of this realization, Beth joined the DAR, but not her mother’s chapter, but rather the older and more active (and more diverse) Madison Chapter, where turning up with Jay for a meeting would not be a cause of adverse comment.
Once she had determined on this course of action, she also wanted Jay in SAR, and young Brax in CAR. Brax was no problem. The papers were filed and a certificate arrived in due course. But Jay protested. First of all, he claimed he was not qualified, but Beth insisted that he was qualified as a son of Braxton Prentice. But, he protested, if he did that, their incest would be exposed. That was something to think about. Beth spoke to Sandy Todd, saying Jay was uncertain about applying for SAR because of illegitimacies and ‘other issues’ in his genealogy. Sandy assured her that, as long as the blood relationship was adequately documented, Jay need not worry about anything else. Moreover, he could put a seal on his application which would prevent anyone from accessing information more recent than the last 70 years, the same time frame observed by the Bureau of the Census. The Prentices were members of their various organizations on the record of Daniel Prentice, a soldier from Massachusetts during the Revolutionary War, but there could be others. Forrest Prentice’s wife had been Elizabeth Crittenden, through whose lineage several Patriotic Ancestors could be accessed, including John Jordan Crittenden (1754-1806), who was a major in the Continental Army from Virginia during the Revolutionary War, and later a member of the House of Burgesses. It was he who Jay chose as his Patriotic Ancestor. With the last 70 years blacked out, he could then simply say he was descended from Crittenden, and not concern himself about the Prentice connection. Consequently, Jay joined the SAR. When he attended his first meeting to receive his certificate and medallion, he was accompanied not only by his wife, but also by Uncle Bob, by Zip Todd, by Tony Todd, and by Neal Winter, all of whom were members, and who were prepared to defend his right to membership if challenged. He wasn’t. Uncle Bob had been a member since he was 18, but had allowed his membership to lapse, being reinstated only after his father’s death. By this time, the effort of Sandy Todd to diversify the membership in the lineage societies, launched many years before, had borne fruit, and at least those local bodies with which she was affiliated showed the variety of contributions made by people of diverse backgrounds to American history. Both Jay and Beth appreciated that, not only on the personal level, but also on the level of their intended careers.
Another association made as a result of discussions with others in the Neighborhood was membership in the Whispering Hills Country Club. Just as with the DAR, Beth avoided the Madison Country Club to which her mother belonged because of negative experiences of elitist, racist, and snobby members there when she was younger. When her mother complained that ‘the best people’ belonged to Madison, Beth replied, “That kind of depends on what you mean by ‘the best people.’ I don’t think our Church would agree with your assessment, Mother.” That caused Sarah to give the matter some serious thought, and resulted in her decision to switch memberships herself. After all, she did want to maintain some connections with her daughter, even if she was not comfortable going all the way.
Beth also insisted that Jay learn to enjoy himself. His entire life from early years on had been spent in surviving and then helping his grandmother. Now, she insisted, he needed to learn how to relax and have fun. So, she insisted on teaching him to dance. He had been a real klutz when he first took her to a dance on campus. But she also insisted on him learning to swim, and putting in time at the pools at Whispering Hills, especially once the weather improved in the spring. She was proud of his well developed physique. On his own, Jay put in time working out, both on campus and at the club, as he did not want to get ‘flabby and sagging’ as a result of not working like he used to. When the weather improved, too, she insisted on tennis lessons. Jay said he was being entirely made over, but she countered with, “not as much as me.” In fact, both were changing, and growing closer together.
By the summer of 2016, Jay and Beth were beginning to feel at home in the Neighborhood. They were making friends, and feeling comfortable in the various situations which brought neighbors together. They attended the Memorial Day parade, holding young Brax up and showing him the colorful groups as they passed in review. But they continued to attend Father Lamar’s Mass at St. Martin de Porres, one item on which they would not conform to the usages of the Neighborhood. In that, they were always accompanied by Grandmother and Aunt Melissa, and often by cousin Leon and his family, and cousin Clarence and his.
At the Independence Day picnic in Mansfield Park, they enjoyed the associations, with Jay participating in the baseball game, although not terribly successfully, while Beth was more successful in her participation in the girls’ soccer match. At the fireworks display that evening, Jay and Beth agreed it was time to present Brax with a little brother or sister. As a result, Beth would give birth to her second child in the second week of April.
The Brooke family was well and truly established in the Neighborhood and the Clifton community.