Betsy and Ridley Wills have serious street cred in 37205. Generational. They could have kept things cozy, Belle Meade style, but playing it safe just isn’t the way they roll! Ridley started his own company (you’ve heard of it), and Betsy’s had her hand in multiple businesses, most recently eMDiscovery and YouScience. They bought a classical Georgian home a few years back, but there’s not a lot traditional about the contemporary art that greets you at every turn.
You’ll never meet two more welcoming Nashvillians! Betsy and Ridley go out of their way to meet people and make new friends, and they are particularly good at helping people find meaningful ways to be involved in the life of this city (I’m speaking as a newcomer, 20 years in, now lucky to call them dear friends). They each have a terribly quick wit and a warm heart, and each have great book recommendations, always! Today’s Bacon features a Q and A in which Betsy and Ridley answer some important questions and reveal their current reading lists. If you make it to the end, you’ll find their excellent parenting advice. They’ve just launched their youngest (off to college last fall), and it seems to me they’ve gotten a whole lot right.
Q and A with Betsy and Ridley:
Where were you born and do you still consider it home?
I always say I’m the most provincial person you’re going to meet. I’ve barely lived, gone to school, or worked more than a block off of West End Avenue my entire life. While I know that sounds limiting, I’m proud of the fact that my holiday card list is 80% transplants to Nashville. Bring it!
Betsy also likes to say that she was the only person that I could legally marry in town, given that everyone else is my cousin. After high school, I was determined to head as far away as possible and left for sunny California. Clearly, however, Nashville is my home and I am proud of it!
Do you play games, and if so, which ones and why?
Mad for games of all kinds. I’m a fan of bridge and have recently been inspired by my friend, Patti Smallwood, to invest the time into duplicate. This is an altogether new form of humility. Besides cards, I love a good game of charades. Did I mention I’m competitive?
I would add Scrabble and Bananagrams to that mix, too. My niece, Mary McKenzie, is actually the family pro at this game, which can be quite humbling for a 51 year old uncle. All of these games involve at least some nod to being clever and are a quite clear about their rules. However, there are many “games” that we humans play which are FAR from clear and often require adroit, bewildering maneuvers. Suffice it to say, I like it when the rules are out in the open – even if I have to fend off a 15 year old.
What household chore do you secretly or openly enjoy?
I’ll bet I had the most unusual Christmas gift this year. Ridley gave me a mangle.
There is something amazing and satisfying about feeding a piece of “flatwork” (that’s sheets and napkins for the uninitiated) through this miracle machine and watching them come out glass-slick in a matter of seconds! Everyone needs one!
I openly enjoy organizing. From the daily mail, to recycling, to family photographs – keeping all of these “things” in order gives me satisfaction and a sense of control over a world that is clearly not so. I am not a hoarder, however. Throwing away these items is part of the fun of sorting. It is like the old TV show “Clean House” – Toss it. Sell it. Donate it. And only lastly, keep.
Your favorite book from childhood?
My favorite books from childhood were the Ant and Bee series by Ann Bannister. Their illustrations and snappy characters caught my imagination as a young reader. I remember spending hours poring over the insect’s antics and their pal, “Kind Dog.” They’ve just come back into print, so I’m giving them away to all my little friends.
That’s easy, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. This book gave my imagination room to soar, and it made me want to read more. I even wrote to Mr. Dahl asking about the sequel. Receiving his hand-signed response was a highlight of my childhood, and I have kept it pasted in the back of that cherished book ever since.
Your favorite book of all time?
My favorite book of all time is Ship of Gold by Gary Kinder. Nashville native Morgan Entrekin published this book in the 1990’s and I’ve given away dozens of copies. It is a true story of treasure hunting, technology, law, and venture capital. Right up my alley! I also like anything by A. J. Jacobs because he’s side-achingly funny.
Usually, I like what I am reading at present. If I am transported to another place, era, knowledge base, etc… it is fun for me, even if it’s to a scary place like Caleb Carr’s fictional story of serial killings set in the real, historical, late 19th century New York City. You won’t want to put it down, but you may be mad at me for getting you to start it in the first place. Just ask Cathy Brown!
What are you reading right now?
I have no business writing for this blog. To be candid, I’m lucky if I can sustain attention through a Post-It note. That being said, I have lots of reading aspirations and read every Bacon post! You might call me a “reading voyeur!” Better yet, a “transitive property reader!” On my bedside is a lineup including Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit by Daniel Quinn and At Home by Bill Bryson. I’m midway through both and will complete them on my next beach trip.
Thanks to Parnassus’ recommendations, I just finished two endurance books about miners trapped in the depths of a South American mountain (33 Men: Inside the Miraculous Survival and Dramatic Rescue of the Chilean Miners by Jonathan Franklin) and 19th century explorers in the grips of the an ice field (In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette by Hampton Sides). I am drawn to the adventure of real people meeting catastrophic circumstances and am buoyed by how they cope with, survive and even sometimes fail in the face of incredible circumstances.
That being said, however, I find myself currently in the complete comfort of my house also reading Bill Bryson’s At Home. Learning the whys and how comes of the place in which we reside is equally fascinating in it own sort of way. Bill Bryson chocks his book full of wonderful stories about everything from why salt and pepper rose to the top of the spice world to how our forebears managed after sundown when “a candle provides barely a hundredth of the illumination of a single, 100-watt light bulb.” A shout-out is due to Anne Nesbitt for letting us know about this fascinating book from one of our favorite authors.
And finally: What is your best advice to parents with teenagers based on your experience as a parent?
You can avoid a lot of shenanigans if you have this overarching policy: “Home and in your own bed by midnight.”
Hug them and encourage them to be who they are. Get out of the way of God’s gift. Oh, and marry well so that you can at least improve your odds!
So glad to start my day with this humorous and wonderful he said/she said!
Thanks, Katie! So fun to enjoy Soul Food Love reading with you on Saturday!! xo
I love this post as much as the subject matter! Bravo Betsy and Ridley! Wish we could all view this world with the enthusiasm, curiosity and humor of this dynamic duo! ❤️
Daphne, I could not agree with you more! xo
Loved this post you two. Am adding Ship of Gold and At Home to my pile for SC next week. Thanks.
Enjoy SC, Lucy, and I will make sure they see your lovely comment! xo
What a way to start the day! Fabulous post! I have a ways to go before a mangle becomes my favorite household chore but you both have inspired me :-))
They inspire me too! Thanks Elizabeth! xo
Bravo and Brava!! Captivating post in so many ways. I am so grateful to be on the receiving end of these welcoming natives. Off to amazon to search mangle
Louise, I think you are a good candidate for a mangle! Maybe you’ll be the next lucky gal at Christmas! 🙂 xo
As long as I’ve known these two, they never cease to surprise me. I am always interested in their interests! Thanks for a great post. Truly.
Nashville is a better place because of this dynamic duo.
They keep things lively, don’t they?! Thanks so much, Ashley. xo
Betsy, I am cracking up that you just referred to the transitive property in this post… I feel like the transitive property is my very good friend… Great post.
You and Betsy need to meet for a glass of wine to discuss further. May I join you? xo
Betsy and Ridley are the perfect combination for a couple post–both are so interesting. Thanks for sharing! Ridley–love the letter from Roald Dahl.
I was so enchanted with that letter as well! I read and re-read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as a kid, and then read and loved it all over again when my children were coming along. It’s one of my favorite books ever. I’m glad you enjoyed Betsy and Ridley at Bacon today, Tracy, and hope our paths cross soon! xo
The second recommendation for Bill Bryson in less than a week. Guess I’m off to the book store.
I hope you enjoy! Thanks, Dave! xo
Great share from two of my favorite friends! Now, where does one find a mangle?
We’ll have to ask Ridley! Thanks, Dara. xo
I loved reading this…Betsy and Ridley…you both are so energetic, fun, witty and positive. Xo
I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Sandra – and Betsy and Ridley truly are a gift to us all! xo
Quite simply, two of the finest people I have been privileged to know for so long. We need to clone them and put a set in every city in America.
Yes! Thanks, Don! I’m always so happy to hear from you at Bacon. xo
Betsy, Give it up,where did Ridley get the mangle! That is my kind of machine!
Laughing!! Yes Betsy – you must tell us!! (Thanks for putting the pressure on, Cindi….) xo
Call Joni at hermitage electric! They are the only in town retailer. Meile brand. Xo
I totally agree on the mangle Betsy. When I was a child my elderly babysitter had a vintage one in her basement (the size of a Volkswagen) and whenever she wanted to hypnotize me we’d go to the basement and “iron” some pillow cases. And “hankies”!! This was a great post, thx.
That sounds like the beginning of a short story, Susan! I love it! Thank you for stopping in at Bacon. xo
I’ve seen Betsy’s mangle in action (why does that sound lewd?) and it is a thing of beauty. I can also vouch for “At Home”…it is fascinating indeed. Love Bill Bryson and love, love, love the Wills.
Laughing! Mary Jo, you crack me up. Hope you have a wonderful time at Sewanee this weekend & I hope to see you soon! xo
What an entertaining and endearing post by two of my favorite people! May I come mangle something? (preferably not my fingers)
I think Betsy might need to host a party where we ALL get to try it! Thanks, Karlen. xo