Archive for the ‘Charlie Howell’ Category

Elves, Elves, and More Elves!

Saturday, December 28th, 2019

Porch Surprise

Charlie left about noon on Thursday.  He had been here a week — one of the longest visits in many years — and, from the old folks’ point of view, one of the very best!  We visited, played games, re-created some family recipes and, in general, got up to some semblance of speed.  Under normal circumstances, even with weekly phone calls, that’s hard to accomplish.  Nyel and I tried to stay up late (for us) and Charlie, ever the night owl, used his ‘alone time’ to finish any kitchen clean-up (usually a lot!) that I’d left for morning!  Fabulous!  It definitely earned him the moniker “Charlie-The-House-Elf” in my mind.

The Packages Within

That afternoon, Nyel had a long-postponed visit to the dentist.  We returned home to find a large “care package” on the table near the front door.  Michael and Lynn Madigan, Gourmet Food Elves (and not just at Christmastime!) had left us dinner.  Actually, two dinners.  Wow!

The large white bag was full of individual packages, neatly labeled:  “Momma’s Irish Cream,” “Osso Buco,” “Saffron Risotto for Osso Buco,” “Wagyu Prime Rib,” “Garlic Mashed Potatoes,” “Creamed Spinach”. Wow!  Oh, and I forgot to mention the wonderful Goodie Box of cookies, fudge, and other treats!  Wow some more!

Momma’s Irish Cream

I later found instructions sent to my email by Michael:  First meal is osso buco with saffron risotto.  The osso bucco is sealed up; you can reheat it in the bag submerged in a pan of barely simmering water for about an hour to an hour and 15 minutes.  Flip the bag halfway through cooking.  The second meal is prime Wagyu roast beef with creamed spinach and garlic mashed potatoes.  You’ve also got a box of Christmas cookies and fudge.  Try to share!  Finally several drams of Lynn’s homemade Bailey’s type liquer.  It’s delightful on its own, but really shines in coffee.  

From The Cookie Elf

And if those Christmas Elves were not enough, here came Charlotte Killien, Cookie Elf Indescribable!  Her cookies are becoming legendary here on the Long Beach Peninsula and we feel honored, indeed, that she remembers us when she is in town!  “Please, please,” we say to her, “come when you can stay for a visit.”  But we are seldom so fortunate and have to content ourselves with her baked goods.   (Let’s hear it:  “Oooohhhh  Noooo!”)

So… Thanks to the  elves in our lives, the holiday spirit continues at this address in Oysterville!  As I so often say… we are truly blessed!

Another Perk of Motherhood!

Thursday, December 12th, 2019

Marta is in L.A. for a few days just now, providing her with an opportunity to spend some time with Charlie.  Both of them posted pictures of their adventures a day or so ago — at lunch at Michelangelo Ristorante in Silver Lake near Charlie’s place; at a store that might have been named for the two of them, Whacko; and (I think) at a Soap Factory, although it and Whacko might be one and the same.

They looked like they were having a great time together, just as they have for the past sixty years.  When the two of them were young, I always counted myself blessed that they got along so well.  Each has a great sense of humor and great appreciation for the off-beat, yet each is kind and thoughtful and empathetic to the max.  I really like them both — in addition to the motherly love part.

But what really pleases me at this late time in my own life, is that they truly enjoy one another’s company.  It’s reassuring that they have one another to fall back on or turn to.  As an only child, myself, I find it comforting that they still enjoy one another and seem to grow closer as time gallops along!  Yay!

Sunday Night Call

Monday, November 18th, 2019

Charlie and Marta, 2016

Every Sunday night at seven o’clock, everything stops around here for the weekly conference call with Charlie and Marta.  Sometimes Nyel joins in but usually he leaves the conversation to the three of us — Charlie talking from L.A., Marta from Corte Madera, and I from Oysterville.   Sometimes, though, one of us might be talking from somewhere else and, once in a while, one of us has to miss.  But, it’s become pretty much a Sunday night ritual for the last year and a half.  From seven to eight-ish we catch up, we reminisce, we share our thoughts and… we laugh. We’re all good at that.

Marta La Rue, Mayan Goddess, 2012

Last night, however, most of our conversation was serious.  Marta said that she PG&E has announced plans for a possible “Public Safety Power Shutoff” event for day after tomorrow.  Of course, a spirited discussion followed.  Topics ranged from 1) the irresponsibility of PG&E and the various utility commissions presumably in place to oversee them, to 2) what consumers can do short of buying generators to keep crucial businesses operating and on, to 3) climate change and, finally, to 4) the immensity of the global problem.  “We’re far beyond just lighting a few candles and waiting for the lights to come back on,” said ever-practical Charlie.  “Our civilized world runs on computers — you can’t go back to 19th century solutions.”

Charlie as Magus, 2013

We ended on a lighter (ahem) note.  I complained that I haven’t seen a recent photo of Marta on FB and she said she’s thinking of going hat shopping, photos to follow.  Which reminded me of Charlie’s solution to everything when he was eight or nine (or fifteen or thirty) — “just wear a little hat” he’d smile. It was his way of not engaging, and it was maddening and hysterical at the same time.  (You probably had to be there.)  When the call ended, I think we were all smiling.  I know I was.



It was “Happy Birthday to Nyel!”

Monday, August 5th, 2019

Oysterville Regatta 2017 – Photo by Mark Petersen

One way or another, we salvaged most of Nyel’s birthday weekend.  We made it home from Portland in time for the second and third heats (races?) of the Regatta.  Afterwards, we got Nyel into his wheelchair and wheeled him down the middle of Territory Road with half of Oysterville and the Regatta Dinner guests walking along behind us.  “The only way to travel!” Nyel said.  In my mind  seventy six trombones led the big parade.  Only appropriate for his 76th birthday!

At Lena’s, we were greeted by Tucker and Carole’s son, Charlie, who managed to wheel Nyel over gravel and lawn and rough spots to seat him at the head of the nearest table.  Soon, the table filled with friends who filled us in on the first race and proceeded to treat us both like visiting royalty! People brought us food and beverages and there was even a surprise chocolate cake (a four-layer CostCo special, I think) and the whole crowd sang Happy Birthday to Nyel.

Regatta Pinata Grandkids 2018

A dinner highlight was Tucker singing three (count ’em! Three!) Regatta songs this year.  My favorite and the one I think should become THE official regatta song — was to the tune of “Where have all the flowers gone?”  Here is the truncated version which you can probably figure out:  Where have all the lasers gone… gone to summers every one; where summers… gone to memories;  where memories… gone to stories; where stories, gone to grandkids; where grandkids… gone to lasers every one.

On Sunday our long-time friend “Tricky” came down from Bainbridge and the three of us hooked up with Noel at the Bridgewater in Astoria for Nyel’s birthday dinner.  Lotsa sharing of “geriatric war stories” and even more reminiscing about the “olden days” of forty or fifty years ago.  It was lovely to catch up with one another  though we missed Noel’s wife, Patty, who was back east at a school reunion.

At home, there were presents — all food related, including a new slow cooker (his old one died) from son Charlie plus a hefty book called  Crock Pot – The Original Slow Cooker Recipe Collection.  Nyel’s comment:
“A great birthday and a real improvement over spending the day in the hospital.”  Amen to that!


Another Missing Bit of Childhood

Friday, February 15th, 2019

On this very date, February 15th, in 1903, the first Teddy bear went on sale.  Little did toy store owner and inventor Morris Michtom realize that he was creating a childhood institution.  He had asked and received permission from President Theodore Roosevelt to use his nickname, Teddy, and had then sewn up a couple of stuffed bears and placed them in his store window.  The rest, as they say, is history.

I don’t believe I ever had a toy bear and I’m not at all sure that my son Charlie did, either.  Certainly, there was never a bear that had a place in our lives like Christopher Robin’s Pooh Bear.  I think that “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” was about the extent of my early bear connection.

I do remember shopping for a little Steiff bear for Charlie when we were in Germany in 1958.  He was two and, somehow, I thought he needed a stuffed bear.  But, even then, they were way too expensive for our meager budget.  The stuffed animal that became his favorite was a dog that we got in Italy.

We had gone into a big department store in Rome, specifically to look for a cuddly stuffed animal.  The salesclerk showed us a big, floppy dog, larger than Charlie.  I kept saying (and motioning with my hands) “smaller” and by inches we were shown smaller and smaller versions of the same stuffed dog.  Each dog was accompanied by the word “piccolo” and by gestures which we soon understood to mean “small.”  And, so it was that Charlie acquired Piccolo Doggie who was, as Goldilocks would have said, “just right” size-wise, and was Charlie’s boon companion for years.

During those years, Charlie and I were also introduced to Winnie-the-Pooh in a book given to Charlie by his Great-Grandmother Little, as I recall.  Later, I enjoyed my own second childhood over and over again by reading those Milne books to my first graders.  Wise old Pooh helped many-a-child of my acquaintance over a rough spot – but he wasn’t technically a Teddy bear and he didn’t come along in time for me to enjoy him during my own childhood.

If I were to examine my character critically, I’d probably come up with a flaw or two that I could credit to the lack of childhood Teddy Bear bonding.  Right up there with that electric train I never got!  Oh well…

Too Close for Comfort

Sunday, July 22nd, 2018

It was one of those “I just happened to be…” situations yesterday afternoon.  I was at my computer finishing up a writing task and “just happened” to check my email.  There was a message from my childhood friend Memi (Ann Sherwood Anderson) who lives up in Westport:

Sydney, are you watching the hostage situation in Silverlake area of L.A?  I’m sure you said that’s where Charlie lives.  So do Jack and Kristin.  Jack texted his mom while she was here visiting me and told her not to worry if she turned on the news and saw what was happening because he and Kristin were home safe.  It’s at Trader Joe’s where they shop a lot.  Charlie probably does, too!  I have it on CNN.  It’s ongoing, although when you read this message, it might be all over.

I’m sure my heart stopped for a moment even as my mind said… what are the chances?  I called out to Nyel.  He turned on TV as I looked at the guide for the CNN channel number.  They were saying that the perp was in custody… but I wasn’t waiting for details.  I was already calling Charlie who, mercifully, was home and answered.

Our conversation was brief.  He, too, was watching the drama unfold on TV.  “I’ve seen them escorting friends out of the store – clerks I’ve known for years – and other people I recognize from the neighborhood,” he said.  He briefly told me what he knew up to that point – a man had shot his grandmother and possibly one other person, took the grandmother’s car and a hostage (perhaps a young woman; perhaps she, also, had been shot) and he had crashed the into a light pole at Trader Joe’s and had run inside.  The streets were blocked off and there were over 100 cops there…At that point he said he had to go.  More things happening on TV.  He’d call me later.

So far, “later” hasn’t happened.  But that’s okay.  He’s safe.  Jack and Kristin are safe.  Networking among friends still works.  But, what a scary world we live in!  Sometimes, even in Oysterville, it’s all too close for comfort.