Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Wanted: Under-the-House Belly-Wrigglers!

Sunday, October 8th, 2017

Red House Cuzzins, 2014

Quick!  Before you kids get too big!  We need a few of you fifth generation Red House Cuzzins to come for an egg hunt.  But not in the usual nest boxes down at the coop.  Way too easy.  And not an Easter Egg hunt, either.  This egg hunt would take you into the secret spaces around our yard and maybe into the creepy crawl-spaces under the house.

As you might know if you or your folks have been checking my blog in recent months, our hens have not been laying much lately.  In fact, weeks go by and… no eggs in the nest boxes!  We don’t think the girls are ailing in any way – good appetites, good foraging skills, full of clack and cluck!  And we don’t really think they are on strike – no marching up and down in front of the house with signs!

Chickens On Strike

Our friends in Seaview have chickens and they had the same problem recently.  Erik thought that maybe, since they, too, are free-rangers… just maybe they had decided to lay their eggs in some secret place out in the garden.  So, he went hunting.  And, sure enough!  He found their stash – eleven eggs out behind a big clump of rhododendrons!

Erik and the Stash

I’ve read that hens like to lay their eggs alongside other eggs which explains why, even though we have three nest boxes, we used to find three or four eggs in one nest box and none in the others.  That bit of information makes me wonder. Plus the fact that I noticed a number of times this summer that our alpha hen heads right for the rhododendrons near the house when we let the girls out in the morning…  And, I strongly suspect the others follow suit later in the day.

Behind the Rhododendrons

At first, I thought that the area under the rhodies must be especially good pickings, bug and worm-wise.  But… maybe not.  Maybe it’s that dark, quiet area just behind that is calling out to them – the opening to the crawl space under the house.  I’ve scrunched down to see what I can see, but I’m too old and unbending to manage a thorough search.  What I need are some of you brave, agile cousins to scoot underneath and have a look around.  While you’re at it, you could be searching for other treasure, as well.  You never know what might show up under a 148-year-old house!

Remembering the Nouns

Wednesday, October 4th, 2017

Conversation starters in our household run the gamut, at least when I’m the initiator.  It might be, “Do you know where I put my thingamajig?”  Or it could be “Remind me where to turn to get to Kay’s house.”  Or, it could even be a whispered “What is that woman’s name – the one in the red coat?”

It’s the nouns I have difficulty with.  I learned my parts of speech from Mrs. Barnes in the 8th grade at E Street Grammar School in San Rafael.  Nouns were the easiest – a person, place, or thing.  Unfortunately, those are what are escaping me these days.  Not always.  Not yet, anyway.  A few years back when I worried about it to my son, he reminded me (not very reassuringly) of the old joke – just because you can’t remember what your keys are called doesn’t mean you have dementia; it’s when you don’t remember what they’re for that you might have a problem.

Papa’s Coffee Cup

I have had a couple of good role models in my lifetime as far as dementia is concerned.  My mother, who lived to be 97, began to show signs of dementia at 79 or 80.  Her father, my beloved grandfather ‘Papa,’ became “forgetful” in his late sixties and lived well into his eighties.  Both of them retained their humor, their kindness, and their basic personalities, until the end – even when most of their physical abilities were also gone.

If dementia is to be my lot in life, I hope I can manage it with the same grace as they seemed to.  Of course, the real heroes were their friends and family – the people who treated them with dignity, no matter what.  I well remember watching “The Dinah Shore Show” here with my Aunt Mona and Papa back in the 1950s.  Papa was enchanted with Dinah Shore.  “Get that gal a cup of coffee,” he said to Mona.  And Mona went to the kitchen and brought a cup for Papa who, by that time, had forgotten his request.  “Thank you, girlie,” he told Mona with a smile.  “Just what the doctor ordered!”

Nan and Jack, 2012

My girlhood friend Nan, who was also in Mrs. Barnes’ 8th grade class with me all those years ago, wrote to me Monday:  … and the next line will be a shocker, I was diagnosed last Friday as having dementia. Oh, my dear, dear friend!  How I wish I were nearby to reassure and to help in any way possible as you journey down this unfamiliar path!  And I am so thankful that you have a loving husband and nearby family to give you the support you need.  To fill your coffee cup just as the doctor ordered!

 

On This Day in History – 1987

Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

The Bride and Groom

Thirty years ago, today, the dawn sky looked a little iffy.  It was a Sunday and the 3rd Annual Oysterville Croquet and Champagne Gala was scheduled to begin at 2:00. Drizzle or not, we had chairs and tables to set up, signs and balloons to put in place, food to arrange, cases of champagne to ice and costumes to put on.  I was a bit nervous – “a bit more tightly wound than usual,” Nyel would later say.

But it wasn’t the Croquet Gala that had my nerves a-tingle.  It wasn’t the sixty people pre-registered to play on ten competing teams.  Nor was it the fifty-plus spectators we expected to come.  At the forefront of my mind was the biggest secret of our lifetimes – we were getting married that day!  Right there in the garden in front of friends and family.  Right after the games were over and right before the Awards Ceremony.  And it was a secret.  Yes… I was a bit nervous.

“Oystereville Croquet Gala” by Norma Walker

Five (count’ ’em, five besides us) people knew what was in store that day.  My son Charlie, who came up from L.A. for the event – the only time in 19 years that he attended one of our Croquet Galas.  Gordon Schoewe and Roy Gustafson who agreed to stand up for us.  Judge Joel Penoyer (actually, probably Betsy, too) who agreed to bring the paper work and to officiate.  And Dr. John Campiche (probably Val, too) who we called to make sure there were no medical requirements before marriage in Washington State – which there weren’t.  Not one of them breathed a word.  Even so… I was nervous-to-the-max.

No one else – not my parents who were the nominal hosts of the event since it took place in the garden of their home.  Not my distinguished Uncle Willard who, for many years served at the Master of Ceremonies of the Croquet Galas.  Not Ann Kischner who was President of the Water Music Society which was to be the recipient of the proceeds that year.  (Did I mention that we put on the Gala each year as a fund-raiser for a non-profit organization in Pacific County?)  Yes… nervous enough so that I could barely tend to my job as registrar!

I happy to say, we pulled it off with hardly a hitch.  (Just a rather tense argument with Willard who insisted that it was HIS turn to award the trophy. I literally had to push him out of the way… and maybe I was just a tad snappish.)  The weather turned bright and sunny, after all, and I look back on that day as setting a tone for all the years that have followed – years of friends, family, fun, and memorable events!

The Wedding Pillow – from the Frank family

And here we are, thirty years later.  No plans to celebrate this year.  No signs or balloons.  Just a lot of remembering and basking and maybe a stroll or two out in the garden.   But did I say… it looks a bit iffy outside this year, too!

Full Up in Oysterville!

Sunday, September 3rd, 2017

The Final Day of Vespers 2017

It’s Labor Day Sunday – traditionally the time of the last hurrah of summer here at the beach.  Almost everybody ‘is down’ as my grandparents used to say during times when relatives and visitors were overflowing all the residences.  Added to that, it’s the last Sunday of the Music Vespers series at the church and it is the day of the Williams Family Reunion, this year hosted by the Red House cousins up the street.

There could be as many as 80 at the church for this final service featuring Deacon Dick Wallace of St. Mary’s in Seaview and Portland musicians Geri Ethan (pianist/organist) and Barbara Walden (flutist).  Add to that ‘as many as 160 at the 76th Williams Clan Annual Picnic.  “But there probably won’t be quite that many,” Williams Clan Elder Kuzzin Kris said last night.  She’s here from Eugene for the weekend with her friend Ray but says it will be younger clan members Mike Williams and David Williams who will be hosting and emceeing the proceedings.

Red House

In any case, it will be an impressive lineup of cars along the streets and, probably, in the lanes today.  I always wonder if the town sinks down just a little bit when it’s full like that.  High tide today is at 12:58 p.m. – just about the time the Williams festivities are in full swing.  It will be a respectable 8’11” tide – not enough to overflow the banks, at least not unless we sink a foot or two under the weight of all those vehicles…  Maybe the saving grace will be that Vespers doesn’t start until 3:00 which is about the time the cars at the Red House will be clearing out.  Still… it’s interesting to think about.

Aunt Rye, Judy Heckes, Jim Kemmer – c. 1940

One big difference between Labor Day Weekend of my childhood and nowadays –no longer does this weekend mark the end of the visiting season.  Nowadays, with our amazingly mobility, year-round tourism has become a reality and the town is likely to be ‘full’ on any given weekend or during any holiday, even in the midst of winter.  No longer does this particular weekend have quite that same bittersweet feeling of ‘the end of the season’.  We’re likely to see our loved ones several times before next summer rolls around!  Hooray for that!!

Going Gray in Oysterville

Friday, August 25th, 2017

The Red House

It’s been seventy years since my Uncle Willard Espy began painting the town red.  Well… maybe not the whole town of Oysterville, but certainly two of the most significant buildings in this little village.  It was 1947, the year of his parents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary.  The celebration was to take place around Thanksgiving and, even that summer, preparations were under way.

At that time, Willard owned his grandfather’s house up the street a block or so from where he and his six siblings had grown up.  He and his (then) wife, Hilda Cole Espy, had purchased the house from the R.H. Espy Estate shortly after World War II.  Or maybe during the war – I don’t really remember.

1947 Golden Wedding Dinner

What I do remember is that for several summers in a row (including 1947) their four daughters – my ‘much younger’ cousins were here, as was I.  Willard, wo was then Public Relations Director for the Reader’s Digest in New York.  He took his vacation weeks here and, that year, he painted the R.H. Espy House red.

I was eleven that year and I don’t specifically remember the painting project.  My oldest cousin, Mona – never mind that she was a twin; she took great pride in being the eldest daughter, even if only by a few minutes – was six and she does remember.  Sort of.  She remembers her father laughing and laughing after painting the horns of the bull out in the pasture – red!  We both think that Willard had taken a break from painting the house to have a little fun with the neighbor’s bull and, in our minds, that dates the year that the house color changed from yellow (we think) to the red it is today.

The Little Red Cottage, 1977 – 2017

For the next thirty years, people referred to the R. H. Espy house as the “Red House” because it was the only one of that color in town.  Then, in the mid-seventies, Willard and his (then) wife Louise purchased the little cottage that had once served as the first courthouse in Oysterville.  It, too, was soon painted red and we began to refer to the two structures as “The Big Red House” and “The Little Red Cottage” to distinguish which we were talking about.

Yesterday, as we drove into town after being gone for eight days, there were indications are that we will not need to differentiate between red buildings from this point forward.  We noticed that the erstwhile “Little Red Cottage” now has a gray façade – perhaps the first step in the newest owners’ renovation scheme.  For now, the rest of the house remains red – a two-toned look that is distinctive in itself.

The Little Gray Cottage, 2017

Whether in his parents’ home, his grandfathers’ home or the erstwhile first courthouse, Willard spent much of his life here in Oysterville.  He, himself, grew gray over his long lifetime and I think he would be amused to think that his beloved Red Cottage had now entered its own gray stage.  Like Willard, himself, it’s looking quite dignified and distinguished in gray!

In The Dark and All A-Tangle

Monday, August 14th, 2017

Garden All A-Tangle

It’s not just my usual lament about the warp-speed at which time travels these days.  At least, I’m pretty sure not.  It’s my usual lament on steroids!

Already we are waking up in the dark.  I have only begun all my planned summer garden projects.  We’ve not yet made a single potato salad.  We haven’t eaten out in the garden even once.  And we’ve had fewer get-togethers and visits with the usual summer travelers who ‘just stop by’ or at least ‘give a holler’ when they are in the area.

Nope, it doesn’t seem like summer should be winding down already.  Not at all.

Remants from 2016 Garden

It’s not only the weather that’s to blame, but it certainly even that has been different from most summers.  Usually July and August hold out many opportunities for al fresco everything.  This year, not so much.  Or at least, not so much when we’ve been home.  Unfortunately, good weather doesn’t count for much when we are spending time in the hospital – an occurrence that has been all too frequent this particular summer.

So… what to do about it?  I can’t decide whether to knock myself out for the remaining days of the season, no matter the weather, and try to shape things up around here or… maybe to decide just to give this summer a miss.  Chalk it up to ‘shit happens’ and get on with things as best we can.

Barbara Espy Williams Geisler at The Great Wall 

I think I am at that point in life where the examples of my forebears come into play.  I think of my mother’s cousin Barbara who went on a long-planned trip to China with her daughters even though she had been recently diagnosed with brain cancer…  I think of my grandmother who coped with my grandfather’s increasing dementia, even though she, herself, was blind and suffering from heart problems.  I think of my Great Uncle Cecil who lived alone well into old age and managed a house and garden larger than ours.

I don’t remember any of them lamenting what they could not do.  Oh.  Except once my dad noticed Uncle Cecil sitting on the edge of his porch – his push mower nearby.  When dad asked him if everything was okay, Uncle Cecil did complain… just a tad.  “I’ve never had to stop and rest while I was mowing before,” he said with disgust.  He was 90 at the time!

Wow!  Short summer be damned!  I’m on it!

Depending on the Kindness of Strangers

Monday, June 5th, 2017

Dale Espy Little, 1999 — “Mom at 88”

My mother gave up driving when she was about a year younger than I.  She cut up her driver’s license and sold her car and became a big believer in Dial-a-Ride.  She also took advantage of every “do-you-need-anything-at-Jack’s” offer made to her by friends and neighbors and wasn’t at all hesitant to ask a stranger (most likely a tourist visiting the church) for a ride (most likely to the post office.)  I worried and admired in equal parts.

Mom’s leap into ‘Dependence on the Kindness of Strangers’ was occasioned by a fender bender that she had in Ocean Park.  No one was hurt and no one was ticketed but she felt it was a wake-up call to quit driving.  I have been thinking about that a lot since our own mega-mishap last week.  In fact, one of the first things Nyel said was, “Maybe it’s time I stop driving…”  Yikes!

We actually considered that possibility – weighed the pros and cons of living far off the beaten track where just getting groceries entails a 15-mile round-trip by car.  We decided that between the two of us and with a spiffy new mega-safe vehicle, we could probably manage for a while longer.  But totaling our little Prius definitely gave us pause.  And it made me think of my indomitable mother and how gutsy she was and so soon (within a year) after my dad had died and she was living on her own for the first time in all of her 80 years!

Helen Richardson Espy, 1947 – “Granny at 69”

I also thought about my two grandmothers, neither of whom ever learned to drive.  Granted, cars didn’t “come in” until they were middle-aged.  I doubt if it even occurred to either of them to learn to drive.  They had managed their households (one in Oysterville, one in Boston) and raised their families without ‘machines’ and just riding in one as a passenger was a big step.

My Oysterville grandmother did have a buggy – a used one sent to her in 1914 by her father who lived in Berkeley.  The day it arrived, she wrote to her daughter, Medora:

It is the nicest looking buggy on the Peninsula – just what I wanted – a low, high-backed seat phaeton – rubber tired, roll back top.  Eva told me it was dilapidated but there is nothing wrong except a piece out of one tire.  It is not so shining new looking as the big buggy but it looks like the city and home to me…

Mary Woods Little, c 1955 – “Nana at 75”

There are not pictures or other references to that conveyance.  I don’t know who hitched it up for her, where she went in it, or how long she had it.  I doubt very much if she went grocery shopping in it.  After all, in those days there were vegetables and fruits in the garden or ‘put up for winter’ in the pantry, there were kids at home to run to the Sam Andrews’ store just up the street for dry goods and, in the summer, Theophilus Goulter came house-to-house, once a week, with his meat wagon.

I’m unclear about my Bostonian grandmother.  She and my grandfather lived in the West Roxbury neighborhood.  Perhaps there were shops nearby or perhaps my grandfather took her into town once a week.  Whatever arrangements she made, she carried on independently in her own home, even after she was widowed.  Though I was well into my twenties by the time she died, I was too young and too far away to pay close attention to the details.  Isn’t that always the way?

A Tea and Posy Day

Saturday, May 13th, 2017

My Grandmother’s Teapot

It’s not every day that our doorbell rings twice, each time with a lovely surprise.  But yesterday it did!  First came Pat Fagerland and, although she was ‘expected’ and we had planned to have tea, she immediately began pulling surprises out of her commodious bag of tricks.  First came a carton of half and half, next a package of cookies, followed by a tea infuser, a package of Earl Gray tea – everything we needed for a tea party except the hot water and the cups and saucers!  It was like Mary Poppins had come calling!

Willard, Edwin, Dale – 1916

We had a lovely “catch-up” afternoon and even with a bit of ‘family history’ thrown in.  Although I’m sure we had used the little blue teapot before, I hadn’t told Pat its story so yesterday I did.  The teapot was a birthday gift to my grandmother from my mother back in 1917.

Mom was five (and a half!) years old.  She had been saving her money to buy her Mama a present and asked her father’s permission to ride Danny to Trondsen and Petersen’s store in Nahcotta to make a special purchase all on her own.  Family friend Dean Nelson worked there and helped her choose the beautiful little blue teapot.  It cost the full amount she had saved – twenty-five cents!  Dean wrapped it carefully with brown paper and tied it securely around little Date’s waist – (Papa wouldn’t let the children use saddles; “too dangerous” he said) and she trotted home with her precious package.  It’s been in use in this house ever since.

While Pat was here, the doorbell rang once more.  “Flower delivery!  Happy Mother’s Day!”  The florists had outdone themselves once again!  A gorgeous bouquet and never mind that they had forgotten to note who it was from on the card.  I was pretty sure it was Charlie, though I did call to double-check!  So many people do so many nice things for me these days – like bring a tea party in a bag! – that I just had to make certain that those gorgeous posies were from my son!

It was a grand Friday – one full of reminders of the many blessings of friendship and family!  And this morning – a little sunshine to bask in!  It doesn’t get much better.

The Tip of the Little Iceberg

Saturday, May 6th, 2017

Mary Woods Little, My “Nana”

Your great-great-great-great grandfather Woodworth came from England (what part not known) fought with General Wolf at Quebec (in what capacity not known).  He retired from the army and settled in Nova Scotia where his son William was born and married.  His wife died leaving him with five sons, most of whom settled in Nova Scotia.  He then married a young widow with one daughter and came to New Brunswick where they had seven children.  Your great great grandfather was the second child of the second marriage.

Thus, began a letter from my Grandmother Little to my father, William Woodworth Little.  (So, when applied to me, add another great.)  She commented that it was a rainy day in Boston – their first since May – and the letter was dated October 8th.  No year.  But it was probably in the 1950s since she mentions my grandfather (Dad’s asleep) and he died in 1960.

“The Death of General Wolfe” by Benjamin West

Apparently, my grandmother wasn’t much on dates or names.  Her genealogical information falls more within the ‘oral history’ category – fascinating stories but not enough concrete data to help fill in the family tree without a lot of research.  I do remember – not from my history books but from our trip to Quebec last fall – that General Wolfe died from wounds received in the battle of the Plains of Abraham in 1759.  I wonder if my five-times-great-grandfather was on that battlefield with him.  Maybe I was walking in his very footsteps and didn’t know it!

A Well-Read Copy

Your great-great-great-great grandfather Palmer came from Newbury Port Mass, when U.S. was a British possession.  There were three brothers Palmer.  They were Loyalists, and fled to Canada from New York Harbor, as refugees, fleeing from the Rebels.  They settled St. John New Brunswick (read Kenneth Roberts’ “Oliver Wiswell.”)  A stone may still be seen (1949) in St. John’s old cemetery with the name Palmer on it.  One of the Palmer brothers married Mary Branch who came from Kennebec, Maine. The had 13 children and your great-great grandmother was the 12th child.        There are some books published containing accounts of the early settlers of New Brunswick and among the names of the prominent men is that of Joseph Palmer.

Yikes!  Too much information.  Or not enough.  Maybe I’ll just settle for reading some of Kenneth Roberts’ novels.  He was a favorite of my father’s (now I know why) when I was just beginning to learn to decipher the “Dick and Jane” books.

“With Morning Gusto!”

Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017

Early Morning Memory

Sometimes, when you least expect it, someone claps and cheers for you.  It’s the best kind of medicine of all, laughter notwithstanding.  This very morning I woke up to a wonderfully long letter from my friend Ruth that was overflowing with all sorts of bolstering thoughts.  She wrote it in response to a recent email of my own – that my days seemed to be one long string of frittering and non-accomplishment.  You know, one of those whiny, woe-is-me thoughts that you are later ashamed of.

Ruth’s Sequel

Ruth has a way with words.  Plus she has the biggest heart I know.  It’s a fabulous combination as those who take the Chinook Observer know.  For the last half year or so, “By Ruth Chamberlin” appears monthly over her column on the Editorial and Opinion page.  Its focus is on her family – one of the most unusual you may ever come across in real life!

Ruth has written two novels based – as much as novels can be – on her family.  Her columns, though, aren’t fiction.  They might come under the heading ‘more fabulous than fiction’ and are full of the adventures, accomplishments, joys and angst that she and husband Burt and their many adopted, ethnically diverse children have experienced.  And I’d like to add to that sentence (but it’s already too long) ‘while the rest of us were just leading our rather ordinary or at least somewhat normal lives.’

A Posy from Ruth

Of course, Ruth would never see it that way.  That’s the thing about Ruth.  She sees the unusual and the special and the terrific everywhere she looks.  And when her gaze is fastened upon you and she writes you about it, your own heart is uplifted beyond measure.  “Good Morning, Sydney.  It’s 4 a.m. and I’m thinking of you…” she begins.  Imagine!  I didn’t need to read any further to feel all puffed up!

Ruth, you are a wonder!  If only we could all follow your example, our cranky old world would surely be a better place.  I’m so glad that my corner of it includes you!