Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Some things DO change…

Tuesday, July 7th, 2020

Medora, 1914

A year ago I could have titled this “Some things don’t change…” but this year, of course, that’s not so true.

This morning we had to rush terribly to get our camping outfit on the stage.  Bob fixed the camera.  It had had lots of sand in it.  Papa took us to Nahcotta in the lumber wagon drawn by the colts (Emp and Queenie).  The bumps were awful.  We fooled around Moreheads’ till about one.  Holland Houston came down from the Park with Ruth C. and Marge.  The ride over to the Nemah in the launch Edna was wonderful.  Dote and I sat up in front, rather lied.  Ruth Hag. was our chaperone.  Upon arriving at Prior’s landing was much surprized to find the whole family there except Ethel who is a week old bride.  Priors helped us pitch camp.  Adam was down to dinner.  Had a bonfire.  Slept on the ground in the tent.  Rather uncomfortable.  Gene W. is attractive.

Medora’s Makeshift Garters — Nemah Camping Trip, 1914

Medora (my mother’s eldest sister) was fifteen and, as far as I know, this was her first (and perhaps only) camping trip.  As is always the case when I am dealing with old family documents of one kind and another, I wish my mother were here to elucidate.  (I’m sure she’d “tut-tut” over Medora’s use of “lied,”  however.  So did I.)

I do know some of  Medora’s  references, though.  “Bob” was Papa’s cousin Robert Oliver who lived here in Oysterville for a few years and was a great favorite with the entire family.  “Morehead’s” in Nahcotta was, of course, John Morehead’s store (which Jack’s Country Store proudly claims as a forebear). “Ruth Hag” was Ruth Richardson Hagadorn, my grandmother’s younger sister — about  ten years older than Medora.  The Priors were family friends who lived on the Nemah River.  Their large family included Willie, Marion, Ethel, and Adam.

“Dote” was Portland Academy friend, Dorothy Strowbridge, about whom Medora later wrote: “Mother doesn’t approve of Dote.”  (I wonder if my own mother would have known why.)  Ruth Connell, “Ruth C..” was in the class ahead of Medora at Portland Academy and “Marge” was her sister, perhaps in Medora’s class.  Their family had a summer place in Ocean Park.

Camp Keepsake

“Holland Huston” was from Portland and, though somewhat older than Medora, was perhaps also a schoolmate  at Portland Academy.  His family had a summer place in Ocean Park or Nahcotta and he seemed to be part of the Portland Summer Group that Medora saw occasionally during the summers of 1914 and 1915.  She had a bit of a crush on Holland — but not so much that she didn’t take note of  the mysterious “Gene W.”   And, in that respect, certainly, Pandemic or No Pandemic — some things do not change much at all!












Mother’s Day Thoughts

Sunday, May 10th, 2020

Mother’s Day 2011

To me, Mother’s Day always seems a bittersweet celebration.  Even when I was young, not yet married or a mother myself, I was well aware that my own mother’s thoughts were not so much on the flowers I gave her on her special day, but on her own mother who had recently died.   And so it is, even now.  How can we help but focus on our own mothers, whether or not we are mothers, ourselves?

Oddly, I dreamed about my mother last night.  Dad and Nyel were with us and we seemed to be on a trip.  We were eating lunch in a very crowded second-story restaurant and, when it came time to leave, there were extra coats and luggage to carry which Nyel and I managed for the folks.

Dale Espy Little, 1999 — “Mom at 88”

Apparently, the plan was to go next door and make our hotel reservations for the night but when we arrived at the reception desk, Mom wasn’t with us.  I was dispatched to find her.  It didn’t take long.  She was down the street, shopping for a spring bonnet!  Try as I might, I couldn’t convince her that assuring ourselves of a place to stay for the night just might take priority over a new chapeau.

I woke up smiling and thinking, “Typical!  Mom never would have chosen the practical over the enjoyable or the mundane rather than the flamboyant!”   And, I was sure that if the dream had come to a conclusion (which they never seem to do), she’d have had her hat and a room for the night as well.   Things would have turned out just fine for her!   They almost always did.

So on this Mother’s Day 2020, as beloved as my own children have made me feel, my thoughts, too, are with my own mother  (who would be 108 in her new hat!!!) and to everyone who is celebrating this day with their own bittersweet thoughts.  Stay safe, stay well, and count all your blessings!

Looking Forward by Looking Back

Wednesday, April 15th, 2020

My grandmother, her daughter Medora, her sister Ruth – 1907

My grandmother never left the premises, not even to go to the  neighbors’ up the street, without wearing hat and gloves.  In her turn, my mother wore a hat for every occasion, but after the 1950s not so much the gloves.  Except for something “dressy.”

It never occurred to me before, but now that my hair is growing wilder and my nails are falling apart, I can see the wisdom of their ways.  Hats hide a multitude of sins.  Gloves even more so.

Little Miss Dale Espy in Hat – 1913

Tomorrow or the next day, Nyel and I have vowed to give one another a bit of a trim.  I know I’ll come out the winner on that one.  Nyel has had years of “trim practice” with his mustache and beard.  Me… not so much.  But he is a very trusting soul and so, what the heck?  Besides, hats are a great cover up, no matter what, and he does look handsome in a snappy fedora or a seasonal Panama.

Dale Espy Little, 1999

My nails aren’t quite so easy.  The only gloves I ever wear are gardening gloves.  So maybe there’s a message here?  Maybe until my nail technician and I can renew our acquaintance, I’d best be out doing good works in the flower beds.

I know that we aren’t alone in our unkempt condition.  Others are beginning to whine and moan on FB — just like I am right now!  But that doesn’t make me feel much better about it.  By my count, it’s been nine weeks since I had a haircut.   Hats are definitely the answer!  My mother and grandmother would be so proud.  Finally!





Easter Sunday – April 12, 1936

Sunday, April 12th, 2020

L to R: Mary “Molly” Woods Little holds Sydney Medora Little, William Woods, William”Bill” Woodworth Little

I don’t know how often it happens that one year is the mirror image of another, but I do know that during this year, 2020, the days and dates are exactly as they were the year of my birth, 1936.  So it is, that this very day, Easter Sunday, April 12, 2020, marks the 84th anniversary of my christening.

I was six weeks and two days old.  The big event took place at the home of my paternal grandparents in Boston, near Newton, Massachusetts where I lived with my mom and dad.  My great-grandfather, Rev. William Woods, a retired Methodist minister, did the honors.  I don’t remember a thing about it and neither does anyone else now living.  I’m glad I have the photos.

Big-Bumpa — that’s what I would call my great-grandfather; my grandfather  was Bumpa, of course — was 92 years old.  He lived up in an attic apartment of my grandparents’ home and I remember him very well, indeed.  He lived to be 97 and one of my toddler delights was to visit him on Sundays.

Sydney and William Woods (Big Bumpa)

He would be sitting in his rocking chair, singing hymns in his wonderfully deep voice (“a preacher’s voice” the family said) but when I appeared he would stop his singing and tell me nursery rhymes, instead. The one I’ve never forgotten went like this:

There was a man in our town,
And he was wondrous wise,
He jumped into a bramble bush,
And scratched out both his eyes.
And when he saw his eyes were out,
With all his might and main,
He jumped into the bramble bush,
And scratched them in again.

Oh, and did I say that Big-Bumpa had a British accent, having been born in Diss, Norfolk County, England in 1844?  Somehow, that hearty voice plus his big hug and delighted laughter made the scary feeling in my tummy go away — but I still have a clear memory of the rhyme and of my magnificent Big Bumpa, even though we moved West when I was only three.

I wish everyone a Happy Easter — with all my might and main!



I wonder if my grandparents knew…

Thursday, March 19th, 2020

Harry Albert Espy c. 1895

Today, March 19, 2020, is the first day of Spring.  It’s the earliest arrival of this romantic season since 1896!

My grandfather, Harry Espy, was not yet twenty years old in March of 1896.  He was a student at California College in East Oakland, California, and he, like his older brother and younger sister, were boarding at the home of Dan and Annie Richardson.  And Harry was smitten!

The object of his affections was the oldest Richardson child, seventeen-year-old Helen Medora.  She was beautiful; he was handsome. Their courtship took place under the watchful eyes of her mother or in the company of good friends.  Except, maybe, once. In the Spring of 1896.

“Mama” – Helen Richardson, 1896

Many years later, my grandmother would tell me about taking a ferry from the dock in Berkeley and going clear over to Marin County for the day — to Muir Woods for a picnic  They took a large hamper with cold roasted chicken and sliced ham and potato salad and lemonade.  They ate under a large oak tree.  “Our tree” she still called it.  It was there that Harry proposed and carved their initials in the trunk of the old tree..

I’m not quite sure whether they were escorted that day.  And I would bet dollars to donuts that they weren’t aware that Spring had come early that year…  no doubt, just for them!

With thoughts of Suzita…

Friday, March 13th, 2020

Suzita “Sue” Espy, 1922

I’ve been thinking a lot about my aunt, Suzita Espy Pearson.  I never knew her.  She died of pneumonia in 1932, four years before I was born.  She left a husband (who she had nursed through pneumonia during the weeks previous to her own death) and two young sons, Wallace, 8, and Charles, 4  — 12 and 8 years, respectively, older than I.

Throughout her life, Sue had been susceptible to pneumonia.  In retrospect, it seems a foregone conclusion that she would die of it.   In the following exchange between of letters between Mama at home in Oysterville and  Medora, in boarding school in Portland, Sue is eleven, Medora is 16 and Mama, mother of seven, is 39. 

Medora, 1915

Thursday, March 11, 1915
          Sue is quite comfortable now.  She spent a bad night and we were much depressed this morning, but a half hour ago she raised a great clot of blood and has been breathing easier and is clear headed since.
          Dr. says we can look for no change before Sunday.
                                                   In haste,       Mama

Helen Richardson Espy, 1918

Friday afternoon, March 12, 1915
Dearest sweetest little mother,
          Your short note arrived this morning and if it hadn’t been for my good judgement I would have started for home tonight…So I certainly hope that you don’t need me.  I will come at once on receipt of any kind of message.
          I am so sorry for poor little Sue.  I think she is the best patient in the family which makes it easier for you.
          Please take good care of yourself my dearest mother, because you are so precious to me…
                                                   Lots and lots of love, Medora

Little did any of them know that it would be Medora who would live less than a year more.  She died of a cerebral hemorrhage on January 18, 1916.  I think of them all during these difficult days we all face now, more than a century later, and I admire their courage, their spirit, and their ever abiding love.


A Houseful of Fun and Flowers!

Monday, February 10th, 2020

It was a full weekend in every respect.

The house was full of people — beginning with relatives and friends who were house guests from afar, and ending with a fabulous house concert audience on Sunday to hear  Milt Williams and Barbara Bate, musicians extraordinaire.

And… my heart was full of love and my soul full of laughter.  Even tears, but of the happy/nostaglic variety, were shed at the closing number of the concert — a sing-along of “Edelweiss.”

And there were flowers — the first tulips of the year from the Skagit Valley brought in a valentine-wrapped pot from our friend, Dick.  And the first camellia blossoms from our bush on the east side of the house.  As an extra serandipity,  the rosamundi rhodies still bloomed in the south garden to greet us coming and going.

Mostly, though, the weekend was full of laughter — the giggling kind and the delighted kind and the sore-amazed kind.  It might have been the best weekend ever!

Another First For These Old Ducks!

Sunday, December 1st, 2019

November 30, 2019

Yesterday (and right on time as it turned out) we received a small package in the mail from Austria.  The return address said “Richardson” — my cousins Eva and Lina (and friend Dietmar) who were here in September at the time of Our Grand Affair!  How fun!

We opened it to find a cheerful-looking Christmas card — a special one according to the greeting inside.  In neat “European handwriting” (so different from our public school printing or cursive) it said:  This is an “Adventkalendar.” Beginning with Dec. 1st you open a little window each day until Christmas Eve.  It is an old Austrian tradition and we thought the two of you would like it.  So Merry Chirstmas from over here.  Many many hugs and love, Lina, Eva, & Dietmar,”

Though neither Nyel nor I have ever participated in the Advent tradition with regard to lighting candles or celebrating each day of advent with a small gift — not as children nor as adults — we both associate it with friends and relatives who do.  When I was a child, my good friend Trudy (whose mother was Jewish and father, Catholic) celebrated both Hanukkah (which I also knew  little about) and Christmas.  In my little girl mind the menorah and a small gift for each day leading to Christmas were totally confused and were definitely things I thought our family should be doing as well.

Advent Card, December 1, 2019

So, here at last came a small version of those advent calendars I’d wondered about.  No presents attached to this one.  But, I did a little research to learn that, this year, advent begins on December 1st, so the package from the cousins (and Dietmar) arrived at the perfect time!

This morning, over coffee, Nyel and I opened the tiny window marked “1.”  It revealed a picture of a little girl in a pretty hat.  We didn’t know if had significance or not.  Perhaps we’ll understand a bit more as the next nineteen windows are opened.  At this point, however, the greatest meaning of this lovely little card is that it came from my beloved cousins in Austria and I will be thinking of them each morning as I anticipate the arrival of Christmas!

Not The Big Brother I’d Hoped For

Friday, November 29th, 2019

Living Nightmare

I’ve just about had it with scams and robocalls and junk mail.  I’m tired of my cell phone ringing in the middle of the night and thinking OMG what if it’s one of the kids.  I don’t want any more pleas from my university or someone else’s favorite good cause hoping for my money.  I’m tired of telling live voices not to call again (they always do) and hanging up on the robots and deleting the personalized impersonal emails.  And I’m beginning to get tired of my own FB friends urging me to adopt their good causes.

What is it about these callers and mailers and users of the internet that make them think that I’m not intelligent enough to know which charities I might be interested in — IF I had the where-with-all.  Which I don’t.  Which, I daresay if they are smart enough to get in touch with me, they should know — from my buying habits if not from my bank account (god forbid) — that “Discretionary Income” is not my middle name.  I feel like Big Brother has taken on a capitalistic persona to the max.

Our House In Alameda

When I was five and we first moved to Alameda, we lived next door to a family who rented Mrs. Musso’s upstairs apartment.  They had a boy about my own age  — maybe his name was Jimmy — and I remember talking to him through our upstairs windows.  For some reason, I began telling people that he was my brother.

Did he and I decide together upon this relationship?  I don’t remember.  I do know that, as an only child, I very much wanted a brother — an older one who would pave the way for me.  I don’t think Jimmy would have filled the bill, but before we could put it to the test my mother had a talk with me (about truthfulness) and Jimmy and his family moved away.  I always wondered (with a five-year-old’s logic) if my mother had a talk with Jimmy, too.

Sydney, 1941

I don’t think their moving was related to my story-telling, but I do know that every time I hear the words “Big Brother is Watching” I think of that five-year-old’s fantasy and of how chagrined I felt when I was caught out by my mother. I also connect the Big Brother syndrome to those persistent communications from people I don’t know.   (Strangely, I never relate them to George Orwell or his book 1984.) But, I do wish my mom was still around to have a talk, not with me this time, but with Big Brother.  And truthfulness.  Maybe he would move away.

The Gift of Time

Monday, November 25th, 2019

Schoolhouse Clock

Somewhere along the line during the years I was teaching — (1962-2001) — it became unpopular to have a child repeat a grade.  Kindergarten parents, especially, were appalled that their child might “fail” kindergarten.  “Failure” implied some sort of inability to learn or to fit in with peers — unthinkable!  Educators began talking about providing “the gift of time” — which sounded a lot better, somehow, than “repeating a grade.”

I often wondered how my great-grandmother would have thought about that “gift of time.”  She had been a school teacher right here in Oysterville but, of course in those days, had to give up that occupation when she married my great-grandfather.  However, she taught all seven of her children to read and write, instructing them at home until they were eight or nine years old.  I imagine that “gift of time” was built right into doing chores, learning how to take responsibility, working with others and building moral character.  All my great aunts and uncles attended college in the 1890s and 1900s, had successful careers (even the women until they married) and raised their families with love and firmness.

I’m not sure what got me off on this rant — old lady ramblings, I guess.  I actually began this blog with the thought that my own days never have enough time.  Especially enough time to write.  Then I had the irreverent thought that it’s too bad I’m not a poet.  Surely, a poem does not take as long to write as a full-blown story or article.  Or maybe it does…  My poet friends will no doubt weigh in and take me to task.

Einstein was right — time is relative.  For a five year old, a year is a very long time.  To us elders, a year speeds by before we can get our shoes on.  But no matter which end of life’s continuum we find ourselves straddling, as I see it a gift of time is always welcome.