Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

The Proof is in the Pudding

Monday, July 9th, 2018

Willie Bays

Besides the enjoyment of having ‘honorary grandchildren’ visit every summer, their being here is a chance for me to stay in touch (at least a little bit) with the current world of parenting.  I’ve been out of the elementary classroom for sixteen years now and so my knowledge of kids and parents is more-or-less from afar.  Having the Bays family here is a rare opportunity, albeit of limited duration, to see how things have changed – both since I was teaching and the far greater ‘since’ when Marta and Charlie were still under my roof.

Owen Bays

I think that I raised my own children in much the same manner as I was brought up.  I look back on my ‘parenting’ (a word I don’t remember as part of the lexicon) as a rather passive position.  Kids simply grew up.  The adults of the household were responsible for feeding, clothing, and looking out for matters of health and safety.  The ‘terrible twos’ and ‘those teenaged years’ were times to pay close attention and there was a lot of

Marta LaRue

sympathetic sighing on the part of other parents.  Otherwise… not many worries.

We didn’t really worry about their education; that was the teacher’s job.  If we didn’t think the teacher was quite up to snuff, we might try to supplement a bit at home or (rarely) arrange for a parent/teacher/kid conference.  Otherwise, there was a separation between home and school – even though both the adults in our home were teachers.

Nor did we concern ourselves much about socialization.  That just “happened.”  In our case, we purposely moved into a neighborhood that had a diverse population and then we let the natural course of playing with “the kids next door” take care of itself.  Neither Marta nor Charlie were particularly interested in joining things.  Charlie tried cub scouts and found it too boring for words.  Marta joined a dancing class but found that she would rather be with her school or neighborhood friends.

Charlie Howell

And, our answer to “media concerns” was that we didn’t get a television until about the time that teachers began requiring kids to watch certain shows for homework.  I think that was when Charlie was in fourth or fifth grade and, by then, both he and Marta had plenty of other interests besides being glued to the tube.  I’m pretty sure that wasn’t a life-stunting decision on our part.  After all, Charlie’s career was as a writer for Saturday Morning television cartoons – an award-winning career at that.  And Marta was a musician and performer – a doer rather than a watcher.

Every visit with the Bays brothers and their folks is an eye-opener.  I really wish that I had been as involved and as aware as a parent.  On the other hand… Marta and Charlie turned out just great.  And, as they say, the proof is in the pudding!

Here comes the Bays Family!

Friday, July 6th, 2018

January 2018 Calencar Collage

We’ve considered the Bays Boys our honorary grandkids since before they were born.  They’ve come to Oysterville and stayed with us every summer —  and sometimes during other seasons —  since before they were born.  Last Christmas, I think the sobriquet (I’m not sure that word applies, but you know what I mean) became official when they sent us a calendar full of family photos.  It is on our refrigerator and we have the pleasure of ‘seeing’ them every day.

July 2018 Calendar Collage

We began the year with the photographs devoted to the family – every one of them, except Owen, wearing a hat.  This month is all about Owen at the beach.  In September we’ll spend the month with Willie.  Other months it might be their backyard chickens or the family in Ireland or on an outing nearer home in Olympia. The calendar has been a wonderful connection (albeit one-way and a year late) with them all.  But it won’t prepare us for seeing them in person… especially the boys.  Randal says they’ve been working out all year and they are both “buff.”

September 2018 Calendar Collage

We do keep up spasmodically by telephone.  Usually, it’s Randall who calls to find out how we are and what we are up to.  Then, we get his take on the various activities of his two teenaged sons and, sometimes, a taste of the angst that accompanies family life in the fast lane these days. He keeps us apprised of the uncertainties of Susan’s work as a researcher/biologist (She’s Dr. Susan Waters) for the State.  And we get caught up on Randall’s musical travels and teaching.  (BTW, his anual Irish Music Camp – Cascadia Irish Music Week – begins August 5th at Evergreen College.)

We haven’t had an in-person visit for… has it been a year?!?  We can’t wait!  They’ll be here sometime this afternoon.  And, of course, they’ll be playing at Vespers on Sunday!  I hope they have a full house!

The Anticipation Factor

Tuesday, February 6th, 2018

Dale Espy – 1916

I’ve been wondering… is anticipation the opposite of memory?  When you begin to lose one, does the other disappear too?

I thought I’d check the internet to see if there might be a study or two on that relationship.  OMG!  Try dozens!  With fancy titles, too.  “Synchronization of map-based neurons with memory and synaptic delay.”  Or “The effect of anticipation and the specificity of sex differences for amygdala and hippocampus function in emotional memory.”  Got that?

Okay.  So, it seems clear that I didn’t make up that connection between memory and anticipation.  Once again, I am reminded that Mark Twain was probably right when he said, “There is no such thing as a new idea.”  I am also reminded of the experts’ proclivity for parsing and analyzing and examining every possible phenomenon to the nth degree (a mathematical term dating back to 1752, in case you wondered.)

I first noticed the connection between anticipation and memory with my mother.  In her late eighties and until her death at almost 98, she suffered increasingly from dementia.  One very stormy evening we picked her up from the nursing home in Long Beach to bring her home to Oysterville for dinner.  As always, she was delighted to see us and let herself be bundled up in rainhat and waterproof coat.

Dale Espy Little at 95

But in the few steps between the doorway and the car, as the rain pelted her from all sides, she became terrified.  She began to cry uncontrollably and we were hard pressed to get her into the car and out of the weather.  Never mind any reassuring promises and urgings on our part.  She simply could not understand that the situation would change for the better once she got into the car.  Every moment of ‘now’ was forever.  As soon as she was situated in the passenger seat, her tears stopped and she became interested in the process of getting her seat belt fastened.  Just like that!  No wailing.  No tears.  No memory of her distress.

It was a visceral realization to me that without a past, there is no future.  And when our own present becomes interminable, it behooves us to surround ourselves with sunshine and chocolates and with people we love. If we can only remember to plan ahead…

Super Moon! Wolf Moon! Charlie’s Moon!

Tuesday, January 2nd, 2018

Wolf Moon

Last night we took turns talking to Charlie the old-fashioned way – by telephone, one at a time.  I think that we have skype possibilities but that didn’t occur to us.  We just wanted to tell him “Happy New Year” and so we called.  It was Marta who enthused to him that “his” moon was gorgeous over the bay, “Yes.  Your moon!  Charlie Howell.  Wolf Moon. Get it?” she said.

I don’t know what his response was, but her remark opened up an entire line of thought that had never occurred to me.  That Charlie is a night person I have known for more than half a century.  But never before have I associated his last name with the howl of a wolf, nor made a connection between Charlie and the moon.  Not even with this Super Moon which is also called a Wolf Moon.

WWII Beach Patrol

Almost simultaneously, I thought about my grandfather who once had a run-in with the World War II Night Patrol as they clip-clopped on horseback through Oysterville one moonlight night.  Papa was on the roof replacing some shingles and the young Coast Guardsmen ordered him down.  “Don’t you know there’s a blackout, sir?”  one asked.  I don’t know whether Papa came down or not but I do know that he replied, “Don’t you know that God put that moon up there, son?”  It was an oft repeated story by family and neighbors.

Much to my grandmother’s everlasting irritation, my grandfather was a night person of the first order.  Despite her calls down to the room they called the nursery, “Come to bed, Harry!” he seldom complied until the sky was already growing light in the east.  He’d arrive, fully dressed and wide awake, in the dining room for breakfast about the time the rest of us were about to have lunch.  As a child, I never thought that was peculiar.  It was just Papa.

Early Morning Moon Through Our Window

I can’t imagine why I have never thought that my own son’s upside-down sleeping habits might be genetic.  Or was it some subliminal understanding that passed between them the one time they met and Papa, in his eighty-third year, cradled his seven-month old great-grandson with such delight and affection?

Wolf Moon.  Charlie Howell.  Night person like Papa.  Working by moonlight.  Just sayin’…

Helen, Mary, Marta, and Me

Thursday, December 28th, 2017

Marta with Mary’s Letters

One hundred thirty years ago, in 1887, Helen Richardson and Mary Wallace lived three houses apart in East Oakland, California.  They were nine years old and were best friends. Ten years later Mary would marry a musician named Hamlin and would move to Santa Barbara; not too many years after that Helen moved to Oysterville as Mrs. Harry Espy.  They were bridesmaids at one another’s weddings, remained friends throughout their lives, and visited one another whenever circumstances permitted. When I was a little girl, my grandmother Helen sometimes told me of their childhood tea parties and of the pet monkey given to Mary by her uncle.

From Mary to Helen, 1887

I can’t remember if we talked about the paper dolls that they created or of the letters they sent back and forth when one of them was sick – letters dutifully delivered by Mary’s father “Postman Wallace.”  A number of years ago, I had the paper dolls framed – a triptych of ball gowns and capes, tea dresses and nightgowns, skirts and bodices, sister-brother outfits, and matching mother-daughter costumes.  They were drawn in exquisite detail using pencil on the backs of notepaper, wallpaper, wrapping paper, advertisements, business cards and whatever else came to hand.

Children at Play by Mary Wallace, 1887

Still tucked away with a few remaining paper dolls is a little envelope chock-full of the “letters” between Helen and Mary.  Some contain plans for paper doll activities:  Paper dolls marrage [sic] at Addie Blood’s home.  By Helen. Some refer to books they are reading – Little Women, Little Men, Robinson Crusoe.  Most contain plans for their next get-togethers, often scheduled for later that very day.

Triptych of Paper Dolls

Yesterday after breakfast, I ‘introduced’ those little girls of long ago to Marta.  We spent an hour or so, poring over the old-fashioned handwriting and marveling at the detail of Mary’s drawings.  Unfortunately, we don’t have the ‘other side’ of the correspondence – the letters that Helen sent to her friend.  Were they, too, illustrated with such intricate detail?  We can only surmise and be grateful that Helen saved as much as she did – especially for us.  Or so I like to think!

The Sad. The Glad. The Unexpected.

Wednesday, December 27th, 2017

2017 Christmas Portrait by Tucker

Yesterday was December 26th – Let Down Day.   Like the day after most big events, it was a little bit of a bummer.  The surprises were over.  Charlie said his goodbyes and headed homeward and I know I’ll be holding my breath til he calls that he is back and safe.  There was still a lot of cleaning up to do and we felt a little half-hearted as well as a little frantic about getting it done.  All a part of Let Down Day.

Marta’s Plan

On the other hand, Nyel was still feeling well and one of the girls presented him with a gorgeous brown egg – the fourth in the last ten or twelve days!  Marta is staying for another week and, as always, is up for whatever presents itself.  She has plans to go clamming for littlenecks on the bay, to take up our neighbor’s offer of a sauna, and to spend more time looking at family keepsakes.  Her positive energy is contagious and I try not to think of the next big Let Down Day next week when she bids us adieu.

Party! Party! Party!

Late in the afternoon, we opened our front door to visitors bearing armloads of gifts!  Michael, Lynn, and Regina came laden with cookies and banana bread, and home-made manicotti!  They stayed just long enough for us to catch up with the past year and for Nyel and I to realize that, so far, this newish friendship has been pretty much one-way!  In fact, this last year we’ve experienced that feeling a lot.  We are truly blessed, but still and yet… how to reciprocate to so many for so much?

As is often the way, our thoughts are focused on a party.   A Valentines Party all about hearts – as in ‘from the bottom of ours.’

Names, Games, and Game-Changers

Wednesday, December 20th, 2017

My Great-Great Grandmother, Rachel Medora Pryor Taylor

A few years ago, I was at a dinner party and the hostess asked the group (six of us, as I remember) if we knew the maiden names of both of our grandmothers.  She and I were the only ones who did.  When it came to our great-grandmothers, I was the only one who could ‘pass the test’ – not surprising given my Uncle Willard’s lifelong interest in our family genealogy and his delight in sharing his findings with all of us.

Now that and other similar programs have become popular, I think a greater percentage of those dinner guests could probably name their most immediate forebears.  Not only that, but I imagine they might know something about those progenitors – where they lived and what they did for a living, and where they were born. If they were not born in the United States, perhaps their descendants might even know the circumstances under which they came to this country.

My Great- Great Grandmother, Sara Rand Richardson

What most of us probably wouldn’t be able to answer is whether or not our forebears entered the United States ‘legally.’   To answer that question, of course, it’s necessary to know what the immigration laws, if any, were at the time those brave souls left everything behind to begin a new life.  Or… were there any laws at all?  There weren’t always, you know.  The very first immigration law in our country was the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.  Since that time, there have been many quotas and rules and regulations and hoops to jump through, all depending, of course, on the political climate of the time.

These are thoughts that course through my mind every single time I hear or read the smug comments such as the one in today’s Letters to the Editor in the Chinook Observer.  It begins Once again you feature a story about the detention of an illegal alien. Just the terminology telegraphs negativity, at least to me.  My mind immediately goes to little green extraterrestrials who are up to no good.   I much prefer “undocumented immigrant” or “unauthorized immigrant” but I’m certainly not so naïve as to think changing our vocabulary on this issue will resolve any problems.

My Great-Great Grandmother, Elizabeth Carson Espy

I don’t think it would be amiss if people knew a bit about their own grands and greats and great-greats.  More importantly, they should find out the circumstances under which their own families got here (all of us, except possibly our indigenous population, originally arrived from somewhere else) and what, exactly, the immigration laws were at the time.  That would be a start, perhaps, to figuring out why we got to where we are today and how we might solve some of the immigration difficulties we are facing.

So… let’s begin.  Do you know the maiden names of your eight great-great grandmothers?

I can scarce believe my eyes!

Friday, December 15th, 2017

Cards!  Cards!  Cards!  Against all odds, Christmas Cards and Seasons Greetings are arriving in droves!  Each day our little P.O. Box is full to over-flowing and, already, the piano-top is crowded with colorful expressions of love and friendship.

We open them eagerly – usually as we are eating our lunch, reading each message and the wonderful, newsy letters aloud.  Sometimes, I have that “we’ve turned into our parents” sort of flashback that becomes more familiar with each passing year.  Always, I save the envelopes with their return addresses – ‘just in case.’  A ridiculous habit, really, considering I just emptied the big bowl full of last year’s accumulation.

This is the third or fourth year that we (make that ‘I’) haven’t sent cards.  My exceedingly lame excuse is “no time” which makes no sense at all now that we are (make that ‘I am’) retired and, especially this year, with all those long days sitting at Nyel’s hospital bedside.  I’m pretty sure, too, that ‘social media’ and all the connectedness inherent in that phenomenon plays into my inertia.  We have never sent out cards ‘locally’ and, now, we are all closer to one another than ever.  Somehow I fool myself into feeling that Christmas greetings are redundant.

Even so, I feel a little guilty, especially as we bask in the pleasure of cards from near and far.  It’s a guilty feeling that extends right into to our little post office.  Not too long ago, it (the oldest continuously operated post office in the state) was threatened with closure and we were told that the volume of mail handled there would factor heavily in future considerations.  Now that so many of us try to buy into the save-a-tree concept, paying our bills online and even cancelling all those catalogues in favor of online shopping, it seems wrong to cut out Christmas cards, as well.

Still and all… our appreciation for all those greetings knows no bounds!  I keep vowing to send out Valentine’s Cards.  Maybe this year it will actually happen.

Bracelets, Belts, and Knights of Old

Thursday, November 30th, 2017

Sydney’s Many Charms

The Ronco Family – Abby and Dan with Virginia (Gin), 8, and Silas (Si), 10, — came by last night dispensing hugs and laughter and family news in equal measures.  They are among our many Oysterville Red House cousins and it’s not very often that we get to see them on their home turf (Seattle, not the hospital).  Usually, our visits occur in Oysterville and we see them the most often of any of ‘the relatives.’

While Ab and Dan caught up with Nyel, my charm bracelet caught the attention of the kids.   Si was interested in the gold content of the charms – what did fourteen-carat mean anyway? and was the gold nugget from the Yukon pure gold or not.  Questions I had a fairly tough time answering right off the cuff, so to speak, but not nearly as difficult as the questions posed by Gin.

Chastity Belt Charm

In her typically thorough style, Gin went charm by charm, wanting to know what each was, where it came from and, sometimes, why I chose it.  When we got to the pissoir I was hard-pressed to explain, even though Gin has spent time in France and even in Paris, I think.

Pissoirs, of course, are long gone and I had to compare them with porta-potties, but for men only.  I told her how men could see over the ‘privacy wall’ and often doffed their hats to passing ladies as they were relieving themselves. She responded with a semi-smile and a shrug — “It must have been a guy thing,” she seemed to say.


But, her questions about that bit of ancient history paled before those about the chastity belt.  “A belt?  How did you wear it?”  She saw how it could go around your waist “but where did this part go?”

“Your crotch,” chimed in her mom, at that point.  “Why?” both kids asked.  “So you couldn’t have sex,” was Abby’s answer.  “But what was the hole for?” asked Si.  “So the lady could pee,” answered Dan.

The conversation continued long enough for us to cover how the chastity belt was attached (“locked or welded” said Abby) and when they were used (“during the Crusades” said I). But Ab said they’d reserve the big “why” question for car talk on the way home.  I wish I’d have been along on that ride! I think I’d have learned a lot about good parenting in the 21st century – effortless with love, laughter and straightforward information.  Was I ever that smart with my own kids?

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!