Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Past, present, future – a collision of tears.

Wednesday, January 20th, 2021

It was hard.  It took two-and-a-half hours of hitting re-dial.  But, finally, we are scheduled to get our vaccinations on Friday.  We were asked, apologetically I thought, if we would mind driving to South Bend.  “Not at all,” we said.  Granted, the drive is not without it’s difficulties for us.  But… mind?  “Not at all!”

We haven’t breathed that first sigh of relief just yet.  But by Friday afternoon, we’ll no doubt be feeling more hopeful than we have in almost a year.  Hopeful that we may get through this most difficult of times without undo hardship — at least, as is the case so far, nothing we can’t handle.  By my birthday at February’s end, we should be facing the world with a bit more enthusiasm, even though still distanced and masked.

And we are SO grateful to our friends who got in touch yesterday morning.  “They are starting to schedule at ten o’clock,”  we were told.  “Call the County Health Department,” they urged.  And to other friends who posted on FaceBook — “just keep dialing,”  they encouraged.  We did and we are so glad.

Then, this morning… we watched Kamala Harris and Joe Biden take their oaths of office.  It was a beautifully orchestrated ceremony and I’m happy to say that I wept throughout it all.  Tears of joy and hope and reassurance.  But of it all, what will stay with me is the image of the Biden Family Bible — worn and well-used and “decades old” said the news commentator.  Because it looks so much like our Pryor Family Bible, I’d say “centuries old.”  Ours, printed in 1846, first belonged to my four times great-grandfather.  It is also huge and also looks a bit battered.  I loved it that President Biden brought his ancestors to the inauguration with him.

All-in-all, it’s a big week in our household — a week that clearly binds us to the rest of our nation and the world in such disparate ways.  Let the mending and the strengthening begin!

Goodbye To An Old, Old Friend

Thursday, December 17th, 2020

Boxtop With Cliff House Watercolor (c. 1880s)

Last night I spoke by telephone to my old high school friend, Neil MacPhail, who lives in San Francisco.  It was one of those “covers-the-waterfront catch-up” kinds of calls and, among other things, he mentioned that the Cliff House Restaurant was closing; he’d seen it in the morning Chronicle.  The last time Neil and I saw one another was when we met there for lunch three years ago.  “You and Nyel were on your way to Santa Cruz to see Sandy…”

The Cliff House and I go back a long, long way.  Not quite to its beginnings in 1863 when “the First Cliff House” was built, but certainly as far back as 1896 when the first renovation occurred.  My grandmother wrote of dining there before her 1897 marriage to my grandfather.  Apparently, the two families had gone for a celebratory meal and she told of a conversation she’d had there with her soon-to-be brother-in-law, Ed.  A “city girl,” she was anticipating her honeymoon trip to Washington.  She wrote years later:

My Grandmother Helen Richardson (Espy), 1896

I didn’t know what to expect of Oysterville.  Ed had kept talking about “the ranch” but when I asked him if he lived in the country he said, “Oh no, our house is right in the center of town.”

But, on her arrival,I saw people pumping water out in their front yards and taking it into the house in buckets.  But the Espys were more civilized.  Their pump was on the back porch.  Even so, Mother Espy was using whale ribs as chicken perches…” 

Among my treasures is a very battered little wooden box in which my grandmother kept her childhood treasures  — paper dolls and little books that she and her friend Mary Wallace had made beginning in 1887 when they were eleven.  On the cover of the box is a delicately painted watercolor of the Cliff House.  I wonder when she got it and what it originally contained.

Cliff House, 1950s (Was I working that day?)

Years later, during the summers of 1953 and 1954, I worked at the Cliff House Gift Shop earning money for college.  I mostly remember selling teacups and saucers which seemed to be all the rage as collectibles.  But I also remember that, on occasion, one of my high school friends — perhaps on a day off from their own summer job — would come over and meet me for lunch.  Corn dogs, I think, purchased from a stand just down the hill from the Cliff House’s front door.  Perhaps one of those friends was Neil…

Neil and I reminisced and lamented the iconic restaurant’s closing.  “Perhaps someone will come to its rescue,” we said.  We can but hope.



And the winner is…

Friday, November 27th, 2020

Wachsmuth Family Thanksgiving, November 26, 2020

If I were the deciding judge in a world-wide contest for  best “Holiday Gatherings During Covid” poster, I’d choose the 2020 Wachsmuth Family Thanksgiving photograph!  It arrived in my mailbox last night and I truly wish I knew if such a competition exists.  I think it would win hands down!

Our own photograph of Thanksgiving Scaled Down pales by comparison.  Besides which, even for a fabulous dinner for two, the chef here labored all afternoon in the kitchen and left ‘nary pot nor pan unused.  In fact, my first thought when I saw the Wachsmuth celebration photo was, “Lucky Carol!”  Even counting many willing hands to make light work, a virtual dinner for 17 is less work for everyone, both before and after.

I am assuming, of course, that the heavy lifting for their virtual dinner this year was done by  Tucker.  Not only is he an artist by training, but what I think of as his main body of work — A Christmas Card for each of the 50 years he and Carol have been married — has everything to do with family.  And I see by the recipients listed on the email for this Thanksgiving greeting, it had everything to do with family, as well.

Thanksgiving Dinner for Two

Besides that, the few times we’ve seen our Wachsmuth neighbors from afar in the last few weeks, the answer to  “What have you been up to these days?” has been a vague, “Oh you know… just puttering.”  “Some puttering!” we say!  Perhaps later Nyel can repeat his reaction when he saw the photograph, “This is amazing!  I wonder how much time it took him?”   And maybe Tucker will tell us.

But, maybe not.  You never can tell with artists!


In Honor of the Day

Thursday, November 26th, 2020

This year, our only turkey is this painting by a long-ago second grader.

Nyel and I have decided to make this Thanksgiving as memorable as we can and for all the right reasons.  We woke up recounting our blessings which began, of course, with family and friends — so many people who have been uncommonly good to us during this strangest of years.  How we wish we could exchange real hugs for this season’s virtual ones!

We’ve decided to pull out all the stops for our celebratory dinner.  My great-grandmother’s serving dishes, my grandmother’s china and crystal, my own silver place settings will adorn our table.  The  meal will feature a roast chicken (not one of ours!), garlic mashed potatoes, asparagus, and shrimp laden avocado halves all topped off by a dessert of Pear Kuchen from a recipe by Mary Funk.  We are even “dressing” for the occasion — Nyel in white shirt and vest and me in something other than jeans and a sweatshirt — a closet search is the order of the morning.

My Grandparents’ Golden Wedding Dinner, Thanksgiving Day 1947, Moby Dick Hotel

Nyel is recording the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the National Dog Show which we’ll watch this afternoon accompanied by guacamole and chips and an iced beverage or two.  (Watching television before nightfall is the height of decadence for me.  For Nyel, not so much, but together it will feel celebratory, indeed!)

And this evening, a “conference call” with Marta and Charlie.  It will put a cap on what we hope will be an “almost normal” Thanksgiving during this strangest of times — hopefully a day of peace, safety, and good health for us and for all our friends and loved ones.  And, most of all, a prayer for better days ahead.

The Blessings of Becoming Old

Saturday, September 5th, 2020

Dale Espy Little – “Mom” 2010

My mother used to talk about “the secrets of old age” which were mostly those by-products of aging that people in her generation never talked about — chin whiskers and thinning hair for women, for instance.  But, she never really talked about the blessings of becoming old.  Not in so many words, anyway.

One of the greatest blessings, as I see it, is the opportunity to “know” your children as they march toward their own “golden years.”  And, of course, if you are blessed with grandchildren and great- grandchildren and even great-greats, seeing them grow up and take their place in the family and in the community is a peek into the future that is the best kind of blessing of all.

Charlie and Marta – September 22, 2019

Both my son Charlie and my step-daughter Marta are now into their social security years, and I couldn’t be prouder or more delighted with either of them!  Both have “turned out well” as they say.  They are socially and politically astute, have pursued their individual talents, are independent in all respects, yet have kept their ties to family and long-time friends.  Even more importantly, we enjoy being with each other and, now that I am approaching my own dotage, I am happy to seek (and mostly follow) their advice, especially concerning this rapidly changing world that they now understand far better than I.

Dale, Sydney, Charlie – 1959

I’ve been thinking of our relationships, our gradual role reversals (perhaps), and of how proud I am of both of them.  This is the weekend of the Williams Family Reunion — an annual affair here on the Peninsula which is now in it’s 80th-something year.  For the first time ever, it is going to be a zoom reunion and, therefore, for the first time ever, Marta and Charlie can attend — Marta from the S.F. Bay Area and Charlie from L.A.  I’m so pleased that I will be able to introduce them to a whole new side of their family and vice-versa!

Marta, c. 1959

So… I really have to say that this will be a kind of back-handed perk of the pandemic.  In person, up-close-and-personal reunions are the best, of course — but maybe this taste of Williams inclusiveness and hospitality will get the two of them up here for the next one.  And that would be yet another blessing!

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!