Archive for the ‘Friendship’ Category

The Ties That Bind

Saturday, January 26th, 2019

RCMQ, Winter 2016

The Rose City Mixed Quartet arrived yesterday afternoon, brimming over with bedding, towels, food and hugs.  Only it was a ‘bass-less trio’ not a quartet.  Mark was home with a cold and fever and couldn’t accompany Cameron, Helen, and Dale for their Winter Sleepover in Oysterville.  (Not that anyone actually called it that, but we’re hoping it becomes an annual event!)

They timed it, they said, to coordinate with our Friday Night Gathering and so, by a few minutes after five, there were fifteen of us sitting around our library fireplace.  Dale took it upon himself to be the fire-tender, Cameron and Helen passed appetizers, and the conversation flowed.  Sometimes the whole group focused on a single topic; sometimes there were multiple conversations among two or three.  It was never quiet, never dull and, as always, there was a lot of laughter.

Vicki and Fred

Among the first to arrive were Vicki and Fred!  OMG!  We knew they were on their way home, driving their huge, diesel-guzzling rig back from California, but we had no idea that they’d make it in time to walk through our door laden with appetizers “as usual!”  We hope they are back here for good.  No more of this living the RV life and only stopping in once every few years!

Among the snippets of conversation I overheard during the evening was one between Helen and Sue (of Sue and Bill-the-kilt-guy) about northern Montana – a common bond, apparently, where family and close friends live.  (Of course! That six degrees of separation thing.)  Another conversation between Dale and Charlie-the-school-para involved virtual educating and the school’s place in the socialization of kids – again a topic of interest between ‘strangers.’

Sue and Bill, 2016

(No, not exactly strangers, for sure!  I had the fleeting thought that it was Charlie’s late parents George and Martha who were standing near us at the Liberty Theater back in the aughts when we first heard the RCMQ and I introduced myself to them and asked them if they’d consider doing a House Concert in Oysterville.)

Cameron and Carol and Tucker (and maybe Cyndy) were engaged in their own conversation– maybe Portland haunts – I couldn’t hear; and Bill, Steve, John and Nyel were talking local politics.  No one sang although Fred offered to fill in the bass part of Missing Mark.  “We didn’t bring any music,” Helen said, “and I’m one of those who sing by muscle memory.  I need the music in   of me…”  I can’t say I got the nuances of that remark, but Fred probably did.

Tucker and Carol, 2017

Tucker’s show and tell involved his grandfather’s gold pocket watch, watchchain, and fob (a large gold nugget) and that elicited a whole new set of topics – family jewelry, Alaskan “green gold,” the pros and cons of engraving initials on inherited treasures.  And on it went – well into overtime! You have wonderful friends,” Cameron said later.  “Such a diverse group!”

“Really?” I thought.  And here I was thinking how much all of us have in common…  I think we’re probably both right

Ed’s Hat

Tuesday, January 15th, 2019

Scott with Ed’s hat (Photo by Tucker)

At the beginning of the second set at Sunday’s House Concert, a battered old fedora made its appearance atop pianist Scott Cossu’s head.  It was perfect!  So perfect, in fact, that Tucker (and I assume everyone else) thought it was Scott’s own hat.  And, in fact, many of his online photos show him wearing a similar “cover” ala the long tradition of  jazz musicians.

But I knew better.  I’ve known that very hat for more than fifty years.  For most of that time, it has hung on our hat rack (where Scott spied and snagged it) waiting for its owner, Edwin Espy.  My Uncle Ed was the elder of my mother’s two brothers, just two years older than Willard and three years older than Mom.  He was the athletic one, the hard worker and Papa’s ‘right hand man’ and it was Ed who famously said of his little brother Willard (whose nose was always in a book):  “He’ll grow up to be a preacher; he’s so lazy.)

Photographer Tucker’s Empty Chair

In fact, it was Edwin who grew up to get his doctorate in theology and who ultimately became General Secretary of the National Council of Churches.  “The Protestant Pope,” he was called.  He visited Oysterville at least once a year until his death in 1993 at age 84.  And, for as long as I can remember, he left that old fedora on the hat rack so it would be here when he needed it.  He was a man who always wore a hat and, presumably, at home in NYC he had several of them.  Here he had just the old and well-loved one and, in case it was stormy, Papa’s old sou’wester.

Ed Espy sans hat, 1975

Of course, no one (including Scott) knew the story of Ed’s Hat when he donned it Sunday night.  Only Nyel and I knew and we both (it turned out) silently mused about the differences in the two men – the pianist and the church man – and how the hat suited them both perfectly!  I think Ed would have been delighted that Scott felt at home enough here in the house to borrow his hat.  And the fedora, itself, looked absolutely beatific – in perfect harmony with its new experience!

With All the Anticipation of Childhood!

Friday, January 11th, 2019

Oysterville Moms and Kids, Summer 1938

When our friends in Portland wrote and asked if they could come for a sleepover later this month, I felt the same excitement I remember from seventy or seventy-five years ago – that little tummy tingle of butterflies and the warm glow of looking forward to a special event.  But even though it was a dimly familiar feeling, I wonder how many friends actually spent the night at my house when I was a kid.  And, vice-versa.

I do remember staying overnight with my friends Anne (Nixon) and Nancy (Goodell) Cannon in Portland – usually on the way to or from my home in California.  My mom and their mom (Gyla) had been friends since girlhood and, on those occasions, we kids were pretty much left to our own devices while they visited and giggled like schoolgirls, themselves.

Nancy Cannon Goodell (1936-2015)

They lived on N.E. Davis Street in a wonderful house with all sorts of nooks and crannies.  I seem to remember that we could get up into the attic from one room, crawl around up there ‘exploring’ and then re-enter the main house through an entirely different ‘doorway.’  I don’t actually recall anything about the sleeping arrangements – not even if Anne and Nancy each had their own rooms.  The ‘sleep’ part of ‘sleepover’ certainly wasn’t important.

Plus, I don’t remember when the term ‘sleepover’ came into vogue.  Certainly not way back then.  In fact, I can only remember staying at someone else’s house overnight out of necessity.  Ditto in the next generation when Charlie and Marta were little.  I’m not sure about Marta as she lived with her mom (except for weekends and vacations) so she could have stayed overnight with her school friends now and then.  But I think that Charlie’s only overnight excursions were when he stayed with my folks who lived fairly close by in Oakland.

It wasn’t until I began teaching here on the Peninsula in the ’70s that I remember anything much about sleepovers.  Certainly, that’s when I was first made aware of the term.  Every once in a while, a child (usually a girl) would share or write in her journal that she was going to spend the night at a friend’s.  I also remember that about fifty percent of the time – especially if it was a first grader – it didn’t go well and parents would be called to come pick up their homesick child before the night really got under way.

Oysterville Kids (r to l Nancy, Judy, Anne, Me

That never ceased to amaze me, mostly because I don’t remember ever experiencing homesickness.  I do remember, clearly, someone asking me the first summer I spent at Dorothy Elliott’s Camp Willapa if I missed my mom and dad. “Oh no”, I responded confidently.  “I don’t worry about them. They can take care of themselves.”  My mother, who was apprised of my remark, never let me forget it!  I think she actually felt a bit insulted that I wasn’t pining for home, even just a little.

So… here I am, a venerable octogenarian, looking forward to our friends – four of them! – coming for a sleepover at the end of the month!  And they are coming “just because.”  Which I am sure is the best possible reason for a true sleepover!

Joined at the Hip

Tuesday, January 8th, 2019

Miki and Me

Last night I went to a meeting at Ocean Park School with my friend Miki.  I felt like I had stepped back in time about 30 years.  Sort of.  Of course, the school has been remodeled since then, the educational staff is for the most part unknown to me, and the community members who attended probably were students, themselves, 30 years ago.

But, aside from those small details, there was a lot of déjà vu to the evening.  Miki and I attended dozens of such meetings back in the early ’90s.  The reasons might have been a little bit different, but they were still billed as a desire by the school district to get community input.  Last night it was “reconfiguration” that was under consideration.  In the early 1990s it was a multi-graded first, second, third grade school that was being considered – also a reconfiguration of sorts.

That time, it began when, on a routine school visitation, School Board President Admiral Jack Williams came into my first-second-third grade classroom (the only one at Ocean Park in those days) and was amazed to find that he couldn’t tell who were the ‘youngers’ and who were the ‘elders’.  He couldn’t distinguish their ages at all – not by size, not by the work they were doing, not by their behavior.  He asked if he could come again.  And again.  Admiral Jack was smitten.

Multigrade Classroom – 1992

“Why can’t all the primary classrooms be like this?” he asked.  We talked.  Then Miki and I talked.  Then we spoke to the superintendent, only to find that Admiral Jack had put in a word or two way ahead of us.  The game was on!  We met with teachers, first, to see if there were enough like-minded folks – teachers who understood that every child learns differently and at his or her own rate of speed and that mixing up ages in the classroom works in all sorts of magical ways.

Meetings and meetings and meetings later, the multi-graded school was created.  It lasted about as long as the turnover to the next superintendent – a stick-up-your-butt traditionalist who wanted every six-year-old “where s/he belonged – in first grade.  Period.”  I (probably viewed as a trouble-maker) was transferred to another school.  Miki, ever the diplomat, stayed on at Ocean Park – and still she is there with a “blended 1-2” class, doing what she believes in as she readies herself for retirement… maybe.

Meeting at Ocean Park School, Jan. 7, 2019

And now… the reconfiguration being considered is more along the lines of the whole district — perhaps K-2 at Long Beach, 3-4 at Ocean Park, 5-7 at Hilltop and 8-12 at the High School.  However, most of the people sitting near us were in favor of keeping ‘neighborhood schools’ much as they are now with K-5 at both Ocean Park and Long Beach.  The sticking point seems to be that they’d be one classroom short at Ocean Park School. And a portable would cost money.  And arranging for one class to be “off-campus” (perhaps at the library) would be a safety concern.  And never mind that the numbers will change with time…

Am I glad I went?  You bet!  It was the best visit Miki and I’d had for years!

Golden Garters and Finger Cymbals

Friday, December 28th, 2018

Santa might have been a few days late in getting to our house, but he sure knew what to stuff our stockings with!  For Kris-the-Musician there was a slide whistle and a Jew’s harp (if you feel the need to be politically correct and aren’t bothered by historical accuracy you could call it a ‘mouth harp’).  For Nyel-the-head cook, a chef’s toque, a sheriff’s badge, and a Santa hat and, for me, golden garters and finger cymbals and a book about Uppity Women Speak Their Minds. 

There were also wind-up toys – a monkey, a frog, and a tiger – and chocolate and a very practical (but strange) lemon or orange juicer from Jack’s housewares department as well as a set of pick-up sticks and a book of Sherlock Holmes puzzles.  Oh!  And did I mention the fancy plastic red and green light up rings suitable for all occasions?  We all thought Santa had hit the mark for each of us and immediately formed an orchestra complete with an exotic dancer (that would be me.)

The first page I flipped to in my Uppity book was about Florence Nightingale who (apparently famously) said, Not even a doctor…gives any other definition of what a nurse should be other than…’devoted and obedient’…This definition might even do for a horse.  Definitely words to live by, doncha think?

All in all, the wait for Santa Claus was well worth it!  And the day went happily downhill from there.

By the Heft of It…

Thursday, December 20th, 2018

There’s nothing quite like the thrill of getting an unexpected package in the mail, even at Christmastime.  When the postmaster hands me a package all done up in brown wrapping paper, I still get that fluttery feeling in my stomach that I did when I was six years old.  Only then, we were living in Alameda and the postman carried a big sack over his shoulder.  When there was something in it for me, I felt like it was Christmas no matter what the time of year!

Yesterday, there was no mistaking the shape and feel of a book under that plain brown exterior.  The return address said that it was from my friend Memi (pronounce it Me-My) whose name is really Ann but, since I first met her in the late thirties or early forties, she’s always been Memi to me.  Again, I felt six years old!  But why on earth would Memi be sending me a book?  I couldn’t wait to get home and rip off that disguising paper.

With Ann (Memi Sherwood) Anderson — Now

It was a thick blue paperback with a bold white title:  The Way They Were.  “The Whimsical Short Stories of Harry A. Biggs” it said.  “Edited by Lila Biggs Mitchell.”  I know several of the large Biggs family.  Some of them grew up in Oysterville and they are related to Memi… but these particular names weren’t ringing any bells.  The note that Memi had taped to the front helped:

This book was put together by my cousin Lila, daughter of my Uncle Harry Biggs.  It’s a collection of articles he wrote for the South Beach Bulletin plus a few other stories.  Since Harry ad Iva lived in Oysterville, quite a few stories have reference to their time there…

Memi (in front) Then

A quick look in the index revealed so many familiar names…  Bert Andrews, Glen Heckes, Ted Holway, Millie Sherwood, Gary Whitwell.  All from my long-ago six-year-old past.  And the stories!  Oh my!  About clam-digging when licenses weren’t required and there were no seasons.  And about Tin-Lizzies and early day radio.  A hundred-plus stories on 355 pages!  It’s one of those books that’s hard to put down – a new story every other page.  Perfect for a blustery Oysterville day by the fire.  I can’t wait!  (And I don’t really need to – it’s windy and stormy as all get-out here!)  Thanks, Memi, for this wonderful gift!

Getting Into The Spirit!

Saturday, December 15th, 2018

Christmas Season 2018

There’s nothing like a gathering of friends around the fire on a blustery December evening to get everyone into the spirit of the season!  Last night, two of our newest Oysterville neighbors – Chris and Cindy – joined us, making a cozy group of eight.  Among us: a Cindy, a Cyndy, and a Sydney! which could have led to confusion but didn’t seem to.  No more than usual.

The discussion ranged from the (sometimes) harrowing trip to the Peninsula over Highway 26 – in the dark, low on gas, nothing open, the kindness of strangers – to our mutual delight in the Observer and its headline stories as well as the always intriguing Police Blotter.  We talked, too, about the Christmas Bird Count (today!) and the nice note many of us had received from Kathleen Sayce: My group will be in Oysterville in the afternoon; we start at the Port in Nahcotta, and work north. So, if you see people peering into yards with binoculars, and exclaiming over thickets of songbirds, this is what is going on.

Tucker’s Cards and Ornaments

That led to a discussion about ‘our’ (in the Oysterville sense of the word) eagles.  The young have been gathering in the Monterey Cypress treetops across from Cyndy’s and have been chattering to one another for a number of days now.  We talked about other unusual birds we’ve seen lately, including the Snow Goose that has been hanging out with the flock of Canada Geese in the meadows between the bay and the buildings of the village.

Birds, too, were part of Tucker’s “Show and Tell” at the end of the evening.  This is the 49th year that Tucker has made his Christmas cards and an ornament (sometimes matching) for each of his family members.  He brought the collection of ornaments to show and pass around – all hand-made wooden treasures.  For the forty years or so that Carol did a family dinner at Christmas, each place setting included an ornament that served as place card and could then be taken home to hang on each guest’s tree.  Now, though the family dinners are no longer occurring, Tucker continues the tradition.  They are truly wonderful!

Card and Ornaments – The Hobby Horse Year

In recent years, Tucker has gifted Nyel and me with ornaments, too – (well, Tucker and I ARE related, albeit distantly, on the Espy side!) and they are displayed each Christmas on the piano with the cards we have been receiving from him for a number of years.  One of my favorite ‘combinations’ is the card he did of his four grandchildren during their Oysterville hobby-horse phase.  The figures on the (silkscreened?) card look exactly like each of the kids and the accompanying ornaments are – of course! – tiny hobby horses, each different from the other, one with my name and one with Nyel’s.  I love them!

It was a lovely evening and truly left me “in the spirit.”  I wouldn’t be at all surprised if everyone who was here felt the same way.

Where did we leave off, anyway?

Wednesday, December 12th, 2018

Visiting with John Snyder

My old team-teaching partner, John Snyder, came visiting yesterday.  It had been years!  At least five and that visit had only been an hour or so.   Before that it had been at least ten years and before that, our get-togethers might have been oftener but were certainly spasmodic.  He and his family left here when their twins were two or three – about the ages John and Kathy’s grandchildren are now.

This time, he brought lunch (sandwiches from Cottage Bakery) and was able to stay for almost three hours!  It was non-stop talking – mostly John and me catching up and taking gallops down memory lane.  Sometimes, I thought I was right back in the early 1980s!  Nyel got a few words in edge-wise and took a picture or two.  The time flew by!

We talked about so many old friends – Jim Sayce and Mike Robinson, Jeff Quigley and Jimmy Campiche, Barbara Hedges Canney and Tom Akerlund. And places, too – the Ark Restaurant when it still had the bar in back and there was music on Friday nights; Camp Sherwood where we took our third/fourth graders for a Friday-Sunday overnight one year; some of the “kids” we had taught who are now married with children (and, in some cases, grandchildren!)

Page 107 – Ocean Park School – The First Seven Decades

I signed and personalized a copy of my book, Ocean Park School, The First Seven Decades (© 2002) for him, secretly embarrassed that I hadn’t sent him one years ago.  Plus, now that I’ve thought of it, I’ll forever kick myself for not reaching out to him when I was actually writing the book.  He probably could have identified some of the kids I had to leave unnamed and, for sure, he’d have had a story or two to add.   (Or wait!  Maybe he did!  There’s a quote from him on page 107.)

We promised one another that we’d get together again, soon.  John and Kathy are in Olympia now – not as far as Everett where they were for years.  And, we’re going to try to do it on a weekend so Jeff Q. and maybe Mike R. can join us…

“It’s Sydney… spelled like Australia.”

Tuesday, November 20th, 2018

Australia seems to be much on our minds lately.  Our friend Kenny has recently been there.  Our friend Martha is about to head in that direction.  And we had two visits last summer from our new friend Rosemary who is a third-generation Australian (though her roots go back to Pioneer Oysterville and beyond.)

Once upon a time, those connections might have been enough to tempt me into taking a trip.  Might have.  The time and distance have always seemed a bit daunting.  But, at this point in time, I’m content to live vicariously and wear the “I Love Sydney” tee shirt that Kenny brought me.  (I wish it was large enough for Nyel to wear.  Somehow, that would make more sense.)

I think that Australia was the first foreign country that I ever learned much about.  It was fifth grade at Lincoln School in Alameda and I remember that we made booklets about “The Land Down Under.”  We also learned to sing “Waltzing Matilda” and found out what a swagman and a billabong and a jumbuck were.  We drew pictures of kangaroos and duck-billed platypuses and compared the size and shape of Australia to the United States.

What I don’t remember is anything about Sydney.  You’d think I would have connected it to my name or that my classmates would have teased me or something… but, no.  In fact, my first “memory’ of paying any attention at all to the city of Sydney was in 1959 when the Sydney Opera House was built.  That was two years after I graduated from college — long after fifth grade, for sure.

Nowadays, especially when there seem to be so many Sidneys and Cydnees, and Siddnees around, I find myself saying, “It’s Sydney… like Australia.”  People seem to get that.  Mostly.  Although, every once in a while, that gets translated to Cindy.  I seriously wonder if there is a Cindy, Australia – or if some people are just amazingly stupid.  And then I think about our nominal head of state and I stop wondering about that last part.

The Louisville Sluggers in the North Room

Sunday, October 28th, 2018

Edwin, Dale, Willard – 1917

As long as I can remember, the three baseball bats have lived in the North Room of this house.  For those in the know (mostly family members) the “North Room” refers to the upstairs bedroom on the north side of the house.  There is also a downstairs bedroom on the north side, but it is referred to as “The Parlor” in deference its original purpose.  But, I digress.

The bats are known (also among family members) to have belonged to “the boys” who, it almost goes without saying were my uncles Edwin and Willard.  They are the only “boys” to have grown up in this house and when they “put away childish things,” they didn’t put them very far.  Those bats, for instance, got put in the back of the bedroom closet and there they stayed for sixty or seventy years.

Corner of the North Room

When Nyel and I moved in and redecorated a bit, all of the children’s things ended up in the North Bedroom.  My doll cabinet, Charlie’s little Mexican chairs, my grandmother’s triptych of framed paper dolls, and a corner case full of children’s books are all part of the décor.  It seemed only right that the bats should come out of the closet and be displayed (discreetly and casually) in the corner.  They have been there, untouched except for occasional dusting, for the last twenty years.  I hardly ever give them a passing thought.

So… a few weeks ago when Tucker brought three of his own bats over for his habitual Friday Night Show and Tell, and then proceeded to tell us all about them, I began to wonder about ours.  Tucker’s information was based on the logo stamped on each bat plus what he had learned from the online Keyman Collectibles site concerning Hillerich & Bradsby Co. Louisville Slugger site. I nipped (probably more like galumphed my way) upstairs and returned with our three bats to see if they were anything of note.

Apparently, two of them – the taped ones – are pretty decent bats.  Both are Louisville Sluggers. The ‘best’ one is stamped “Louisville Slugger 125… ” and its manufacturing period is listed as 1916 to 1933.  Edwin and Willard were born in 1908 and 1910, respectively, so the dates would fit perfectly.   Tucker, who is a collector and knows these things, thinks that bat might have sold for ‘around ten cents’ in 1918 or 1919 and might fetch as much as $60 now.

Louisville Slugger 125 Logo

To me, of course, they are beyond price.  Their value lies in knowing who played with them and in picturing the excitement when the boys got them… Were they Christmas presents?  Were they ordered from the Johnson & Henry Store in Nahcotta?  Did each boy ‘own’ one or were they shared?  And what about the third, not-quite-so-good bat?  Was it left here by a friend?  Or did it belong to my mother who, apparently, was quite a tomboy in her youth?

Unlike Tucker, my genetic makeup lends itself exclusively to keeping rather than to also collecting.  Value seldom enters my thought processes like it might to Tucker.  But I sure am glad he’s my neighbor!  I learn a lot from him — even about 1920s vintage baseball bats!