Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Lively, Non-stop, Ecclectic!

Tuesday, June 8th, 2021

There are two areas in this house that I have considered the most important ever since I was a very little girl.  First is the library where we gather in front of the fireplace, especially in the late afternoons, to visit and catch up with our days — past and present.  And second is the dining room where we do the same thing except with the addition of food.

And in the spirit of “some things don’t change,” that’s where we are spending much of our time this week with my Schreiber Family cousins — Willard’s grandson, Alex and three of his five children.  Maddie is almost-fourteen-and-going-on-post doctoral-abilities that leave Nyel and me tongue-tied.  Jack is 20, is in the army and involved in cyber operations.  Sam is 25, is a software engineer working at Tessla.  Alex is an Associate Professor of Biology at St. Lawrence University. in Canton, New York.  Here, as well, is my son Charlie, retired cartoon script-writer and actor.

Discussions are lively, non-stop, and cover every imaginable subject.  Sometimes everyone is involved in one gigantic exchange.  Or there might be two or three separate conversations taking place — sometimes on the same or, more often, on unrelated subjects.  No topics seem to be off-limits and all of us seem to have something to say about whatever is under discussion.   Which reminds me that I’ve always been told that the Espys come in two varieties — the loquacious and the taciturn.  I’m here to tell you, there’s not a quiet one among this group.  Except Nyel.  Who, after all, is technically not an Espy…


Talking With Dorothy Trondsen Williams

Sunday, March 7th, 2021

Dorothy Trondsen c. 1942

Yesterday, with the Nahcotta Post Office closure still foremost in my mind, I called Dorothy Trondsen Williams who is now living in Seattle.  Dorothy is the “nearest relative” to the suddenly closed Post Office that I know of.  I had some questions for her.

Dorothy’s relationship to the Nahcotta Post Office goes like this:  Her grandfather was J.A. Morehead, stagecoach driver, county commissioner, and owner of Morehead’s General Merchandise est. 1889, the first store in Nahcotta.  By the time Dorothy came along in 1926, Morehead had sold the business to Dorothy’s father and great-uncle and the name had been changed to “Trondsen and Brown.”  Perhaps by then it was even under its final name, Trondsen and Petersen.  Under whichever name, by that time, too, there were two stores — the original one in Nahcotta and a “satellite” store in Ocean Park (where Jack’s Country Store is now.)

The New Sign – 1914

“So, is the building where the Nahcotta Post Office has been all these years the actual Morehead (and, later, Trondsen and Brown) building?” I asked.

“Oh yes!” was Dorothy’s reply.  “Only, when I was growing up the post office was way around in the back of the building.  The front was all general merchandise — everything from jewelry to produce to farm implements.  Everything!  Deane Nelson, Charlie’s wife, was in charge of both the post office and the store.”

My Grandmother’s Teapot

I’m quite sure Deane had been in charge for a number of years — at least since 1918 when my (then) six-year-old mother rode her horse from Oysterville to Nahcotta and Deane helped her choose a blue china teapot for my grandmother’s 40th birthday present.  I count the teapot as one of our family treasures and the story of my mother’s four mile ride to Nahcotta and back as an early sign of the grit and determination that characterized her for her entire life.

“I remember that my father had to get up very early and meet the mail delivery each day,” Dorothy told me.  “He placed it all in the post boxes and had it ready for Deane before the store opened.  Then he went on into Ocean Park to manage the store there.”

Admiral Jack’s Uniform Cover – John G. “Jack” Williams, Jr. (1924-1991) Deputy Commander in Chief and Chief of Staff of the entire U.S. Pacific Fleet– CPHM

We talked of other things for quite a while — caught up with our mutual relatives who are scattered over much of the world.  Dorothy shared with me that she now has ten great-grandchildren with another expected soon.  She still knits for every newborn (and probably beyond!) and I could just see her smile right over the telephone as she talked about her big, ever-growing family.

“Do you know that it’s been 30 years since Jack died?” she said.  Thirty years!!  How fast the years go by.  How glad I am that that she and I are still “connected” and can keep some bits of the history of this area in proper perspective. At least for now.

The Best Reason To Keep On Keepin’ On…

Friday, March 5th, 2021

It was the BEST birthday ever, but most certainly not in terms of what I did or where I went or who I saw.  I simply sat and sheltered and spent the day “as usual.”  And, while I was doing that (and taking a wee nap in the afternoon) my birthday came to me!

It came by email and snail mail, by text and messaging, on Facebook and through landline and cellphone!  I received hundreds (literally!) of birthday greetings from relatives and friends and even from business acquaintances and from people I might have know once but can’t truly remember now.  It was astounding! And humbling!  And I have no idea of what I can do to tell each of you how appreciative I am!

Suffice it to say “Thank You so much for making 85 the best birthday yet!”  Who’duh thunk it?

Marta-Roonie-Bobs! The Best Bonus EVER!

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2021


I don’t know who came up with “bonus” as a substitute for “step” but they should get a special prize.  As in bonus-daughter instead of step-daughter.  I blame the Grimm boys for giving “step” a bad name in their Cinderella story — but they probably had a warped perspective in the first place, their name being what it was!

In any case, Marta LaRue is the best bonus our family could have ever imagined!  She’s beautiful, talented, funny, informed, and has all the right sensibilities.  But, even beyond that, she has a special place and function in our family that I think we all just take for granted. For 62 years — yes since she was five years old! — she has been the gentle intermediary in all the family rough spots.  I wonder if she even realizes it.

It was Marta who made sure that the favors her father bestowed upon her were equally shared with her younger “bonus” brother Charlie.  It was Marta who charmed and distracted the relatives at a family reunion in 1964 when the adults in her life were having stormy times.  It was Marta who gently took charge of “Granny,” my elderly and confused mother, during a Christmas trip to Los Angeles in the early 1990s.  And it is so often Marta who puts just the right spin on a family problem, no matter its magnitude or portent.

Marta, c. 1959

Maybe every family has a MartaRoonieBobs — a name I gave her (or maybe Charlie did) when she was little — for no reason in particular.  Just a fun name for when we were being silly.  I hadn’t been raised with much awareness of family dynamics.  I was an “only” child and so any buffering or negotiating or empathizing with the elder generation was all up to me.  Ditto Nyel.  We didn’t grow up with role models as to differing roles in the family.  But… come to think of it, neither did Marta.  She just seemed to come with qualities of grace and understanding.  Part of the package!

All this comes to mind because a few days ago Marta and Charlie asked about the books they had given me for Christmas.  Had I enjoyed them?  My horrified response:  “What books???”  Big blank.  Fortunately, Nyel remembered and went on the search.  I wrote to “the kids” — Am reporting in: Nyel has not lost his touch.  We’ve both looked high and low for my Christmas books (of which I actually had only the vaguest of memories, although Nyel remembered them right down to the dust jacket colors.  On a lower shelf in my office (!) (where Nyel can scarcely navigate!!) he found the three of them, neatly stacked out of harm’s way.  Reconstruction:  I think I was in the middle of a couple of overdue library books so I put my gifties in a “special place.”  YIKES!

Marta and Charlie, 2019

Marta’s response:  Oh I’m sooo glad Nylie found your “forgotten, but not gone” books…lol- they were waiting patiently for you! What a nice absent-minded surprise…I’ve had more than a few of those kind of surprises” myself!! XOXS

Thanks, Marta!  Forgiveness, humor, hugs and understanding all wrapped up together!  As usual!

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!