Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

How many zooms until purrfection?

Sunday, September 26th, 2021

We zoom every Sunday night — Charlie, Marta, Nyel and me.  And Charlie’s cats, Lupe and Rosencrantz.  It’s a date we’ve been keeping for at least a year and a half (except for Rosencrantz who just joined the fun this past summer.)  I wouldn’t say we’re very good at it, but we’re improving.  It’s not the content.  We’ve always been superlative in that department.  It’s the delivery.  Or, if you will, the technical parts.

Not so much Marta.  She is way beyond the rest of us.  She plays with backgrounds and with crazy facial features and other things that make us laugh.  She looks great with a stache.    And Nyel is right up there, too.  No add-ons for him.  Just “what you see is what you get” — but no problems either.  Charlie has had mega sound problems.  Some Sundays are good; some not.  He’d be the first to say that he needs a  new  computer but it’s not in the budget for this year.

I’m the worst.  It’s the wretched “intermittent internet.”  I freeze up — always ugly, always annoying.  So why doesn’t it happen to Nyel?  We have the very same infrastructure.  If he does freeze, it’s not too discernible.  Probably  because he’s not all that animated to start with.  But, me?  Yikes!  It’s totally humbling.  My tongue is hanging out or my eyes are at half-mast or sometimes there’s some other unbecoming issue.  My head is bigger than everyone else’s too.  I finally realized that’s because I snug right up to the screen (and camera)  so I can see what’s going on.  Failing eyesight — another one of those “secrets of old age.”

And, of course, Lupe and Rosencrantz  have to get into the act, too.  Lupe is older and not very tolerant of her younger “brother.”  But he is undaunted.  Since they are both black and Rosencrantz is growing past the kitten stage, it’s getting tough to tell them apart.  They are definitely the comic relief of each Sunday’s get-together.

It’s hard to think back to BZ — Before Zoom.  I think we’ll probably continue with it even when this scary time is over.  It’s one of the good things that has emerged from the sheltering times…

 

Words of Wisdom for Our 34th Anniversary

Monday, September 13th, 2021

Dale and Bill Little September 22, 1934

Yesterday, I came across two items of significance in my ongoing efforts to tidy up the crevices and corners of this old house — those places where the detritus of three generations has been carefully set aside for “someone” “someday” to deal with.  Recently, I’ve been reviewing and discarding the paper keepsakes — mostly of my own — and found a huge (11″x 14″) manilla envelope stuffed with letters from my folks between the years 1976 and 1990.

Those were their retirement years — the years that they did a lot of travelling which, for their first forty-some years together they could not afford to do.  Not money-wise; not time-wise.  The letters and cards and interesting clippings told of their adventures and mishaps, asked me to look after various domestic details at home for them and, mostly, reflected their total enjoyment of not only “the moment” but of the great privilege of life in general.

Two items, nestled together, said it all: first, the invitation to their 50th wedding anniversary which involved seven (count ’em seven) big events and asked that RSVPs be sent to me; and, second, a thank-you letter from the two of them written from Hawaii where Charlie and I (apparently) had sent them as a surprise anniversary gift.  The celebrations (repeating of vows, receptions, dinners etc.) were planned in the greatest detail by mom and dad, themselves.  And no matter what they said, Charlie and I have NO memory of sending them off to Hawaii.

My mother’s words in the letter were perfect in every respect. I’ll share a few of them here for you to enjoy whether or not you knew my folks and whether or not you’ve been involved in a significant anniversary celebration of your own.

Sydney and Charlie at Bill and Dale’s 50th

Dear Daughter… What a super celebration we had thanks to  your very efficient handling of all the last minute details.  Everyone has mentioned what perfect hosts you and Charlie were…
Your father and I both agree that we accomplished our mission in life when we “Diddled” and produced you and you “Diddled” and brought forth Charlie.  We didn’t stop at half best, but we produced the top best…
We will always remember our Fiftieth Anniversary Celebration as the most rewarding time of our lives.  Weddings are filled with great expectations — fifty years later it is nice to survey the years and realize that what you were dreaming in your youth might not have been too realistic, what you gain over the years takes a lot of work and play — love and laughter — grief and tears which all add up to a life with substance that could not be attained if all of your youthful wishes were granted by the wave of a magic wand…

My father added:  Hi!  Just to say (also) thanks — we all had a great time.  We’ll do it again!?  Love, Dad!

All words to live by on this, our 34th!

“…a two-and-a-half-pound wisp”

Sunday, September 5th, 2021

Mona’s Handprint at Three Months

Of her fourth child’s birth on December 10, 1904, my grandmother Helen Richardson Espy) wrote many years later: Mona was born the night Albert was taken ill – a two-and-a-half-pound wisp – had 75 convulsions in 5 days when 5 weeks old.

According to family lore, she was nestled in cotton and placed in a cigar box on the back of the kitchen woodstove where she could be kept warm. When her grandfather, old R.H. Espy, stumped down the street to see her, he took one look and grumbled, “Not worth keeping!  Not worth keeping!”

I can’t begin to imagine how difficult this time was for the family. Five-year-old Albert died of stomach cancer on January 24, 1905 when Mona was just six weeks old.  Nevertheless, under the tender ministrations of her mother Mona endured: Up she came, frail, unstable, completely dominated by Suzita’s force and vividness. Twice during her fourth year she had pneumonia, and had to learn to walk all over again.  It was about this period, that she used to sleep with her hands over her ears “to keep the dreams out.” Always a pathetic hungry little creature unable to assimilate her surroundings. At four she used to sit by the hour perched on the fence accosting every passerby with “Hello what you going to do tomollow?”

Mona at 7 or 8 — 1911

Mona’s full name was Ruth Muriel.  I’m not sure where the “Mona” came from but I never heard anyone who knew her call her anything else.  She was the only aunt I ever knew and, of all my mother’s siblings, I probably knew her best.  That she was “different” from the others was certainly true — not so much in looks, but certainly in personality.  My grandmother said that she, of all seven children, was “the most Espy” and we all understood that to mean that she was not quite as refined or cultured as the Richardsons.  I’m not sure why that had a negative connotation since my grandmother was crazy about my grandfather for all their fifty-five years together — he could do no wrong in her eyes or in the eyes of his children or grandchildren.

Mona, too, adored her father and credited him with all the positive things she had learned and done throughout her life.  Even so, she considered herself the “ugly duckling” of the family – not because of her appearance, but because in a family that valued learning and education above all else, school was always a struggle for her. Nevertheless, she was extremely proud of both her precocious younger brothers and, if it bothered her that they easily surpassed her in school, she never talked about it.

Mona circa 1946

She became a Practical Nurse, eventually married — three times, I think, though the first is a bit cloudy —  and was politically active, especially during Eisenhower’s campaign. Years after her death in 1970,  Democratic State Senator Robert C. “Bob” Bailey told me that he had enjoyed working with her on various projects and that “she was one of the most sensible Republicans he’d ever known.”

My memories of Mona are a mix of fondness and regret.  She taught me many things — to drink my coffee black, the benefits of a rocking chair (which she gave me) to a new mother, how to sew French seams (on a sewing machine she later left me in her will), and shared with me the family gossip that my mother thought I needn’t know.  My regrets came too late, as they often do — would that I could have pointed out to her how valued she was — to all of us.  Or would she, could she have been convinced?

The Very Best Part of A Book Talk

Sunday, July 18th, 2021

Sydney talks about Madam X at the Senior Center

Yesterday I gave a Book Talk about Historic Haunts of the Long Beach Peninsula at the Senior Center in Klipsan.  It was the third event in as many weekends and I didn’t have high expectations for attendance or sales.  However, what I didn’t factor in was how much fun I would have talking with the people who were there!

I met several women who read my blog every single day!  They asked after the chickens, were pleased to meet Farmer Nyel (who was helping Vicki sell books for me) and one expressed a desire to meet Tucker.  “I want to find out if he is related to the Glass family.  They were best friends to my husband and me.”  I know that Tucker is related to the Glass family but I don’t know if it’s the right Glass family.  Even so, I found myself saying, “Why don’t you come by the house sometime and we’ll walk over and I’ll introduce you.”  I hope she does.  She and I were “of an age” as they say, and had it not been for people waiting in line for my autograph, we probably could have spent the rest of the afternoon becoming best friends!

A Small but Mighty Interesting Audience

Actually, there were several encounters like that and I did think to myself, “Well, after all… it’s the Senior Center and I’m bound to meet a few soulmates here.  I should come more often…”  But, it wasn’t just ‘Senior Serendipity’.  Along came a good looking “young” (50s?) man named Paul who said that we are “sort of related.”  And, indeed we are!  My first cousins were brought up by his mother’s inlaws (got that?) in Minnesota in the 1930s.  Paul was visiting the Peninsula and had just happened upon the book signing and… here he was!

Sydney with Wallace and Charles, Ft. Canby, WA, 1938

As it turned out,  when  Nyel and I returned home a half hour or so later,  we saw Paul taking pictures up the street.  I hailed him, invited him in, and we spent a pleasant half hour looking at family pictures and sharing information about my cousins Wallace and Charles Pearson whose mother Suzita was my mother’s older sister.  As Sue was dying of pneumonia on December 27, 1932, she asked her mother (my grandmother) to send the boys to Lake City, Minnesota to the Pearsons, her husband’s people.  At that time her father (my grandfather)  was in a sanitorium recovering from a horrendous automobile accident and my grandmother, always frail and losing her sight, could not have coped with two young boys.  Even by pooling our information, there is much that Paul and I don’t know.  Time to get Cuzzin Ralph looking on ancestry.com once again!

And… even so, I sold a fair number of books.  But the best part of all (as usual) was meeting and talking with everyone!  Even my Facebook friend, Terry Eager. came all the way from Chinook to meet me in person and say “hello.”  Wow!  What a fun afternoon!

 

And suddenly… summer begins!

Saturday, July 17th, 2021

Sydney in Oysterville, Summer 1940

In the “olden days” of my childhood, summer in Oysterville meant visitors.  Lots and lots of visitors.  The relatives came from Portland and Puyallup and California and they usually came for two weeks or more.  Often, they “overlapped” and we were hard-pressed to find sleeping spots for everyone even though there were five bedrooms and all but one had double beds.

As I remember, the “overflow” relatives stayed at The Red House three properties to the north.  I’m no longer sure how many beds and bedrooms there are in that old house, but I think it can comfortably accommodate seventeen or eighteen people — more if there are a lot of little kids.

Many friends from afar visited, too, but they seemed to arrive more according to a “schedule” and so we devoted ourselves specifically to that group or that family.  I think the attitude about the relatives was that the houses belonged as much to them as to us — most, whether of my grandfather’s generation or my mother’s, had grown up here, after all.  There was always room and, as I remember, they immediately helped out by taking on any extra host and hostess duties when non-relatives arrived.

H.a. Espy Family Reunion 1943

I’ve been thinking about those days as we plan for the arrival next week of our bonus daughter extraordinaire, Marta. to be followed in short order by Randal Bays and Family, Cuzzin Ralph from Virginia, Cousin Alex and friend Katie from New York, Kuzzin Kris from Sacramento (who is actually staying at the Red House but we hope we get our share of her!) and then the Rose City Mixed Quartet!!!  And at the very beginning of this grand parade will be Cousin Ruth and Cindy from Mercer Island who are staying somewhere spiffy with a whole raft of children, grandchildren, and I don’t know who all.  I think our house is on the schedule for a “tour and history lesson.”

I can’t wait for it all to begin!  It will be like summers of old but “on steroids” as we are all eager to make up for the Sheltering Year that we hope against hope is over for good and all!  Now… if the sun will come out and the soft breezes blow — just as I remember from those olden days! — it will be a perfect summer, indeed!

 

Blind-as-a-Bat and Self-Talk — Say what?

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2021

Helen Richardson Espy, 1947 – “Granny at 69”

Years ago, when Nyel would give me a hard time about talking to myself — you know, as I went about my home and garden chores — I’d tell him it was because I understood myself better than anyone.  Later, toward the end of my teaching career, there was a new educational trend which encouraged “self-talk” for students.  Presumably it was a strategy that was especially useful in encouraging positive behaviors.  Who knew?  I then began quoting positive statistics to my bemused (and ever-quiet) husband.

Decades have passed and my self-talk continues, unabated.  I’m not sure about my behaviors.  But nowadays, I also sing to myself — often songs from my own Kindergarten and primary school past that I hadn’t thought of for years.  This morning it was:  How do you do my partner/How do you do today/Will you come a- walking/I’ll show you the way  followed by a lot of tra-la-las.  I think it was a little circle dance.  The singing to myself I put firmly in the category of making “a joyful noise” no matter how it may sound to others.

Mama, Granny, Me — Easter Sunday 1940

Somehow, this morning’s song got me to thinking about my grandmother who also talked and sang to herself.  I always thought it was a sign that she enjoyed her own company as well as the company of others.  She was blind during most of my childhood and it occurred to me this morning that maybe my own eyesight problems and self-talk are “related” in some way to hers.  Do talking and singing to oneself work something like echolocution among bats?  Or am I (surely NOT my beloved granny!) just plain batty?

Whatever the answer to that question may be, I’m not about to change my ways.  There are dozens of songs to sing and one-sided conversations to enjoy.  Lucky you if you already share that belief.

 

 

 

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

MartaRoonieBobs

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!