Archive for the ‘Relatives’ Category

REALLY? Am I now the oldest?

Monday, August 28th, 2023

Sydney with cousins Wallace and Charles, Ft. Canby, WA, 1939

It came as a bit of a shock to me the other day to realize that I am now the oldest living descendent of the H.A. Espy Family — maybe even of the R.H. Espy Family,  YIKES!  My grandfather, Harry Albert Espy was Robert Hamilton Espy’s second son.  Of all the R.H. children, Harry had the greatest number of children, but not the greatest number of grandchildren or great-grandchildren.

There were nine of us H. A. Espy first cousins. Three were older than I.  They (all men) died at ages younger than I am now and two others — one man, one woman — are also gone.  That leaves only four of us — all women with me the oldest by at least five years.

I don’t think we ever all spent time together.  That’s odd when you come to think of it — especially considering that there were eighteen first cousins in my mother’s generation and, despite the transportation difficulties of 100 years ago, they did have family gatherings right here in Oysterville.  And, fairly frequently, too.

Jefferson Espy, Six Weeks Old, 1953

But in our third (from R.H.) generation, there were other complications.  My mother’s sister Sue, mother of our two oldest boy cousins, died before any of the rest of us were born and her sons, Wallace and Charles, were raised in Minnesota by their father’s people.  As long as my grandparents lived, Wallace and Charles came to Oysterville every summer, and I knew them both throughout their lives.  But we never seemed to have a reunion with all nine of us together.

Then, there were divorces in the second generation, which meant that Willard’s oldest son was raised in Scotland by his mother and step-father,  I never did meet him.  And so it goes.

Joey, Mona, Freddy, Cassy, 1954

It’s scary being the oldest one, now.  I feel some sort of responsibility toward getting the rest of us together, but I don’t think I have “the where-with-all to do all the above things” as my mother would have said.  Not “where-with-all” as in money (though that always factors in!) — but more in stamina and arranging and getting agreement.  Probably a lot like herding cats.

I think I’ll leave the possibilities to the younger ones and rest on those old-age laurels.  “Wouldn’t it be loverly…”

Summertime Is Cousins Catching Up Time!

Sunday, August 13th, 2023

Alex, Katie, Maddie

A first cousin once removed (Alex), a first cousin twice removed (Maddie) and their “better third” (Katie) arrived Friday for a whirl-wind visit.  Their first stop (after a luggage deposit at the house) was the cemetery where they placed a flower on each of the graves in the Espy Plot!  That’s a good many flowers!

Like Willard and his father (Papa, my own grandfather) Alex and Maddie belong to the loquacious Espys.  Fortunately, Katie is both a good listener and can hold her own in any of the conversations the gabbling Espy descendents begin.  Plus she loves to cook (as I remember from her other visits.)  First words out of her mouth:  “I’d love to cook for you, Sydney.  What’s on your wish list?”  Or words to that effect!

Meanwhile, on Day Two of their visit, the doorbell rang and as I answered it a handsome young man said, “Hi Sydney!”  “Who are you?” was my less-than-intelligent remark.  “I’m Kahrs,” he said  as I added several years and maybe a foot or more to my mental image of the oldest of my Bemis cousins!  Wow!  Poised, confident, and the same age as Maddie, he had come to say “hello” AND offer his services.  “We’ll be here for two weeks, so if there’s anything you need, just give me a call,” he said.

Later, Alex and Maddie walked up to the Red House to meet the rest of the Bemis cousins and also the Spooner cousins who are in town.  Plus (I was amazed to hear), neither Maddie nor Alex had ever been in the Red House before.  Not surprising about Maddie, but Alex’s Mom, my first cousin, Mona, spent a lot of time in that house as a child.  She and her twin sister, Freddy, had even began 1st grade with Mrs. Bame at the Oysterville School in 1947.  During those post-war years, Willard was the family member who owned the house, later selling it to his first cousin, Barbara Espy Williams!

Red House Cousins’ Lemonade Sign from 2013

And, today after Vespers, the plan was that the Red House Cousins-of-the-week would be selling Lemonade right across from the Church — a traditional summer activity when they are here!  Yay!  I just love it when the Cousins are in town!  But, alas!  Something must have come up and there was no lemonade stand in sight — only the memory of past delights!  Oh well.  Maybe next week…




I’m All Done In and It Wasn’t The Gin!

Sunday, July 23rd, 2023

Kuzzin Kris and Her Little Red Wagon

No!  Unlike whoever Eliza Doolittle was talking about, it wasn’t the gin that done me in.  It was the kuzzins — Kris Jones and her brother Bruce Jones.  (We didn’t even have any gin.)  And, besides that, they aren’t my kuzzins.  They are first cousins of some of my 2nd cousins  which, scientifically (probably), makes them shirttail relatives.  I really think they might be my siblings separated at birth and with different parents.

We aren’t really all that much alike.  Kris is a singer — an opera singer back in the day — is deeply into meditation — and remembers every joke her Grandfather L.D. Williams ever told her. (And repeats them in his voice.  Totally.)  She lives in Eugene, Oregon, teaches voice, meditation, and works with the University music people there to do fabulous productions or at least that’s what I think.  I’ve never seen her “in action.”

Bruce Jones, Seriously

Bruce and I have one tiny thread in common — we both worked for Blue Cross of Northern California, but about ten years apart.  Otherwise, he’s way smarter about things like spreadsheets and math-y things and now that he’s retired, he is an artist — watercolors, stone sculpure etc.  He lives in Guallala, California and is heavy into the art scene there.  He’s also on the Sewage Board. And maybe other things.  I have never succeeded in having a straightforward conversation with him — everything always goes zany right away and  I laugh until my eyes water.  (And so does he.)

So… they arrived Friday evening, and they fit right into the Friday Night Gathering — even weighing in on the serious subjects at hand like the disturbing news that there seems to be a John Birrch Society alive and well in Pacific County.  They, like I, remember the 1970s and the disaster the John Birchers created in Orange County, California — a disaster that still reverberates in Southern California.

Happy Birthday to Kris!

Saturday we spent time playing cribbage (them), eating (all of us), and checking out the place Kris lived in Ocean Park a few years back.  We also went up to the Cemetery to say “Hi” to Nyel and mostly just reminisced about our childhoods — when they were little and ran roughshod over their cousins at the red house and I was already a sophisticated teenager and really don’t remember them at all!  (To be fair, they don’t remember me either.  We obviously travelled in different circles.)

Today was Kris’s 83rd birthday and Bruce took us both out to breakfast in Ocean Park.  We tried to behave — so hard with those two — and afterwards they headed south, homeward bound, and I returned to Oysterville for a few minutes.  And then… another day another blog is needed to tell “the rest of the story.”

Kuzzin Kris and Cuzzin Ralph Weigh In

Monday, April 3rd, 2023

The Red House in Oysterville where Kris spent many a happy summer!

Why was I not surprised?  Interestingly (but not at all surprisingly), the only folks to weigh in on Saturday’s Daybook entry concerning the Shoalwater Bay Yacht Club were Kuzzin Kris and Cuzzin Ralph. Perhaps they, both being connected to the history of Oysterville through kinship and historical caring, are the only ones who really “got” my concerns.

Kris, bless her heart, expressed outrage: The Very Idea! Sheesh. I am so disappointed in the establishment that hacked together this slur on the original Oysterville Yacht Club! And she went on to suggest that the local paper publish something about this heresy and then said: other old time peninsulites will agree fully and completely.  As I have often told her, she leads a rich fantasy life!!!

R.H. Espy, Co-founder of Oysterville and brother to Cuzzin Ralph’s ancestor,  William “Kentuck” Espy

Ralph, on the other hand was rather matter-of-fact and forthright as usual:   I just have to put in my two cents even though I’m a complete goddamn outsider to the local politics. This seems to be part of almost “gentrification” of the Long Beach Peninsula area. First there was the exclusive garden club, with outrageous prices for the tours that precluded many of the long established local people.  Now this group of young whippersnapper outsiders trying to horn in on the traditions without giving proper credit to the past.   I think it is just a gimmick to push their restaurant/bakery trade but the sailing part will fall flat on its ass!

I truly do love my relatives!  And I do believe that blood is thicker than water.  And it is also patently clear (to me at least) that the history of the area matters most to those with deep roots here.

Sad.  But true.

In Oysterville, it’s the Year of the R…

Tuesday, March 7th, 2023

Red House Roof Project

In many places of the world, this is the Year of the Rabbit — specifically the Water Rabbit.  The sign of Rabbit is a symbol of longevity, peace, and prosperity in Chinese culture and 2023 is predicted to be a year of hope.

In Oysterville, it appears to be the Year of the Roof.  As we speak, there is a roofing crew at the Red House removing shingles and applying acres of blue tarp.  Large bundles of cedar shingles await their turn at covering the 1872 home of our great-grandfather, R.H. Espy.  I know he’s smiling down and applauding for his Red House Greats — especially for David, Chief of Operations among the RH cousins.

Both the Red House and the Oysterville Church are sporting spiffy new chimneys, too — at least from the roofline up.  The chimney on my lower roof is on the schedule to be repaired next week (God willing an’ the creek don’t rise).  That will be the third old structure in recent months to sport a newer, safer, skyline.

New Chimney – Just like the old!

Meanwhile, all the residents of the National Historic District have been discussing, examining and answering surveys about the use of modern “alternative” materials when building or repairing their homes.  As it has become increasingly difficult to get traditional materials (old growth cedar shingles, for instance) historic sites all over the United States — even Historic Williamsburg — are approving alternative look-alike materials.  The Oysteville Restoration Foundation is hoping to approach the County with a proposal for changing the ordinance that specifies such matters for Oysterville.  Stay tuned.

So, next time you visit the village, I invite you to look up and admire the recent improvements to the health and safety of our old buildings!  Long may they endure!

My First Cousins

Monday, February 13th, 2023

Wallace, Sydney, Charles — the three oldest — at Fort Canby, 1938

I once had nine first cousins — seven on the Espy side and two on the Little side.  For most of our lives we have lived far apart but I consider myself lucky, indeed, to have known all of them — both on their home turf and on my own and lucky, too, that all of them have been in Oysterville.  Even my father’s nephews Craig and Brian have been here — twice I think.   Two others — my oldest cousin, Wallace Pearson, and Willard’s youngest daughter Cassin Espy actually lived here for a bit, years ago and not at the same time.  But in both instances, I was here and got to know them well.

I am the third oldest in age — the oldest of the six of us still living.  I am shamelessly sentimental about all of them — I love them to pieces, am SO proud of their accomplishments, of their characters, of their families, and of being related to such a remarkable group.  Do I ever tell them so?  Not that you’d notice.  If absence makes the heart grow fonder, it also plays havoc with staying in touch. Charlie and I are talking about going East next fall and paying a visit to each an every one.  I SO hope we can make that happen.

Cousins Mona, Joey, Freddy, Cassy with Great Aybt Dora and Their Mother Hilda – 1947

Yesterday I received a  lovely letter from Craig Little, the oldest of my father’s two nephews and the one who looks so much like Dad that even the two of them remarked upon it.  Three years ago Craig was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease although I’ve only recently learned of it.  He wrote me a long email letter yesterday — I can’t imagine the effort it took — and attached an article from the local paper (Cortland, NY) that he wrote for them recently.  I wish I could quote the entire article, but here are a few of the things that struck me:
There have been positives, as well.  I have already mentioned how the diagnosis of PD explained to me (and  others) many of the behaviors I had been exhibiting for some time…  I have learned to be more patient because nearly everything — from getting dressed to eating a meal — has to be done with INTENT, doing but one thing at a time.  I have slowed down considerably which, if you “go with it” can give you a fresh perspective and experience of things like nature that you never took the time to notice before…
    (Guest columnist Craig B. Little is the Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus at SUNY  Cortland.)


Contact attempted? Perhaps…

Wednesday, January 4th, 2023

Josiah Crouch, San Quentin Mug Shot, 1897

You can be sure that the first thing I asked Cuzzin Ralph when he came down to breakfast this morning was whether or not the Crouches had made themselves known.

“Well…” was his hesitant response, “maybe.”

It seems that when Ralph (who is a big guy) was in the upstairs bathroom (which is a small space), the bottle  of his contact lens solution disappeared from the shelf beside the sink.  A careful search revealed it floating in the toilet (“clean-water-not-to-worry” Ralph assured me).

He reported that he scooped up the bottle, washed it off thoroughly, and proceeded with his day.  “But,” he said — and more than once — “I can’t see how that bottle got way over into the toilet.”

“Unless…” we both said together.

“And it was contact lens solution,” I said.  “Do you suppose they thought it was some sort of solution that would aid in contacting you?”

We ate our breakfast and pondered that for a while.  No conclusions were reached.  But there’s always next time.


Cuzzin Ralph Confronts the Crouches.

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2023

Cuzzin Ralph and Sydney Working on WRE Archive, 2008

So many folks have asked me how I thought the ghosts of the unrighteous Reverend Crouch and his once-upon-a-time bride Sarah would react when Cuzzin Ralph came to spend a day or two.  It’s not that Ralph hasn’t been here before — many times in fact.  The Crouches (either or both) have had plenty of opportunities to make themselves known to him.  But so far…

Cheryl, Ralph, Sydney, Nyel, Virg — Christmas 2021, Oysterville

Not a moan or a groan or a typewritten note.  Not even the lid of an incense burner tossed across the room.  And if you have read my two books, “Ghost Stories of the Long Beach Peninsula” (2014) and “Haunted Histories of the Long Beach Peninsula” (2021), you will know exactly of what I speak.  I believe that ghost buster Madam X, who also made her appearance in “Haunted Histories…” would have had the perfect explanation.  In fact I think that my mother did, too.

Mrs. Crouch, as my mother often said, hung around this Oysterville parsonage because she was happy when she was living here in 1893.  My ghostbusting friend, Madam X, often said the same thing about the souls she confronted.  Some just didn’t want to leave — they liked where they were.  And if they were bothering those still on this side of the veil, it was usually because they didn’t realize it.

Cuzzin Ralph At My Gate, 2023

Mrs. Crouch has never really been more than a playful nuisance to anyone living in this house.  We’ve all been curious about exactly what happened to her and to her womanizing husband.  But, we’ve just been after the historical facts — especially Ralph who has used his internet research skills to great advantage.  Since the Reverend never tried to cover up his behavior — or to change his ways –I can only conclude that he was well-satisfied with himself and has no grudge to bear against Cuzzin Ralph for telling his story the way it was.

But… we will see.  The cousins are only halfway through their stay here.  So far, the Crouches have maintained their silence and have “behaved” as far as we know.  But… you never can tell for sure with ghosts.


A day late and… you know the rest.

Monday, January 2nd, 2023

Cheryl and Virg, 2016

I promised myself that when the New Year began (as in yesterday), I would write one short story a day toward the eventuality of a new book I have in mind.  Well, here we are at Day Two of 2023 and Story Number One is still safely locked in my head.

I’m not beating myself up over it — not even vowing to get it plus Story Number Two done today.  That’s because my promise-to-self was not a New Year’s Resolution — just a way of setting a goal.  In fact, my actual resolutions — to develop more compassion and empathy — are being given a test with this very story-a-day promise.  “Cut yourself some slack, Sydney,” I say to myself.  “You had other fish to fry yesterday.”

Cuzzin Ralph, 2019

That’s the thought I woke up to this morning, anyway, and I do think compassion and empathy can be directed toward oneself as well as toward others.  Don’t you?   Besides… my Jeffords cousins are arriving this afternoon for a few days of visiting.  That’s my Cuzzin Ralph (who has done all the Rev. and Mrs. Crouch research for me), plus his sister Cheryl and her husband Virg who used to live here at the beach.  I’m so excited!  I haven’t seen Ralph since the sheltering began and Cheryl and Virg only oh- so- briefly at Nyel’s Bon Voyage Party.

So that’s why I had other things to do yesterday — making ready for the relatives!  But, honestly, they are the easiest guests EVER!  They bring food for the main meals AND do the cooking and, even in the days when Nyel was fit and well, they’d come and help with various projects around this old house.  (I have a little list of things for them if they will be so kind… mostly involving Ralph, who is tall, getting the top ornaments off the Christmas tree.)

Nope.  Not a bit hard to cut myself some slack this time!



Traveling: Let me count the ways!

Monday, August 22nd, 2022

Sydney at “Three Pines” (Knowlton, Canada) – 2016

For me, traveling has always fallen into three distinct categories:  the planning/anticipation part; the journey, itself, with all the attendant surprises and unforeseen adventures; and the aftermath — re-living the experience with interested friends, pouring over the once-in-a-lifetime photos, staying in touch with new acquaintances, even trying to replicate a recipe from that quaint bistro along the Seine.

Each travel experience, of course, includes all of the above parts, but I think my focus  differed according to my age.  It was the journey, itself,  that was of greatest importance when I was a child.  By the time I was old enough to plan my own trips, it was probably a toss-up between the planning and the actual journey that I most enjoyed.  And, by the time I reached my seventies, I confess that the aftermath of most trips was what I liked the most — safely home in familiar surroundings, basking in the memories..

Charlie at Pisa, 1958

And now?  The jury is out.  I’m not even sure how much more traveling I want to do.  Do I have the energy?  The stamina?  Do I want to be one of those old ladies who spends much of a trip “resting” in her hotel room while my companions are out and about?  And for that matter, do I really want to travel with a group?  Or am I too set in my own ways of travel?  A lot to ponder…

On the other hand, I spoke to my son about the idea of traveling with me to the East Coast — maybe this Fall or next — “to visit the relatives.”  All of my first cousins (and several seconds) plus my good friends Barbara and John are “back east” and none of us are getting any younger.  Charlie, too, has relatives on his Father’s side back there. I thought maybe this Fall — but it’s getting here way too quickly.  Maybe a year from now — if Charlie is still willing…