It might be my mother’s fault…

June 13th, 2021

I do not like taking naps.  Period.  Apparently, I never have.  My mother quit trying to put me down for an afternoon nap about the time I began walking.  She said that I always woke up so cranky that it wasn’t worth it.  And I’m here to tell you, 85 years later, some things don’t change.  Although…

I still do not find that naps are “refreshing” and, on the rare occasion that I do have an afternoon liedown, I wake up feeling mean and grouchy.  I think it must be some deep-seated belief in the adage that Marta’s father often espoused:  “You’ll sleep a long time when you’re dead.”  Of course, he wasn’t talking about naps; he was talking about staying up late rather than going to bed “with the chickens” as I have always done, even before I became a chicken farmer’s wife.  I say it the Ben Franklin way: “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”  (Healthy, probably.  but I’m waiting for the last two.)  Bottom line:  if I do nap, I always feel I’ve missed out on something or have wasted time that could have been used to better advantage.

All this is by way of preface to telling of my yesterday’s nap experience.  From Monday through Thursday, we had had a houseful — my son Charlie plus four cousins.  They were absolutely easy “guests” and I enjoyed every minute with them.  But, yesterday morning as we hugged Charlie goodbye, I realized that I was a tad tired.  So after lunch, I decided to take a nap.

Three hours later, Nyel woke me for dinner and I found, for the first time ever, that I didn’t feel grouchy at all.  On the other hand, I didn’t feel refreshed.  I turned down dinner, puttered around a little, watched two episodes of Jeopardy that Nyel had recorded from last week, and was in bed as usual with the chickens.  Maybe I’ve finally grown up enough to accept naps gracefully.  My mother would be so pleased!


But where is Dorothy?

June 12th, 2021

Oriental Poppies

Roses and poppies and salvia… oh my!  The garden is poised for summer and promises to be bursting forth in all its glory about the time the Solstice arrives a week from tomorrow.  Especially the roses.  The Yorks apparently love being in the big tubs near our tool shed and have more buds than I’ve ever seen. Ditto the old-fashioned roses that want to climb up the outside wall of our garage, if only we’d give them a trellis or two.  As it is, they are doing their best to create a big bush of tempting flower arrangements — but beware of those thorns!!

York Roses

Of course, it helps that I’ve been diligent about the regular spraying of Deer Fence all winter and spring.  Last year I was neglectful and we had ‘nary a York ‘nor an Old-fashioned rose all summer long.  On the other hand, there was a profusion of Dorothty Perkins along our east and west fences.  So far, they are not showing us any budding promises this year.  Perhaps I cut them back too vigorously when we were trimming the rhododendrons last fall.  I will surely miss them if they don’t make an appearance.


On the other hand, the Oriental Poppies are showing off to beat their record and our new salvia plants are almost painfully purple.  (Why haven’t we had those before?  They seem to like it here and we are delighted with their spikey blossoms.  Thank you to our Garden Girls for the suggestion!)  My nastursiums (“mastershalums” — my annual salute to Winnie-ther-Pooh) are doing beautifully — at least in the leaf department.  I’m hoping that a run of sunny days will encourage their blossoms.  Ditto the Shasta daisies and tiger lilies and dahlias!

Dorothy Perkins – 2016

All in all, the garden is coming right along.  Thank you, dear Maggie, for introducing us to Glenna and Lee.  They are by far-and-away the best bloomin’ magicians ever!

Bonding Across The Generations

June 11th, 2021

Maddie and Sydney, First Cousins twice removed

It was Maddie’s third visit to Oysterville but the first that was a prolonged (four days and nights) stay.  On each of her previous visits, she had been all eyes and ears –looking, looking, looking and asking myriad questions about Oysterville.  Between visits she has read my first ghost book and parts of Willard’s Oysterville, Roads to Grandpa’s Village.  

This time she came prepared to work on her “Oysterville Project” — an extensive multimedia look at Oysterville through the generations of our Espy family.  She had written up her proposed topic for school, it was accepted, and she asked if I would allow her to interview me — both in the “traditional” way and for the video camera.  I was thrilled.  Imagine being interviewed by the three-times-great-granddaughter of your own great-grandfather!

Maddie and Julia, June 10, 2021

She began our interviews by saying that she was especially interested in R.H. Espy, founder of Oysterville, and his much-younger wife Julia, as well as their eight children.  She had questions prepared — “Did R.H. and Julia absolutely ADORE their children?” and “Is it true that Julia taught them all at home for their early years?”  We talked about child-rearing in the 1800s — the differences between then and now — and about the senior Espy’s emphasis on education.  Maddie was interested in the hardships Julia faced here in isolated Oysterville and expressed sadness that this great-great-great-grandmother had died so young (49) before all her children were even grown and before most of her grandchildren had been born.

We talked and laughed and lamented.  Occasionally one of us would get up and grab a photo from mantle or wall to see exactly who we were discussing.  We spent several hours on two separate days on Maddie’s Oysterville Project.  I loved every minute!  Later, Alex took his kids up to the cemetery and sent me a picture of “Maddie and Julie.”  It made me a bit teary and so very pleased, all at the same time.  I so hope that Maddie’s interest will continue and that she, in her turn, will answer the questions of future Espy generations!

Off on the Great Clam Hunt!

June 10th, 2021

The Intrepid Clammers

Chef Nyel sent us intrepid ones off to tideflats to get a few clams for the paella.  “A couple of dozen should be plenty,” said he, and off we went — Alex and three of his kids with me as guide.  It was seven ayem; Charlie slept in.

Hard At It!

The morning was fabulous — blue skies with patches of fluffy white, still and windless.  We had the bay to ourselves and it seemed we could see from one end to the other.   Besides one another, the only signs of life to be seen were a few teeny-tiny crabs scuttling southwards.  I couldn’t help think how lucky we all are that our family has retained these second-class tidelands.  We represented three of the five generations since our great/great-great/great-great-great grandfather R.H. Espy first arrived on these very tideflats in 1854.  My fondest hope is that there will be many more Espy desescendents who will enjoy “Grandpa’s Village” of Oysterville and all it has to offer…

Dinner Companions’ First Meeting

There seemed to be a plethora of clams — but quite small.  We filled the chef’s request plus a few more and were back at the house by eight o’clock to scrub them clean and put them in a bucket of fresh bay water.  They spent yesterday cleaning themselves until the chef is ready to begin tonight’s dinner!  YUM!  I can scarcely wait!

J.G. + C.S. — sort of.

June 9th, 2021

Jackson Gable

We love Jackson Gable!  He’s lively, polite, and darling all rolled into one short-legged, long-haired package.

And Jackson Gable loves Clara Stevens.  Apparently.  Yesterday, for the first time ever, Jackson made his affections known.  Before anyone could say “STOP!” he was headed down the lane, under the gate, and had grabbed Ms. Clara by the tail in an enthusiastic embrace.  Clara, like all older girls with a bit of experience in their backgrounds, burst free and hid among the day lilies.  And the hell with her tail feathers — all but one.

Jackson’s bosslady, Cate, was distraught.  The Espy cousins went on a hen hunt.  Clara was found with ‘nary a mark on her — just totally embarrased at the condition of her tail.  Little Red Hen and Slutvana had disappeared, entirely — probably under the house, we decided.

Clara and Her One Remaining Tail Feather

By bedtime, all three girls had returned to the coop and were on their roost ready to put the day behind them.  I told them that Jackson’s bosslady had called three or four times to find out how Clara was and if everyone else had shown up.  They seemed satisfied that Jackson had probably been taken to task for his overly exuberant behavior.

I kept them in the coop run today.  Clara was hunkering back in the corner, embarrassed about her unsightly behind.  When I reassured her that we loved her no matter what and that Jackson wouldn’t be coming to call again anytime soon, she relaxed.  But just a little.  One thing about chickens — they are vain about their looks.  Especially about those saucy tail feathers!

Lively, Non-stop, Ecclectic!

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…


Treasure In Plain Brown Wrapping

June 7th, 2021

A Package for The Author

It sat on the bench by our front door — a small, unprpossessing package addressed to me.  It had apparently been left by FedEx during our Friday Night Gathering and no one had noticed it as they left.  There it was, waiting patiently, on Saturday morning.

The minute I saw the return address, I knew the contents of that little package!  The first five hot-off-the-press copies of Historic Haunts of the Long Beach Peninsula!  Nestled in bubble wrap and with a packing slip tucked inside, there they were at long last!  As I always do when those first books arrive, I wondered how Arcadia Publishing arrived at “five” as the magic number for the free copies that the author gets before the books are sent out to retail outlets for presentation on the publication date — in this case, June 21st.

The Ten Stories in Historic Haunts of the Long Beach Peninsula

Twelve would be a better number — at least for this book.  One for Ralph whose research about Reverend Crouch prompted me to write the book; one for Cate who wrote the Foreword; one for Paul who drew the map; one for Vicki who took a specific photo for me (and did a drawing, besides); and one each for Colleen, Charlotte, Tiffany, Johanna, Michelle, Shelly and Doug, and Stephanie and Dave — all of whom were generous in telling me their stories and in sharing their experiences.  And maybe one for me.

But, eventually, those I’ve ordered will come and my thank-yous can be given!  Oh boy!  Oh boy!  Oh boy!  I hope everyone likes this one as much as I do!  (Especially Mrs. Crouch!)


Remembering Pam Dorrance

June 5th, 2021

Last evening at our “Friday Night Gathering” (or “Salon” as Sturges often says) we spent time remembering our friend Pam.  We began by reading our most recent communication from Sturges, sent on June 2nd:

Our family is gathered with Pam at Swedish First Hill. Pam has fought a courageous fight these past three [weeks] but sadly we have lost.  She is fully sedated and unaware of what is happening. Late this afternoon we must take her off life support because there are no further options. It is terribly sad for all of us. She is a special person and the love of my life for over 60 years.
Our love to you both and all our friends from the “salon”, Sturges

Pam Dorrance, 2018

It was only a month or five weeks ago that she had been here with us, enjoying a glass of wine and taking over the hostess duties with a vengeance.  She was so tiny, yet so mighty and, when she insisted, “No, I can do it!” there was no arguing.

“She would never let me pass an appetizer,” Sue said.  “No matter how big the tray, she’d insist on doing it herself.”

“Yes,” I remembered, “with her big smile and that determined look in her eye, daring you to argue!”

“She always took special pains to take care of ME!” Nyel said.  “There she was, with her cane and a bit bent over, moving with difficulty.  I knew I was more mobile, could lift more, and do more —  even from my wheelchair — but if Pam wanted to do it… she did it!  And with a smile.”

I remembered the first time she showed me her fabulous garden and mentioned how much she enjoyed the deer who visited.  “We always put a saltlick out for them in winter,” she said.  “And I love having the rabbits come through, too.”

“She loved every living thing,” Cyndy added.  “She wouldn’t hurt a fly.  Literally!  Or a spider.  They all had her respect and protection.”

Vicki spoke of her generosity.  “I inadvertently got put in charge of the garden at the Lamp Camp in Long Beach when we were staying there a few years back.  I mentioned it to Pam one Friday night and the next thing I knew, she was bringing me all these wonderful starts from her garden!”

The stories continued.  The box of kleenex was passed around.  We spoke of Sturges and of their four daughters. Silently, we willed Oysterville’s spring breezes to carry them our love and sustaining thoughts.  It was one of our most difficult of Friday Nights… yet how fortunate we were to be able to gather together in friendship and remembrance.

Polishing and Fluffing in Anticipation

June 4th, 2021

Willard’s  four great-grandsons with their mom, Kathleen – 2004

I’ve been tidying up — polishing silver, directing Cinderella, and even doing a bit of dusting here and there — while Nyel has been planning menus and ordering last minute food items!  Charlie is on his way up from Los Angeles and the Willard Espy cousins are headed our way from points east and north.  The family (or at least a part of it) is gathering!  I am beside myself with excitement.

Willard and Dale, August 1914

We haven’t seen Charlie since Christmas 2019.  And, I suddenly realized, Willard’s grands and greats were here in January 2020, shortly after Charlie left.  They just missed one another that time so it will be the first time that Willard’s grandson Alex and my son Charlie (2nd cousins) have ever met.  Charlie and Alex’s sons — Max, Sam, Jack and Ben — did meet back in 2004 at Oysterville’s sesquicentennial, though it’s doubtful that any of them remember.  However, Charlie will meet Max’s wife, Micah, and Alex’s young daughter, Maddie, for the first time Monday.  Most of them will be staying here until a week from today.  Missing due to a health problem will be Alex’s mother, Mona, Willard’s oldest (by six minutes?) daughter and my beloved first cousin.  Damn!

Helen and Harry Espy on their 50th Wedding Anniversary, 1947

And oh how I wish Willard and my mother were here for this get-together.  They would both be so pleased.  And my grandparents, Harry Albert and Helen Richardson Espy — great-grandgrands to Charlie and Alex and  great-greats to the rest!  Oh my!  If their ears could burn, I’m sure they would do so.  I expect that we’ll be telling and re-telling all sorts of familty stories, some familiar to us all and some not so much.

I can hardly wait!

if I never eat again…

June 3rd, 2021

The very best guests “to entertain” are the ones who come completely self-contained — in fact, though they might come to spend time with you under your very roof, it becomes questionable exactly who are hosts and who are guests.  This happens to us a lot AND WE LOVE IT!  Friends bring appetizers for Friday nights.  Loved ones bring all the fixin’s for lunch or for dinner.  Relatives come from foreign lands and cook their favorite national dishes in our kitchen!  We are SO spoiled.

The last two days took the “being guests in our own home” to unprecedented lengths.  (Well, not quite unprecedented – they’ve done this before.)  The Rose City Mixed Quartet came on Tuesday at noon, left the next day after lunch, and brought with them sleeping bags, pillows, towels and all other sleepover paraphernailia plus food for two lunches and one breakfast.  We had only to do Tuesday night dinner — and no clean-up.  WOW!

The menus went like this — sandwiches and all the accoutrements for Tuesday’s lunch, complements of Helen & Dale — which we set up outside for a glorious picnic, the season’s first.  Dinner (our contribution):  an appetizer of Dungeness crab, lasagna, tossed green salad, French bread and brownies from Cameron.  Breakfast,  aeblskivers* by Mark accompanied by thick-sliced ham and strawberries and green grapes. Lunch barbecued pulled pork sandwiches by Cameron (and husband Bill who, like the other spouses, was not among us) and broccoli slaw, followed by watermelon and the last of the brownies!

Their car pulled out around two o’clock but they were back at two ten to retrieve Cameron’s cell phone.  Nyel and I caught up on some emails and other paperwork (but alas I didn’t do a blog), couldn’t work up any interest in dinner, and were in bed by 7:00 p.m.  Conclusion:  It’s just exhausting to be the King and Queen — even for two days!

And did I say we loved! loved! loved! it?

*A word about æbleskivers– a Danish treat cooked in a special castiron pan (Mark brought two of them) which I would describe as a round, hollow pancake ball.  Break them open, fill them with butter and brown sugar or with maple syrup or with strawberry jam (we had all three options) and you are in Heaven.  Pure and simple.