Posts Tagged ‘Charles M. Howell IV’

May 30th! Always a CMH4 Holiday to me!

Tuesday, May 30th, 2023


Did you know that I got to choose the day we met, Charlie?  About the middle of May, the doctor said, “Any day now, I’ll expect your call, Mrs. Howell.”  But you seemed content to stay where you were.  Then, toward the end of the month, I was told that you were getting too big for your allotted space and we would have to “induce” your entrance to the world.   I was a bit upset about that until the Dr. said, “What day would you like for this baby’s birthday?”

“Really?  Wow!” I thought.  That seemed to put a whole new spin on things and since May 30th was a holiday (and I thought it always would be)  I said, “How about next Wednesday?”  And so it was that you were born on Wednesday, May 30, 1956!

However, I do believe I went to the Redwood City Hospital about 8:00 o’clock in the morning on Tuesday the 29th.  I don’t know if the doctor had forewarned me or if I just realized that you were going to continue to take your time, even when urged.  I remember asking if I could speak to the doctor sometime that afternoon and was told that he was on the golf course.  I think I was a bit anxious about that…

Daddy Morgan, Son Charlie, Mommy Sydney

But he arrived in time to introduce us at 8:30 in the morning on May 30th and we had a whole glorious holiday to get to know each other!  You would have 15 years of your birthday always being a holiday and then… well sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t.   Once in a while it’s even part of a three-day weekend!

Whenever it is, Charlie my son, it is always the best day of the year for me!  Many, many happy returns!

And speaking of nicknames…

Monday, May 15th, 2023

Charlie, 1974

Perhaps you’ve already read Cate Gable’s “Coast Chronicles” column which will be out in print on Wednesday.  Right now, you can find it online by googling chinook observer coast chronicles the indomitable Pat Akehurst.  It’s a fun article about a wonderful woman who came to the Peninsula in the seventies and who remembers it all — the people, the places, the views and vistas, the jobs she had and the paintings she made.  She is remarkable and, if you have been here for even half that long, you will find yourself nodding about things you lost sight of long ago.

Writing Partners Gordon Bressack and Charles Howell with their first (of many) Emmys

For me, it was Pat’s fond memories of my son Charlie.  “He just shimmered,” she said!  I knew he would do something wonderful with his life!”  Just the words any mom wants to hear — especially when it has turned out to be true!

But… she remembered him as Quad or Quaddie.  That surprised me because, indeed, that was his nickname, but I thought that he became “Charlie” under the rather gimlet eye of Miss Blewitt, his Kindergarten teacher in Castro Valley, California.  By the time Pat met him, he was in high school and I can’t imagine that my mother (who Pat also remembered) was still calling him “Quad.”

He was named Charles Morgan Howell, IV after his dad and since his dad went by “Morgan” and his grandfather Howell was called “Chick,” we somehow connected the IV with the Latin for four and he became “Quad.”  Besides, he was born on May 30th of my Junior year and he and I spent many hours in and around the Stanford Quad (short for Quadrangle) during his first year.  It’s where he took his first steps.

Sydney and Quaddie in the Stanford Quad, 1957

It was such a delight that Pat remembered “Quad.”  I must remember to ask Charlie just how long Granny (and maybe Grandpa) called him by that name and how he felt about it.  (I never did have a nickname except for the butcher at the  corner grocery in Alameda who always called me “Syd, Syd, the Chinese Kid” which I didn’t get at all.)

Come to think of it, my father often called me “Syd” — but somehow I never really thought of that as a nickname.  I wonder if that’s how Charlie felt about Granny calling him “Quad.”

On being a Mom for “quite a many” now!

Sunday, May 14th, 2023

Charlie, 1956

For me, the greatest joy of my “golden years” has been sharing adulthood with my children — with my son Charlie and my bonus daughter Marta both of whom are well into their retirement years!  Who woulda thunk it!

Marta, c. 1959

The basics of young motherhood never go away, of course.   I still worry and fuss (hopefully to myself) when they are ailing, feel like I’ve failed them if they bump into obstacles (literal or figurative), and want to brag and shout to the world about their successes.

Charlie and Marta, 10/11/21

But an added pleasure — and one I couldn’t have imagined fifty or sixty years ago — is seeking their opinions and advice on all sorts of concerns and having righteous discussions about the things that really matter.  “The gift of time” has been good to me in many ways, but it is in my ever-developing friendship with my children that I feel most blessed,

And so, on this Mother’s Day 0f 2023, I have to say “Thank you, Charlie and Marta, for being such great ‘kids’ and for all the years you’ve put up with me “no matter what!”  I love you to the moon and back.

Mother’s Day Has Already Begun!

Thursday, May 11th, 2023

Postcard From Charlie, 1964

As I was going through yet another pile of “keepsakes” today, I came across a postcard sent to me from Shasta Dam in 1964 from my son Charlie who was then eight years old.  This is what it said: I got a pocket from Shasta Dam.  Can’t talk long.  This telephone costs money. Bye.  “Click”  Your son, Charles.    It was addressed:  To Mommy, 5808 Greenridge, Castro Valley, Calif.

I’m not sure  what a “pocket” was — maybe Charlie can remember.  I’m so glad I kept this.  What a treasure!   Already he was thinking in alternative possibilities…

Letter from Mom, 1983

And then I ran across another treasure — this one from my mother written in November 1983, just after she and Dad had celebrated their 5oth wedding anniversary.  Mostly, she was thanking me for my “very efficient handling of all the last minute details” — not one of which I can remember and probably was getting credit for things not deserved!  But what tickled me was this paragraph, so typical of Mom:
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!

 What a mom she was!  I miss her every day but never so much as when something zany strikes my funny bone and I know that only my inimitable mother would share in my delight.  I’m so glad I caught just a bit of her unique flavor!

Flowers From Charlie!

And just about then, the lovely Mother’s Day bouquet arrived from Charlie (via Nansen).  I feel like I am sharing it with his beloved Granny, as well.  What a lovely beginning to the holiday meant just for us mothers!  (Who all diddled, don’t forget!)




Marta was upset. I was forewarned. Charlie was…

Sunday, April 16th, 2023

Charlie, 2012

Depending on the why of it or maybe on the where of it or even on the the when of it, my mental pictures of my son can run the gamut of his sixty-six and eleven/twelfths years.  From baby and toddler days through adolescence and beyond, all my conjured images make me smile.

I was, therefore, so glad of Marta’s forewarning.  We had a conference call rather than a zoom chat this evening.  Marta was in Los Angeles at her friend Jim’s, not far from Charlie’s place.  Jim, however, was in the hospital and our discussion revolved around his situation, Marta’s preparations toward caregiving when he is released, and other matters of concern.

It wasn’t until the end of the call that Marta cautioned me against looking at Charlie’s Facebook page.  “There’s a lot of blood!  And it’s just his face and arms!  And it doesn’t say it’s just makeup!”  Marta wasn’t crying, but she wasn’t laughing either.   And Charlie was silent.

Charlie, a vampire victim in Simmin’s film – 2023

Yikes!  Gradually the story unfolded.  Charlie’s friends, Simmin and Marcelo, had asked him to come over to help with a film Simmin was just finishing up. I didn’t get the whole story but there was a director and cameraman and Simmin (who I believe wrote the script and stars in the film), and who actually did Charlie’s makeup.  It’s a vampire film, apparently, and Charlie thinks he was some sort of victim.  He’s quite vague about it all, but perhaps tangling with a vampire can have that effect on you!

Marta saw the photograph with no forewarning and was quite upset until she was able to talk with Charlie about it.  Points for Simmon’s artistry no doubt.  (Although both Marta and I wondered just what kind of vampire leaves such a bloody mess behind…)  But, never mind.  Charlie thinks Simmin was pleased.

I loved it that Marta was so protective of me — she wasn’t at all sure I should even look at the photo.  But, forewarned is forearmed as they say.  I don’t know how I’d have felt had I just come across it as Marta did.  As it is, ghough, I thought Charlie should put the picture up on his Actor’s Resume. With all the vampire films around these days, there could definitely be a need for a bloody body…


“Murder, Anyone?”

Friday, February 10th, 2023

Proud Mom (that’s me) wants you to know that son Charlie Howell is in a film which can now be seen on Amazon Prime!  In it he plays himself and co-star, Maurice LaMarche plays the late Gordon Bressack who, in real life was Charlie’s writing partner for 30 years.  The film, based on a script by Gordon, was directed by his son James Cullen Bressack.  As one critic said: “… a genre-fluid film-within-a-film is a monstrously meta memorial to the director’s father.

Says Rotten Tomatoes:  Basically, the plot involves two playwrights, George (Gordon) and Charlie, who are tasked with the challenge of creating the next “avant-garde, surrealistic, mind-bending neo-noir thriller”. As they write, the story comes to life in real-time. However, their own emotions and arguments also begin to manifest on film, creating sharp twists and turns that affect the entire movie. Filled with hilarity and chaos, “Murder, Anyone?” is a comedic play-within-a-play-within-a-movie that contemplates the complexities of language, art, theater, film, and more.

Charlie in “Murder, Anyone?”

Rotten Tomatoes gives it an 89% rating and the audience score they post is 95%!  Wowie Zowie!  How proud Gordon would have been of son Jimmy!  And how proud I am of Charlie!!  And how I wish my folks and Nyel were here to clap and cheer with me!

In the eyes of the beholder…

Thursday, July 21st, 2022

Sue’s Chair… at first.

Last summer — or was it summer before last? — Nyel and I were on a garage clean-out marathon.  Among the  things we put a “For Sale” sign on was the ugliest chair in the world.  It had been in the Back Forty for as long as I could remember.  I don’t think I ever did see it in use and I’d have been happy just to haul it to the dump.

But “no” said my ever-practical husband, and he put a reasonable price on it and set it outside on the verge.  I didn’t think much about it as long as there were strangers looking at all our sad discards.  But then along came our friends, Sue and Bill Grennan, and… Yikes!  Sue was actually sitting in that ugly old chair!

And then… were they actually considering buying it???  I was truly mortified.  “But I really want it,” said Sue.  “You don’t know how hard it is for my short little legs to find a chair that’s comfortable — a chair that I can sit in and have both feet on the floor.  And, in this case, maybe even rock a bit!”

When I saw that she was serious, I tried to give her the chair.  “Just take it,” I said.  But she was having none of it.  I can’t remember what she paid, but she truly looked so pleased with herself that I wondered what I was missing.

It took a long time to find out…  and it’s still a work in progress.  The wooden frame has been stripped of it’s ugly varnish — did Bill say it was mahogany?  The back has been re-caned and, says Sue, will be done again.  “It was a learning experience,” she laughs.  “By the time I got to the seat — that ugly old upholstered seat — “I knew better what I was doing.”  And now she plans to re-do the back.

I should have known!  Sue is a prize-winning quilter.  She’s good with her hands.  She’s a perfectionist.  And, she’s obviously motivated by those needy little legs of hers, though I don’t believe that for a minute!  I have a feeling that only other quilters and caners and knitters and crocheters will truly understand.  But no one will clap louder than I!


Every Day: An Adventure In Time And Space!

Tuesday, June 21st, 2022

Nyel and Sydney, 2018

Tomorrow will mark two weeks since Nyel and I had our last conversation — at least our last communication that was two-sided.  As we all have known from our cradle days, one-sided conversations (which, I guess, are not  technically “conversations”) are not all that uncommon.  In fact, in recent years “self-talk” has become a recognized teaching technique for use with young children. So, I make no apologies  for my occasional comments and questions that go unanswered… at least not out loud.

Charlie in Dickensenian Mode

On the other hand, I find it very hard to deal with modern technology when it comes to communication in the here and now.  Last night, for instance, I had an important — maybe even urgent — message for my son Charlie who lives 1,000+ miles away.  But when I called him, the call went straight to voicemail and I was told I could not leave a message — his mailbox was full.

So, I emailed him to call me.  And some time later, emailed him again saying I was going to bed but to call anytime.  I slept soundly until about 4:30 a.m. — no interruptions by phone.  Checked my emails and found three urgent ones from Charlie.  His phone was not working — it said.  Contact him by a zoom link he had sent.  And, finally, that he’d hold the zoom link open for another fifteen minutes… But that had been hours ago.  So… I emailed a response.  Said I’d check in every 1/2 hour or so now that I’m up.  And decided that whatever I wanted to talk to him about probably was no longer urgent.

It all put me in mind of the days of my childhood when we had a crank phone in the kitchen and all long distance calls went through the switchboard operator  in Ilwaco.  I don’t know what time the “exchange” closed down for the night — maybe 11 p.m. — but I’d be willing to bet that if there was an emergency, there was a way to get through — even if it was a midnight drive in the Model A to roust J.A. Howerton, owner of the Ilwaco Telephone & Telegraph Company.

Maybe we’re regressing.  Maybe I shouldn’t give up my landline after all…

Meet Young Mr. Rosencrantz!

Sunday, July 11th, 2021

When Happy Kitty died after a long (was he 19?) and contented life, Charlie knew that eventually he would get another kitten.  He has always had two at a time and Lupe, who is six, might miss her “brother.”

But, adopting a kitty in the Los Angeles area is apparently no easy task.  Charlie began the process shortly after his return home from here in June and, just yesterday, finally brought twelve-to-fourteen-week-old Rosencrantz home from the “adoption agency.”  No sooner had they arrived than several things happened almost simultaneously.

I brought Rosencrantz home. He jumped out of the carrier and ran and hid, said Charlie on Facebook.  And then:  I shouldn’t have let him just jump out of the carrier. I should have picked him up and held him for a moment. He can’t get outside. I just have to wait.  And later:  Just needs to acclimate a little bit.

Meanwhile, Lupe, who has been with Charlie since she was even younger than Rosencrantz, was less than pleased.  When, finally, Charlie reported:  Rosencrantz came out and alternately runs around, then hides again.  Lupe is hissing at me!  I’ve betrayed her!  And still later,  (in a bit of a panic), Lupe is crying!  Real tears!

During our weekly family zoom meeting, Lupe perched on a high bookcase behind Charlie, keeping her eye on everything, us included. Rosencrantz snuck hither and thither but never within range of the zoom camera.  We are eager to hear that they have bonded.  Or at least have arrived at peaceful co-existence.  Two black kitties!  So cute!  So diabolical!  Almost more difficult than chickens!  Good luck, Charlie!

Polishing and Fluffing in Anticipation

Friday, 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!