Posts Tagged ‘Charles M. Howell IV’

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!

Happy Birthday, Charlie!

Sunday, May 30th, 2021

Marta, Jim, Charlie – May 30, 2021

Hard to believe that my son joins the official ranks of Senior Citizens today!  Social Security and Medicare Parts A and B and all that other coming-of-old-age stuff.  And, since it’s Sunday (our regular Family Zoom Day) we’ll get to give him our good wishes almost in person!

Charlie in Berkeley at Three

It happens that Marta is in L.A. today with her friend Jim and she just posted a selfie of the two of them and Charlie at La Cabanita in Glendale  which, according to its website, serves “authentic Mexican food known for its flavors, colorful decoration & variety of spices & ingredients, native to Mexico.”  I’m happy to report that, coincidntally, our dinner menu right here in Oysterville tonight is build-your-own-tostados.  Great minds, eh?

And… in another serendipity, a week from today Charlie will be arriving (fingers crossed) just in time for dinner, though the menu is yet undecided!  We’ll celebrate his birthday a week late and revel in seeing him for the first time in almost a year and a half!  Yay!  I feel like I will be the one getting the present!

Meanwhile… Happy Birthday, Charlie!  Can’t believe how well you wear those years!


One Of Those Age Old Questions

Monday, May 25th, 2020

Charlie’s First Picture

Just what is the purpose of government?  I think I need to review.  But not today.  Today is Memorial Day and, once upon a time it was my son’s birthday.  I am witness to the fact that he was born at 7:44 in the morning on Memorial Day, 1956.  It was May 30th.  I remember being pleased that his birthday would always be a holiday.

And so it was…  until his fourteenth birthday.  By then, Congress had passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which moved four holidays, including  Charlie’s birthday (which just happened to be Memorial Day), from their traditional dates to a specified Monday in order to create a convenient three-day weekend.  The other three holidays were Washington’s Birthday, Labor Day, and Columbus Day.

Charlie’s Birth Announcement

I wonder what George’s mother might have thought about the change.  In one way it is comforting to know that Charlie and the Father of Our Country were given the same cavalier treatment.  But, still, it does make me wonder just what the bottom line purpose of our elected leaders might be.

I think of Dan Driscoll’s campaign slogan — “fair and just treatment under the law”– and wonder how that factors in when it comes to messing around with holidays and birthdays.  I think, perhaps, the answer to the purpose of government is simply to keep us confounded and a bit miffed for indefinite periods of time.

Memorial Day used to be a holiday to honor the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military.  Even that official purpose has morphed over time as noted in our local cemeteries where the VFW places flags honoring all veterans and the rest of us decorate the graves of loved ones (whether or not they serrved) with flowers.  Go figure.

Happy Birthday to Charlie!

Thursday, May 30th, 2019

Charlie in Italy at Two

Sixty-three years ago today Charles Morgan Howell IV made his cautious entrance onto the world stage and has been entertaining all of us who know him ever since!  He arrived at eight in the morning which, by my reckoning, should have made him a day person; I am still mystified at his life-long night-owl proclivities.  Even as an infant, Charlie could often be heard babbling happily to himself in the middle of the night — often when I, too, was burning the midnight oil (and perhaps babbling, as well) at the kitchen table in our Belmont, CA home.

Charlie in Berkeley at Three

I had a (fairly) good excuse; I was probably writing a paper or, perhaps, writing for “the” paper which happened to be the Stanford Daily.  Charlie’s first year among us was my senior year at Stanford University where I was a Journalism major but, more importantly, the only mom (as far as I know) during the final year of the Class of ’57.  I don’t believe Charlie had an excuse for his wakefulness, at all.  He’s just more active in the wee hours.

Perhaps it’s because he began as the lone “night person” in a household of daytime folks that Charlie has always seemed totally content to enjoy his own company.  He often pursued solitary pastimes as a kid — taught himself cartooning and animation techniques by spending hours and hours drawing flip-books when he was in third and fourth grades; wrote a neighborhood newspaper for a time when he was a bit older, setting the type by hand with a printing kit that he had been given.  (Or did he buy it, himself?)  It’s not that he’s ever been a “loner” — most of his work and recreational pursuits have been collegial — it’s just that he is content with solitary pursuits, as well.

Charlie at the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 2012

So, when I called him about 7:00 o’clock this morning to wish him Happy Birthday, I was a bit surprised that I woke him up with my croaky “Happy Birthday to you” song.  “I have a doctor’s appointment later today,” he explained in a sleepy voice.  Heck of a way to spend a birthday, say I.  Hope he does something fun as well!  Happy Birthday, Charlie!  Have a great day!  And night!



The show must… and all that!

Monday, November 19th, 2018

Charlie Takes Center Stage, 11/18/2018

Yesterday my 62-year-old (ahem) son was in a recital in L.A. but, since Nyel and I are pretty much house-bound until he can put weight on his leg again (five more weeks), we could only wish him luck from afar.  Not the usual “break a leg” though.  We are avoiding that particular phrase at all costs.

Not only does Nyel have a badly broken left leg which is keeping him wheelchair-bound, but Charlie also has a bad break – three, actually – that occurred last week in a fall.  It’s his left clavicle and his surgery is set for this Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving.

Dem Bones

But meanwhile…  Charlie has been taking voice lessons for several years and, in typical music lesson fashion, his teacher arranged for her students to give a recital for family and friends.  Not the usual recital, mind you.  It’s L.A. after all.  She had each of her students showcase a song from a Broadway musical and arranged the numbers so that there was a sort of a story, (at least that is my understanding.)  Then she and the students pooled their money, rented a small theater for a (rehearsal) day and a night and… voilà!  Last night was the big production.

Charlie, in true showmanship fashion, did his part on cue.  I know that because his step-sister Marta managed to leave smoke-filled Northern California for a few days in smoke-filled Southern California and she and her friend Jim were there!  She not only called with a full report, but sent a picture.  Charlie looks great – but I couldn’t help but wonder about his tie.  It’s one of those dreaded clip-on affairs I imagine, since he is under strict orders not to move his left arm.  To say nothing of the fact that it hurts like hell if he does.

Marta and Jim

I wish we coulda… but am so glad Marta was there to represent the family. Way to go Charlie!  You are a trooper in the total “show must go on” tradition.  We are proud of you!

Too Close for Comfort

Sunday, July 22nd, 2018

It was one of those “I just happened to be…” situations yesterday afternoon.  I was at my computer finishing up a writing task and “just happened” to check my email.  There was a message from my childhood friend Memi (Ann Sherwood Anderson) who lives up in Westport:

Sydney, are you watching the hostage situation in Silverlake area of L.A?  I’m sure you said that’s where Charlie lives.  So do Jack and Kristin.  Jack texted his mom while she was here visiting me and told her not to worry if she turned on the news and saw what was happening because he and Kristin were home safe.  It’s at Trader Joe’s where they shop a lot.  Charlie probably does, too!  I have it on CNN.  It’s ongoing, although when you read this message, it might be all over.

I’m sure my heart stopped for a moment even as my mind said… what are the chances?  I called out to Nyel.  He turned on TV as I looked at the guide for the CNN channel number.  They were saying that the perp was in custody… but I wasn’t waiting for details.  I was already calling Charlie who, mercifully, was home and answered.

Our conversation was brief.  He, too, was watching the drama unfold on TV.  “I’ve seen them escorting friends out of the store – clerks I’ve known for years – and other people I recognize from the neighborhood,” he said.  He briefly told me what he knew up to that point – a man had shot his grandmother and possibly one other person, took the grandmother’s car and a hostage (perhaps a young woman; perhaps she, also, had been shot) and he had crashed the into a light pole at Trader Joe’s and had run inside.  The streets were blocked off and there were over 100 cops there…At that point he said he had to go.  More things happening on TV.  He’d call me later.

So far, “later” hasn’t happened.  But that’s okay.  He’s safe.  Jack and Kristin are safe.  Networking among friends still works.  But, what a scary world we live in!  Sometimes, even in Oysterville, it’s all too close for comfort.

Degrees of Separation? None!

Monday, June 25th, 2018

Sandy and Nyel

As we gathered around the big kitchen table, I realized that this was a family reunion of sorts.  Every one of the eight of us were related in some way by blood or marriage – three generations of strong and disparate personalities assembled for what we all fervently hoped would not be the last time.

When Sandy wrote that the Stanford Hospital had send her home with pain pills and no hope, Nyel and I planned our trip and packed our bags.  Sandy and I go back a long way.  We were college roommates.  We married brothers.  Our children are first cousins.  She and I are, in some ways, as different as night and day.  But sixty-two years of shared memories and family connections make any disparities blur beyond recollection.

The Music Studio

Son Charlie drove up from L.A. and we all had dinner in Aptos at Sandy’s daughter Karen’s lovely large home.  Her sons Rory (24) and Elijah (20) were there as was Mark, Rory’s dad.  And, of course, Charlie, Nyel and me.  The men all gathered around Charlie and talked music, film, acting, comedy, and even “Pinky and the Brain”.  It was so interesting to watch and listen to my son in the role of “old man of the industry” telling of his early days in “the business” and how things had changed… or not.  And to listen to the adulation of his fans —  never mind that they are related.

We went outside and steep stairs to Rory’s studio(s) – a sound studio full of instruments and possibilities and, in another room (but somehow electronically connected) his recording studio that he has been building for some time.  “OH! WOW!” Charlie said as we entered the room!  And, for me, anyway, that said it all.  It was Rory’s turn to shine as he explained the intricacies of equipment and played a few demo recordings – some of his own compositions with himself playing five or six instruments.  And then, “Grandma playing her alto sax with some of her musician friends.”

Rory’s Retreat

I hadn’t heard Sandy play since we spent part of a summer on Bainbridge Island with her family – probably sixty years ago.  I was overwhelmed.  And overcome when Rory said, “I’ve only done four recordings of her.  I hope she can get some of her strength back so we can do more.  She can’t play now…”  His voice and his eyes said what we all were feeling.

To say “I’m so glad we came” seems the understatement of a lifetime.


Tuesday, May 30th, 2017

Charlie’s First Picture

My son, Charles Morgan Howell IV, arrived on May 30, 1956, 7:44 a.m. – special delivery at Sequoia Hospital in Redwood City, California, Dr. Verne Voakes in attendance.  He weighed eight pounds which was considered ‘whopping’ since I weighed scarcely ten times as much – 90, soaking wet, as I remember.  It was a Wednesday and it was a holiday because, back then, Memorial Day was always celebrated on the 30th.  None of this last-Monday-of-May business.

According to his Baby Book – filled in spasmodically at best – Charlie’s first big trip was on June 24, 1957 “to Oysterville, Wash, for 2 weeks – home of family for 5 generations.”  I remember that we stayed across the street in what would later become known as ‘the little red cottage.’  I think we spent a lot of time in the family house where my Aunt Mona was caring for “Papa,” my 81-year-old grandfather, Harry Espy.  He was suffering from dementia and it was thought that it would cause him less stress if we stayed elsewhere.  (Were we so raucous?  I don’t recall…)

Charlie’s Birth Announcement

I don’t remember much about that visit except that there was no plumbing to speak of at the cottage.  There was a pitcher pump at the kitchen sink – probably the reason we ate most meals with Mona and Papa.  And there was a chemical toilet in the ‘bathroom.’  I have no memory of how I handled the diaper situation except for knowing that it was long before the advent of paper diapers.  It was the days of cloth-and-dump-and-sterilize-and-wash-and-hang-on-the-line-to-dry.

My only other memory of that trip is of Papa’s delight at holding his great-grandson for a photograph.  He actually chuckled as Charlie reached up to tug at his whiskers and I remember thinking what a familiar feeling that must have been to this father of seven, grandfather of eight, and great-grandfather of two.  I wonder what ever happened to that picture.

Charlie’s First Home in Belmont, California

It’s hard to believe that I’m now the age that Papa was then and that Baby Charlie is more than three times the age I was when he was born!  On the other hand, the years have whooshed by, jam-packed with surprises and accomplishments and more laughter than you can shake a stick at (as my folks were fond of saying).  I’ve been the recipient of grander bragging rights than I could ever have imagined when I first looked at that little tow-headed bundle!  Thanks for all of it, Charlie!  And let’s have lots more!

A Frazzle Dazzle One Step!

Tuesday, April 25th, 2017

Dale at 16, Oysterville, 1927

The use of colorful language runs in our family.  Not the colorful sort that seems to rage rampant in print and behind those bleeps on television.  I mean expressive without being offensive.  My grandfather Espy, for instance was pretty famous for never swearing but for getting his point across, nevertheless.

“Dad burn it!” I’d hear him say.  Or maybe “Dad gum it!”  and I knew he was more than a little frustrated about something.  Sometimes it was “Son of a sea cook!” or “Consarn it!” or perhaps “Ding Bust it!”  But the ultimate in epithets from Papa was “Devil!” and, lest you think those are all pretty tame, you had to be there.  As those of us who knew him well remember, those words came bursting from his mouth like thunderbolts!  Not often, but certainly memorable.

Mona at 7 or 8 — Oysterville, 1911

My mother’s colorful speech was a bit different from her father’s.  She wasn’t substituting the acceptable for the unacceptable.  Far from it.  She was simply being her usual, inimitable self.  “She just wore me to a frazzle-dazzle one step” she often said after being cornered by a particularly irksome neighbor.  Or, she was known to refer to women of questionable moral character as “woo woo girls” and when I’d asked one too many ‘why’ questions, “Why’s a hen” was the only answer she’d give me.  Or when she was wanting me to make up my own mind:  “You’re the doctor; I’m only the nurse.”

Charlie at Three – Claremont Day Nursery, 1959

Too, there were many stories about my Aunt Mona’s childhood expressions – words that became part of the family lexicon.  “I piddly stimbled!” was what we all said after almost falling down.  It must have been young Mona’s way of saying, “I practically stumbled.”  The best Mona-ism, though, is what I say to this day when I’m refusing seconds after a big dinner: “My shimmy shirt and pants are full” – Mona’s little girl understanding of the colloquialism, ‘my sufficiency is sophonsified.’

My son, Charlie, was also inventive word-wise.  He worried that the water in the bathtub might overfloat, and once commented on his well-endowed grandmother as being volumptuous.  My all-time favorite, though, was his three-year-old answer to “What do you call it when two people sing the same song at the same time?”  “A coincidence,” came his prompt reply!  Spot on, say I!

As the parent of a senior citizen…

Monday, August 8th, 2016
"Staycation" - from  a CMH  FB post.

“Staycation” – from a CMH FaceBook post.

It is somewhat amazing to me that my son has not lived under my roof for more than forty years.   Not only that, for most of that time we have lived more than a thousand miles apart.  However, at least we live in the same country and on the same coast.  In that regard I feel lucky.

We see one another several times a year, talk to one another a couple times a month – or more frequently, depending on what’s going on in our lives.  From my perspective, we know and understand one another well.  But it wasn’t until Facebook came along that we could get a sense of those day-to-day concerns and situations that are difficult to convey through long distance communication.

Diversity roundtable discussion at Charlie's - Olivia Christina Delgado Photograph, a CMH FB post

Diversity roundtable discussion at Charlie’s – Olivia Christina Delgado Photograph, a CMH FB post

I know, for instance, that Charlie often has gatherings at his home – has had for years.  There are the periodic meetings of the book club he has belonged to for twenty or so years. In 2008, he hosted weekly spaghetti feeds for Obama workers in his precinct.  Groups of actors and directors meet there now and then to rehearse or explore new plays.  All of which I hear about from Charlie but, until FB, haven’t had any sense of how those gatherings look, who they might involve, what ‘his people’ look like – no real picture in my mind.

Same with his cats.  I’ve seen photographs, of course, and I’ve met them in person.  But what part do they take in Charlie’s daily life?  It’s one of many areas I had never given thought to until Charlie ‘friended’ me for my birthday a few years back and I began to see his FaceBook posts.  The friending was a move made with some reluctance on Charlie’s part.  I’m not sure why but I hope he isn’t sorry.  I certainly am not.

I think I’m pretty typical of mothers everywhere in that my most cherished ‘pictures’ of my senior citizen offspring are of his earliest years.  In my mind he is still that tow-headed imp who never quite marched to anyone else’s drumbeat.  Thank goodness!  And hooray for the glimpses into his current world that tell me, in that respect, he hasn’t changed much at all!