Posts Tagged ‘Family’

My crowning glory? Not so much.

Saturday, November 20th, 2021

Medora, circa 1913

My grandmother felt that a woman’s hair was “her crowning glory” and,  was full of advice for her eldest daughter, Medora — even by letter when Medora was away at boarding school.  In this note, written on November 2,  1914, she said:

 I do hope you are not slicking up the sides of your hair.  I know it will take the curl out.  Ruth ought to be a continual object lesson to you as to how pretty hair can be ruined.  You can leave it soft and curling around your face and still show your ears.  In fact, when you take the frame of your hair from your face it is like plucking the petals off a daisy and leaving the bald pod.  Some people’s hair is not a necessity.  Yours is – so is mine.

I’m not sure what she meant about her sister Ruth’s hair.  Try as I might, I can find no pictures of Ruth that show “ruined” hair.  But, Medora’s hair, was definitely an “issue” as the letter written just a week later demonstrates:

Medora, 1915

Tuesday, November 10, 1914
       Remember, I don’t want you to wear your hair up.  It does not matter who likes it up.  Up in back makes you look like a Dutch waitress in a German bakery.  On top is becoming, but too old.  With little curls sticking out of a psyche, you would be a picture, but wait for awhile.  I was in a rush to get mine on top, but am thankful my mother had me keep it down until graduation year.

I think that epistle would have stopped me dead in my tracks, but if it slowed Medora down, it was not for long.  In her diary of Thursday, March 18, 1915, Mama’s sixteen-year-old first born wrote:

I have been wearing my hair up for two weeks and I don’t like it at all but I want to impress people that I am old

Ruth Buzzi and Her Hairnet

She was still a year and a half away from graduation.  Perhaps in the interim Mama had relented.  I hope so because, against all odds, this lovely, vibrant girl died in her sleep, perhaps of an aneurysm, on January 18, 1916 — just 15 days after her 17th birthday and six months before her graduation.

I thought about my grandmother and Medora and crowning glories early this morning when I woke up from a fine night’s sleep during which I had apparently had been wired into an electrical outlet.  My hair, short and fine and tending toward frizz, was standing straight up all across the top of my head.  I think what I need is a Ruth Buzzi hairnet.  But don’t mention it to Granny!






all growed up and…

Thursday, October 14th, 2021


Charlie and Marta, 10/11/21

I loved the movie “Honeysuckle Rose,” mostly because I’m a huge Willie Nelson fan. Besides introducing the song “On the Road Again,” I remember the film for a few words spoken by Amy Irving (as Lily Ramsey), “I’m all growed up and furred over…”  Never mind that Irving’s performance won her a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actress.

I still love the line and sometimes think of it in relationship to my own ‘kids.’ Never mind that they are both senior citizens, now collecting social security and eligible for Medicare!  And never mind, either, that Charlie’s hairline is receding (adding greatly to his close resemblance to his Uncle Jim Howell) and that Marta continues to amaze us all with experimental hairstyles and youthful exuberance.  “Furred over” doesn’t half explain what great adults they are!

Lunch at Michelangelo’s

Of particular delight to me, is that they manage to spend more time together nowadays than in any time since their childhood.  It helps that Marta is frequently in Los Angeles and that the two of them have never lost their same sense of the zany, the ridiculous, or the edgy.  And, they are both foodies, at least in terms of the restaurants they like.  Usually, Nyel and I get in on their visits through the selfies they take when out to dinner or lunch.  (And we won’t go there with the “out to lunch” expression.  Doesn’t fit either of them, but maybe both of us.)

The latest gems were taken at one of their favorite restaurants, Michelangelo’s, a few days ago.  Hard to believe that I’m lucky enough to still be around observing their antics — even from afar!

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…


The Best Laid Plans…

Wednesday, August 18th, 2021

Cousin Alex

We learned yesterday afternoon that the long-awaited visit by my cousin Alex and his friend Katie will not be happening after all.  Their August 19th Alaska Airlines flight from Chicago to Portland has been cancelled — “not enough support crew to fly. and unable to find a replacement flight within 48 hours.” Their visiting window of opportunity ran out.

We are beyond disappointed.  It’s a visit we’ve been planning on for several months.  But, beyond that are the implications in an ever-growing stream of disruptions to whatever “back-to-normal” we had been hoping for.  Here on the Peninsula, “Help Wanted” and “Now Hiring” signs proliferate — to the extent that Adelaide’s in Ocean Park, for one,  is closed for lack of employees.  And in some other kind of domino effect, friends have reported that the shelves at Okie’s and other grocers on the Peninsula are bare.  To say nothing of the events that have been cancelled — Vespers, the Kay Buesing Kite Festival Gathering, the Oysterville Regatta Awards Ceremony — and those just for starters.

Visitors to Oysterville, both masked and unmasked, preface remarks to us with “We’ve been fully vaccinated.”  However, these days, that isn’t really very reassuring to anyone.  “Breakthrough” and “variant” and “Delta” and “booster shot” have crept into our vocabulary bigtime.  We are beginning to wonder about phrases of reassurance such as “herd immunity” —  and just how did humanity survive plagues through the ages when they not only didn’t know the cause but had no idea about any the “science” that the experts are telling us to count on?

And then, this very morning I saw a familiar name in an online New York Times article — a comment by an old friend of Nyel’s:  Our whole family were all vaccinated as soon as it was possible to do so, yet our grandson, who has been working in a day camp this summer, brought home the Delta variant. Luckily, our daughter-in-law is a scientist and got everyone tested as soon as he had a runny nose. Our grandson and his mom were positive, our son and granddaughter were negative and we are waiting to find out if my husband and I are positive. — Beda Herbison, Seattle   

Spectators – Oysterville Regatta 2017

As we watch what is happening right here in Oysterville — those touched by the virus and its variants as well as those who proclaim “it’s over!” — we wonder if there will ever be a return to normal as it was three or four years ago.  And, if not, will our little village survive a “new normal.”  Somehow I think there are parallels to the old rural way of life of the 1800s giving way to the agribusiness models of today.  But I can’t quite wrap my head around it yet…  I’m still stuck on missing out on a visit from Alex and Katie.

The Blessings of Becoming Old

Saturday, September 5th, 2020

Dale Espy Little – “Mom” 2010

My mother used to talk about “the secrets of old age” which were mostly those by-products of aging that people in her generation never talked about — chin whiskers and thinning hair for women, for instance.  But, she never really talked about the blessings of becoming old.  Not in so many words, anyway.

One of the greatest blessings, as I see it, is the opportunity to “know” your children as they march toward their own “golden years.”  And, of course, if you are blessed with grandchildren and great- grandchildren and even great-greats, seeing them grow up and take their place in the family and in the community is a peek into the future that is the best kind of blessing of all.

Charlie and Marta – September 22, 2019

Both my son Charlie and my step-daughter Marta are now into their social security years, and I couldn’t be prouder or more delighted with either of them!  Both have “turned out well” as they say.  They are socially and politically astute, have pursued their individual talents, are independent in all respects, yet have kept their ties to family and long-time friends.  Even more importantly, we enjoy being with each other and, now that I am approaching my own dotage, I am happy to seek (and mostly follow) their advice, especially concerning this rapidly changing world that they now understand far better than I.

Dale, Sydney, Charlie – 1959

I’ve been thinking of our relationships, our gradual role reversals (perhaps), and of how proud I am of both of them.  This is the weekend of the Williams Family Reunion — an annual affair here on the Peninsula which is now in it’s 80th-something year.  For the first time ever, it is going to be a zoom reunion and, therefore, for the first time ever, Marta and Charlie can attend — Marta from the S.F. Bay Area and Charlie from L.A.  I’m so pleased that I will be able to introduce them to a whole new side of their family and vice-versa!

Marta, c. 1959

So… I really have to say that this will be a kind of back-handed perk of the pandemic.  In person, up-close-and-personal reunions are the best, of course — but maybe this taste of Williams inclusiveness and hospitality will get the two of them up here for the next one.  And that would be yet another blessing!

The Beatles got it bassackwards!

Saturday, May 30th, 2020

Charlie, 2011

My son Charlie is 64 today!!  And, absolutely, Sir James, I still love him — unequivocably and forever.   Speaking of which, I’m thinking that it’s been about forever since we spent his birthday together.  Maybe even since he went off to college in 1974!  Our tradition is The Birthday Telephone Call — but this year that doesn’t seem adequate, even though this year it’s necessary for multiple reasons.

So, this year it’s going to be a zoom call — tomorrow not today.  Sunday evenings are the time that Marta, Charlie and I have a “conference call” each week.  We’ve done that for about a year and, though we have talked about zoom, I’ve been the laggard in that area.   Yesterday, I found that my reluctance was apparently based in gut-level reality.

On Thursday, Nyel and I, along with dozens of other relatives, participated in a Birthday Bash for my cousin Mike Williams.  After a bit of difficulty (the computer kept notifying us that our internet capacity was inadequate so we moved into another area of the house) everything seemed to go smoothly.  It wasn’t until Mike’s daughter Melinda sent us a video copy of the “Bash” that I wished I could push some sort of reset for a re-do!


There was a woman — we’ll call her “The Eyelid Woman” — posing as me,  She was sitting cozily next to my husband Nyel (who looked like his usual, handsome self) and she never opened her eyes.  Really!  They fluttered once in a while (even worse!) but never did she make eye contact with the screen.  And she appeared to have gigantic eyelids.  The entire thing was grotesque.

So the question is, Charlie, will you still love me now that you are 64?  I surely hope that you and Marta can give me some pointers — or do I look like that all the time.  OMG!



Flowers Galore! It’s Happy Mother’s Day!

Saturday, May 9th, 2020

Happy! Happy! from Marta

Wow!  For a moment there I thought Marta had finally done it!  Cloned herself with me as the beneficiary!

On my doorstep were two (count ’em, two!) identical FTD Florist Boxes.  Each contained a precious — also identical — message from my darling step-daughter, but the actual flowers were different.  One bouquet is mostly in reds and purples and one in yellows and peaches.  Both absolutely lovely!

They were a little droopy on arrival but came with perking-up powder and by this morning looked quite revived.  I decided to combine them into one huge, colorful bouquet which I’ve placed  on the dining table where all the blooms are calling out to anyone listening, “Look at us!  Look at us!”

Happy Mother’s Day From Charlie

They have serious competition, though from the living room table.  There, in all its spring glory, sits a wonderful bouquet from son Charlie.  It arrived in the early afternoon, hand-delivered from Artistic Bouquets & More in Seaview — a business I was happy to find was considered “essential” for Mother’s Day!

I am replete with the fragrance and beauty and love!  Charlie and Marta — you are the best!  (Rooney — I do hope that if the two bouquets were a mistake on the florist’s part that they, not you, bear the extra burden.)

A Flowery February Friday!

Saturday, February 29th, 2020

Birthday Bouquet from John and Steve (and their garden)!

Last night’s “usual” Friday gathering was festive, fragrant, and generally fantastic!  Lively conversation, a good mix of “regulars” and “once-in-a-whilers” and food to die for — as I had hoped, the perfect birthday celebration!

Prompted by our Wednesday’s Community Historian lecture, I actually had some “sharing” to present to the gathering.  Tucked away in my closet are a number of my grandmother Helen Richardson Espy’s “unmentionables” dating back to the time of her 1897 wedding.  Her corset (which had both steel and whalebone ribs), a pair of her split-leg bloomers, a chemise, a petticoat, and a pair of size three shoes with bows decorated with seed pearls!  Among other things!

Roses from Cate!

I hadn’t looked at any of those items for ten or fifteen years and it was great fun to see them through the eyes of my friends and loved ones!  I also was reminded of two things about her courtship days that my grandmother took pride in for all of her 74 years.  One was her very small shoe size and the other was that my grandfather could span her 19-inch waist with his hands.  I always thought that was her own bit of self-pride.  It wasn’t until Tames Alan pointed out that these were common Victorian aspirations that I realized just why she remarked on those particular aspects of her youth.

Carnations from Maggie!

She also confided to me once, “It’s far worse to have had beauty and to have lost it than to never have had beauty at all.”  Photographs of her reveal that she was, indeed, a beauty and I always took her remark to be a lament as well as a reassurance to me that I needn’t worry in that regard.  I did, anyway.  Didn’t we all?

This morning the house smells of Daphne and birthday cake and still echoes with laughter.  Such a lovely evening it was!  How blessed I feel!

Sunday Night Call

Monday, November 18th, 2019

Charlie and Marta, 2016

Every Sunday night at seven o’clock, everything stops around here for the weekly conference call with Charlie and Marta.  Sometimes Nyel joins in but usually he leaves the conversation to the three of us — Charlie talking from L.A., Marta from Corte Madera, and I from Oysterville.   Sometimes, though, one of us might be talking from somewhere else and, once in a while, one of us has to miss.  But, it’s become pretty much a Sunday night ritual for the last year and a half.  From seven to eight-ish we catch up, we reminisce, we share our thoughts and… we laugh. We’re all good at that.

Marta La Rue, Mayan Goddess, 2012

Last night, however, most of our conversation was serious.  Marta said that she PG&E has announced plans for a possible “Public Safety Power Shutoff” event for day after tomorrow.  Of course, a spirited discussion followed.  Topics ranged from 1) the irresponsibility of PG&E and the various utility commissions presumably in place to oversee them, to 2) what consumers can do short of buying generators to keep crucial businesses operating and on, to 3) climate change and, finally, to 4) the immensity of the global problem.  “We’re far beyond just lighting a few candles and waiting for the lights to come back on,” said ever-practical Charlie.  “Our civilized world runs on computers — you can’t go back to 19th century solutions.”

Charlie as Magus, 2013

We ended on a lighter (ahem) note.  I complained that I haven’t seen a recent photo of Marta on FB and she said she’s thinking of going hat shopping, photos to follow.  Which reminded me of Charlie’s solution to everything when he was eight or nine (or fifteen or thirty) — “just wear a little hat” he’d smile. It was his way of not engaging, and it was maddening and hysterical at the same time.  (You probably had to be there.)  When the call ended, I think we were all smiling.  I know I was.



The Portrait of Marta’s Papa

Thursday, April 25th, 2019

I don’t think Marta began calling him “Papa” until later.  As I recall, when she was five or six, he was still “daddy.”  No matter.  She adored him and the feeling was mutual.

One afternoon at his Walnut Creek home – the basement apartment of a friend’s home with its big picture windows and the huge green jungle plants just outside – Marta painted his portrait.  Maybe “drew” is the operable word here, not “painted.”  She used felt tipped markers and created a Modigliani masterpiece – or so we thought then.  Our opinions on the matter haven’t changed.

Bill LaRue

A year or two later, while her Papa was away photographing with Minor White, my Uncle Willard came for a visit from New York.  He came out to Castro Valley where we were living then – for dinner, maybe, and to see our wonderful new Eichler house.  On the “tour” he paused to admire the portrait and asked Marta if she would consider selling it.  She would.

The transaction was made.  For a crisp, new five-dollar bill, Willard took the portrait (matted and framed) off the wall and onto the plane to New York.  Marta’s Papa was gone on his photography journey for several months but, on his return, it took him only a few moments to discover that there was a blank space above his chest of drawers.

Willard Espy

“Get it back!” he commanded.  I wrote Willard.  He was unwilling.  I called Willard.  He was still unwilling and there may have been tears from my end.  Eventually, the portrait was returned with a note.  “Where is my five-dollar bill?”

Marta’s Papa cherished that portrait always. When he died a few weeks ago, I couldn’t help wondering if he and Willard might, at last, come to peace about it.  After all, they both adored Marta.  And the portrait, as well.  And why, for heaven’s sake, wouldn’t they?