Christmas 1986

Christmas greetings to you from all of us!

We are all well and always seem to be occupied. The older children are about to make the transition from high school to college and the younger ones, thankfully, still seem to need their parents, who are mellowing a little bit with each passing year.

This year is ending as it began, with Brian’s heavy involvement in soccer. For the first time he was named to the All Star team, which promises to keep us traipsing off to games well into 1987. He leads his team in scoring, once scoring all goals in a 4-3 victory. He and I have an agreement, whereby I give him a dollar for the first goal he scores in a game, two dollars for the second, etc. After paying him $15 for four goals, I started computing his profit potential: 20 goals would make him a millionaire — if he were able to collect!

In late February Cathy, Brian, Mary, and I — Jenny opted to attend a weekend speech tournament in Arroyo Grande and David was still too young to join us — planned a cross-country skiing weekend in Yosemite for the second year in a row. But David caused a slight hitch in our plans when a day before our planned departure he came down with chicken pox! Mary drew the short straw and stayed behind to comfort the little guy while the rest of us, along with Brian’s friend Chad, went skiing. Last year we were novices but this year we felt like veterans! The snow was plentiful and the weather mild enough for short sleeves.

Slightly over a month later Cathy, Jenny, and about 40 schoolmates returned to Yosemite for a week of “classes” under the tutelage of National Park naturalists. They came back filled with enthusiasm for the school in the wild. The week included spelunking, hiking, orienteering, and many snowball fights — activities designed for enthusiastic teenagers. Both plan to repeat in 1987.

Cathy, 17, went out for swimming again this year. After the first couple weeks she found the groove (or is it the lane) and won every race she entered. Tendinitis in her shoulders diminished some of her enthusiasm but fortunately it’s a short season and she stuck it out to the end. She doubts though that she’ll compete next year.

Springtime saw Brian attending karate classes and advancing through the first two belts. Once he even insisted he could “take me.” I assured him that he was probably right. After all, what good is my 7-inch height and 60-pound weight advantage against someone with a purple belt? I suspect his new confidence (read cockiness) is attributable to his age, as only last month he joined the ranks of teenagers.

In July my grandmother, who lives in nearby Ventura, celebrated her 91st birthday. Her longevity bodes well for me and the kids although I can’t imagine myself living that long. Her good health has declined considerably during the past year but she still retains her sense of humor. She refers to her “very close” veins and speaks fondly of her four boyfriends: Charlie Horse, Ben Gay (who soothes her at night), Arthur Itis, and Will Power. A year ago she was walking daily to the nearby senior center for a hot lunch and socializing. Now she gets out maybe once a week, usually needing a companion to support her. She rarely shops for herself anymore. Her stories still fascinate; she remembers the celebration at the turn of the century, and speaks of meeting Mark Twain and Henry Ford. She once dated Ty Cobb and has gone flying with Ricardo Montalban. Quite a rich life she’s led!

During the summer and throughout the fall it was Jenny’s turn to learn to drive. The task seemed easier for Mary and me, being veterans of the Teaching Teenagers to Drive battlefield. There were a few anxious moments though. Once Jenny confused the accelerator with the brake when moving out of a parking place near the high school, causing a student walking behind the car to leap to safety. But on balance she’s done well; she has her license and drives our station wagon competently. Soon she’ll begin training on a stick shift; with Cathy this proved a more challenging task than learning to drive itself.

Jenny has been active in speech and debate at school over the past year and recently persuaded Cathy to participate. At her first tournament Cathy came home glowing, 3rd place trophy in hand for her D.I. (dramatic interpretation) of Stephen King’s Survivor Type. On a couple occasions the speech club has met here just prior to a weekend tournament — Jenny is president and Cathy secretary. The house echoes with their practice speeches as members of the group hone their skills and supportively critique each other before they venture off to competitions throughout the area.

Our vacation this summer provided a view of the future: only four of us went. The girls remained behind to work, unable to get time off from their jobs. We went to a Family Vacation Camp in Sequoia National Park, and spent the week water-skiing, horseback riding, hiking, sailing, swimming, playing tennis, and in general relaxing. It was a great stress-reducer.

David, 6, started first grade this fall, switching from private to public school. He adjusted quickly and now feels very comfortable there. He informed me the other night that he’s now working on third grade math “packets”. Math is still his best and favorite subject, and soccer is his favorite outdoor activity. He played soccer again this fall. His team, Blue Thunder, won several games during their short season, an improvement over a winless season last year.

Even though David and Brian are seven years apart we’ve witnessed a growing bonding between the two in the last couple years. They play together in neighborhood street soccer games. Both have taken a fancy to Garbage Pail Kids and Transformers. Brian enjoys the adulation David shows for him and responds with affection for his little brother.

In the spring Cathy took a “College Tour” in which she visited campuses of about eight southern California colleges. She came back raving about UCLA and UC San Diego. In November she applied to about five California schools, including these two. The schools should respond in February, and next fall she’ll be college-bound, where she’s thinking of studying art.

Mary and I got away recently for a weekend trip to San Diego, our first trip ŕ deux in some time. We saw two plays at the Old Globe Theatre, had some great meals, took a harbor cruise, and just kicked back. Very therapeutic!

I’m still consulting at Litton, writing software for guidance systems. I just celebrated my fourth anniversary there. Litton and many other companies dependent on defense contracts have imposed severe cutbacks during the past year. In addition, there seems to be less of a tendency among companies to hire consultants. But for the near term at least, Litton has ample work for me, and I’m optimistic about remaining there for another year (I wonder if they’ll give me a 5-year pin?).

Mary has cut down slightly on her teaching in order to pursue a master’s degree in Linguistics at Cal State University in Northridge, about an hour’s drive from here. She’s gone two nights a week, taking three classes. “Never again,” she says. “Two classes are the max!” Most nights she’s up studying or writing papers until midnight. Sundays are spent from noon to nine at the CSUN library. As of next week she’ll have completed 12 of 42 units required. The last 30 will take about 2˝ years to complete. Trying at times? Absolutely! It’s changed our routine around here, but she wants the degree to improve her knowledge of language, to help her become a more effective teacher, and to open up new career opportunities, most likely teaching at the college level.

We all wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!