Christmas 1988

Greetings!

The calendar says it’s that time of year again, despite the 80-degree weather and hot winds we’ve been having (not to mention fires). This year has brought job changes for us as well as a declining grocery bill, offset by a rising long-distance phone bill. You’ll no doubt notice the conspicuous absence of all those smiling Riggs faces (not to mention dog and cat) in the annual picture-taking hysteria known as “Dad’s torture session.” The kids have figured out how to get out of the Christmas picture: leave for college. So I’ll just describe us: the old folks look younger and smarter; the young folks look older. Use your imagination.

Cathy finished her freshman year at UCLA, was home a few days, then went up to Sequoia National Park where she worked as a camp counselor all summer. She’s back at UCLA now, still partying and studying in between. Though the university still thinks she’s an economics major, she plans to declare a major in something far more practical, like liberal studies. I’m not nearly liberal enough to find out what that means, though I imagine it includes going to all the fraternity parties to do research. She plans to head up to Sequoia next week for a few days before Christmas to look up friends and learn to ice skate. Fortunately, we still have medical insurance. She brought home several fellow employees of the camp, three young men from England who helped us remember how to make proper tea and reintroduced “Ta!” for “Thanks!” Luvly.

Jenny had a good year in speech and debate, got her double ruby award, passed some advanced placement exams, thus saving the old folks some bucks for college courses, worked hard all summer at a bookstore (she liked everything about it except the customers) and finally left in August for the University of Dallas, which is situated in a godforsaken place a stone’s throw from Cowboy Stadium. The area is mainly inhabited by a tenacious species of ant and is notable for its weather, mostly extreme. She likes the atmosphere, if not the climate, and has achieved some notoriety by forming a Democratic club in a bastion of Republicanism. (It didn’t seem to help the ticket though.) She chose UD over UC Berkeley and UCLA after much agonizing; a substantial scholarship and the school’s academic record (93% of its undergrads who apply to law school are accepted) helped make up her mind. She’s majoring in politics—the honest kind, I think.

Brian believes he’s been in braces over 90% of his short life, but the end is not yet in sight. He played lots of soccer this year, club as well as the high school team, and distinguished himself by being there. He seems to have the impression that, because he is now 15, a driver’s license is in his future. I don’t think any parent should have to teach more than two children to drive; although it gets you up to your target heart rate without exercise, I’ve never seen it recommended for fitness. He is interested in getting contact lenses now, and we are interested to see whether it will help him to notice the weeds in the flowerbeds he’s supposed to maintain. Most of his spare time is spent on the computer; he informs us he has an adventure game map which will be published in a computer games book any time now.

David had to start orthodonture this year and has been a good sport about it. They had to remove a primary molar, so bands were needed to keep the space open for the next 5 years—and he has headgear at night. He still loves soccer and Nintendo which he saved up for by clipping and sorting grocery coupons for me (his cut is one-fourth of the savings). He seems to be enjoying third grade, though he tends to try to “help” other people too much after he zips through his own work. If they gave a grade in sociability, he’d do well. He got to play soccer at the Forum in Inglewood a couple weeks ago in exhibition play before a Lazers indoor soccer game, so that was a pretty exciting way to end the season.

Larry’s changed work again; he started off the year with Players Club International, then got a contract to moonlight with Sierracin (they make aircraft windshields), then was off work most of November. Now he has a job with Telos, which does for programmers what Kelly does for office helpers. He’s working at Litton Data Systems in Van Nuys doing Z80 assembly language programming under UNIX on a job that could last until 1991. Long commute, but a paycheck is always welcome. What with government regulations, the corporation did not seem a viable concept any longer, so he’s a real employee again. He’s been taking classes through UCLA in the “C” programming language and OS/2, a PC operating system, so he’s doing a lot of commuting.

I changed jobs the end of January, giving up part-time teaching and private tutoring to teach full time in a junior high school in a neighboring school district. I dropped some courses at CSUN, and this will slow my progress toward the M.A., but I’ll still finish before I’m 80. Junior high is a peculiar institution; most of the time I’m mired in trivia (hall passes, detention, progress reports, etc.) but there are some interesting kids and some good moments, like 3:00 on a Friday afternoon. I teach mostly 9th grade English literature, as well as English as a Second Language and one section of Spanish I. During the summer I taught summer school days and nights and passed the exam for the Language Development Specialist credential which is the State of California’s newest brainstorm. It’s now required for teaching ESL and there are only two of us in possession of that piece of paper in the district where I work, so they’re being real nice to me.

Our summer vacation was spent in New Mexico, where we visited Carlsbad Caverns. We had been there over 20 years ago, but the kids hadn’t. We had just the boys, of course, so we traveled light. The weather was unbearable in Arizona, but pleasant in New Mexico. We came back through Las Vegas, where the three kids (I mean Larry and the two kids) went to Wet ‘n’ Wild water park and I shopped Niemann-Marcus style. I had a couple of days at home to help Jenny get packed up for Dallas, then flew there the end of August for parents’ weekend to make sure she’d made her bed and put her clothes away (she had). Before school started we camped with friends at El Capitan state beach up the coast near Santa Barbara. It was wonderful but far too short—doesn’t it seem odd that nobody ever says a vacation was too long? There’s a message there somewhere.

Hope you have a lovely holiday and a peaceful and healthy New Year!