Christmas 1990

Holiday greetings!

Lots of milestones for us this year: the eldest child turned 21, the parents turned some rather large number of years, the kid who was in braces forever got them off, and we finished a significant graduation, with more to come. Where does the time go? Last December we were mourning the passing of Larry’s grandma, who achieved 94 years of living a rich and varied life. We spent the holidays clearing up the few things from her little apartment and considering the irony that pots and pans outlive us.

Cathy turned 21 in February, the age at which I was graduating from college and preparing to be married. Thank goodness many children are waiting longer these days — neither she nor I could handle that yet! She has been dating a young man who is chugging off on the U.S. Missouri toward the Gulf for what we hope is just an exercise in boredom. Cathy says she will finish the B.A. some time in 1992, perhaps within weeks of Jenny’s graduation. She shows up for laundry detail and occasional mealtimes with a ravenous appetite from working out on the UCLA women’s crew team. They get to do fun stuff like the “snake” — running up and down all the stairs in the stadium, followed by a 7-mile run and another snake. Then they take the boat out and row like crazy. Wish they’d had sports like that for women when I was young — sounds like an excellent preparation for motherhood.

Jenny will arrive home next week in somewhat more comfortable style than when she departed in August. After a summer’s hard work she bought a car, stuffed it to the gills with all her worldly goods, and she and I headed off for Dallas, where she was preparing herself for real life by moving into an apartment off campus. After driving for 2½ days I was relieved to discover that she and I were equally crippled at the end of the day — it really had nothing to do with age. The four girls sharing the apartment didn’t seem fazed by the peeling paint and general scruffiness of the place (complete with half-naked little urchins playing in the stairwells), so who was I to mention such trifles? By October, however, their consciousness seems to have been raised, since they’ve opted to move to a somewhat better neighborhood closer to campus (fewer urchins?). Jenny is working on campus, taking all the classes she’s supposed to and says she will graduate in 4 years, an advantage of being in a small school like University of Dallas. My friends with college kids say that’s incredible. We’ll withhold judgment till we see the diploma.

Brian dazzles us with his brace-less smile and keeps us on edge by driving. I had thought we’d relax with number three, but cardiac arrest is still a possibility. He drives pretty well — it’s just thinking about it that keeps us alert. He’s working part-time at a gas station (alas! no employee discount), where he gets in some study time on the 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekend shift. His SAT score earned him some big bucks from old dad, who tried to motivate the kid to study for the SAT by offering him dollars for points according to a formula understood only by them. Brian’s score made him enough money for a bass guitar, for which Larry’s screams of agony over the payoff provided a nice counterpoint. Now we have the evening practice sessions for one to three guitars vibrating the walls until we beg for mercy. He and his group have a gig to play for a wedding next summer; they’ve picked out songs and they’re polishing them up now. He’s applied to several UC campuses as well as CSUN, so they’ll have our noise problem next year.

David’s enjoying riding his scooter which the big kids got him for his birthday and which he wasn’t able to use for several months. His friend’s big brother picked him up and threw him, breaking both bones in his left arm the day after his 10th birthday. Pretty painful, but the worst agony was the family beach camping trip where he wasn’t allowed to play in the water or the sand. We finally rigged up Grandma’s oven mitt over the arm to keep the sand out so he got to play with his cousin on dry land at least. He missed out on the first three games of the soccer season, and then had to play with a wrist brace on, but took it in good spirits.

We still miss our old faithful brown dog, Max, who we hope is in doggy heaven knocking over somebody else’s Christmas tree with his lethal tail. He’d had a stroke in February, underwent a grueling partial recovery (imagine 70 pounds of non-ambulatory incontinent dog) and was finally able to get around with something like Popeye’s lurch, but the handwriting was on the wall. A second occurrence in October left his hind quarters useless, and I made the hard decision to let him go. David was just devastated — they spent their puppyhood together — but has become philosophical. He said, “I’ve learned something about dogs: the friendship part is nice, but the dying part is hard.” Max was the only member of this household who never talked back and was always grateful for any little tidbit, never mind his lack of table manners!

In June, Larry left Litton Data Products in Van Nuys, took a couple of weeks off to catch up on chores, and then went to work for a small company in Westlake called Navcom. He worked on a Navy contract, writing software to control a shipboard radar antenna. The task was to keep the antenna level with the horizon as the ship pitches and rolls. He worked there till October and really enjoyed the 10-minute commute. He’s now at Litton Aero Products in Moorpark, about half hour from home, and for the first time ever we commute the same freeways — though not at the same time. Litton provides navigation systems to many of the world’s airlines. Since they produce an endless flow of enhanced and new products controlled by software, he may be there for a long time. Besides, now’s a good time to transition from the military to the commercial software arena.

The M.A. in Linguistics was completed despite some formidable obstacles such as incompetence (mine) and a desperate lack of sleep. The family seems truly grateful to have my practiced hand back at the tiller, since Larry had a tendency to throw everything into the washing machine at the same time — including his baseball cap and reading glasses. I had to convince him that two dryer loads at once weren’t more efficient, given the considerable repair bills for replacing dryer belts. I’m still in the same junior high school, but looking for something that will get me away from this fascinating age group. My school district is in the news for being 8 million dollars in the red, so you can picture the overloaded classes. They never cut administrators — just teachers. I have a state-funded Mentor Teacher project which involves doing quite a bit of teacher training, and the extra pay will be nice when the college bills come in.

Larry and the kids did the spring Yosemite cross-country ski trip without me this year, since I was bogged down in writing the thesis. We took a long weekend at the end of the summer to show Brian the UC campuses at Davis, Santa Cruz and Berkeley. I liked Santa Cruz, he liked Berkeley, but since classes weren’t in session, there really weren’t great numbers of odd-looking people around yet. We managed to get to a couple of Dodger games and UCLA football and basketball, and Larry and I went to a Clint Black/Alabama concert in San Diego. Never had I seen so many tattoos and beer bellies. And the men were even worse. Ah, Americana!

Our best wishes to you all this holiday season and may the new year bring peace to us all — not to mention fewer bills and more vacation!