Christmas 1996

Holiday Greetings!

We are well and busy, getting into the holiday spirit a bit more slowly these days, but glad we will have two weeks to catch up with kids, family, and friends.

Hope you bought airline stock this year; we have really kept them in business. In March we went to Nashville for a cousin’s wedding and spent the weekend renewing family ties and enjoying Southern hospitality.

I had three business trips to northern California this spring, two to work on the English Language Arts textbook adoption for the public schools. Very hard work, but I learned lots and met some great people. Larry, Cathy, Brian, and David flew north to meet me in Oakland so we could attend a 50th Anniversary celebration for his cousins, and it was great to try to figure out all the “once-removeds” and other kinship conundrums.

Dave then spent Fourth of July week in Nashville with his great-aunt Mary and her husband Charlie, learning how to say, “yessuh” and “yes’m" and how to bait a fishhook with crickets (pretty yucky, he says). Waterskiing, watching “the best” fireworks of his young life, and eating were also on the agenda, as well as a new shaved-look haircut courtesy of neighbor Joe.

Meanwhile, I flew to Chicago to help Jenny find an apartment so she’d be close to Northwestern Law School where she’s now a first-year student. No idea what type of law she’ll do, but as long as it’s honest and pays the bills, we don’t care. She walks six blocks to school, but the blocks get longer in the winter. Larry’s sister Sue is a few miles away, so she made sure the area we chose was safe.

Got back and packed again for a whirlwind trip to Europe, where we flew to London, played tourists, then drove to our old home in Camberley to see friends. David got to see the Frimley Park hospital where he had nearly got dropped on the delivery room floor 16 years ago (it’s not yet a National Trust landmark) and to meet friends and neighbors we hadn’t seen in ages.

Our trip to the continent was via the Channel Tunnel train, Eurostar, which is fast (186 mph), smooth, and very efficient. Paris was hotter, noisier, and more expensive than we had remembered, but we enjoyed some unexpected pleasures, such as watching the finish of the Tour de France up close and personal and getting thoroughly lost in the Louvre.

We toured Germany by car, staying in a variety of hotels, bed-and-breakfast places, pensions, etc., in villages and big cities. Our rusty German got a workout but we survived, although menus were a problem—the combination of compound words and Gothic lettering did us in. Eventually, the waitresses would take pity on us as we labored trying to work it out with the dictionary. We didn’t starve.

Occasionally on the trip we’d get some Olympics news, but were pretty much cut off from what was happening. However, we really are up on our history now, thanks to being able to tour the former East Germany (Dresden, Potsdam, East Berlin, etc.) where massive reconstruction is taking place. It is stunning to see how much has been rebuilt since reunification, but much remains to be done. It’s sort of like having a fixer-upper country which has gone to seed, and it’s hard to know just how much money will be needed to get it functioning again. We flew back to California via Frankfurt, going through the most intensive security we’ve ever seen at any airport, but nobody was complaining.

In August we drove up to north Lake Tahoe for a family reunion in a very large rented cabin where the most pressing decision each day was what gourmet meal we would cook for dinner. There was waterskiing, parasailing, river rafting, bicycling, swimming, boating, shopping, and just lazing in the sunshine with a good book.

All too soon it was back to reality, with a new school year, new soccer season, and the challenge of dealing with a brand-new driver in the family—my hair seems to be turning white rather rapidly, and I suspect there’s a connection. David’s new-found freedom meant a busy social calendar, until he discovered how much it costs to date girls. He’s been homebound since, as he tries to pay off his bills.

Larry’s still at Litton, but work has wound down so much the handwriting’s on the wall. Barring a last minute reprieve, it appears the contract will be finished at the end of January. It’s too early for him to retire, although he has reached the age where thoughts of retirement, like sugarplums at Christmastime, occasionally dance in his head.

He flew to Las Vegas last month for Comdex where the new technology is as dazzling as the city.

I’m still working at a high school, but I’m teaching one night a week at the university and thoroughly enjoying the contact with adults. They’re so motivated!

Christmas will bring the kids home, at least for a couple of days, with Jenny due to arrive the 23rd and return January 1st.

Cathy, who now works Central Division Traffic, got not only Thanksgiving Day but also Christmas Eve and Day off, so we are really grateful.

It’s the peak of Brian’s busy season at Intuit, getting the computerized tax programs reworked for 1997, but he’ll probably get home for at least a couple of days.

I look forward to the chaos, the mess in the kitchen, the phone ringing off the hook and nobody answering, the dog bounding through the house in an excess of joy that they are all here, and the humility that David learns when the big ones are home and he’s the little one again.

For all of you, may the holidays bring peace and joy and the renewal we find with family and friends.