Christmas Letter 2003
Christmas Letter 2003 - Cameos and Newsbriefs
From our House to Your House
Betsy and her boys live with us in West Hartford. She continues to substitute teach in the West Hartford public schools on a day to day basis, and will in January begin a 38 day temporary teaching assignment at a private elementary school, Renbrook School. She also pursues her artistic talents and interests. During the past year she was commissioned to do a drawing of Valley Stream District 24 Buck School, having earlier provided Brooklyn Avenue School with a drawing, now used in the school's promotional material. The Mini-Moo Cow, a picture of which is below, benefited from her artistic oversight for painter Henry Carnes.
Henry and Robert, Betsy's twin sons, having spent a wonderful year at Bugbee School in our neighborhood, now travel by bus to and from King Philip (think Native American) Middle School. The bus stop, would you believe, is just outside our house. Henry's idea for the Mini-Moo contest (The Hartford Courant sponsored this community fund-raising idea) was one of only seven selected from the Courant's Central Connecticut readership area. The cow now appears on West Hartford's main drag, in the front window of a jewelry store. Robert matched his usually superb academic performance with a homerun of heroic proportions this past summer in a Little League game. Homework, Play Station 2, the pet puppy, eating snacks, inline roller skating (Henry only), Legos, Warhammers, pizza, watching baseball with Pa (Robert), and visiting with their cousins top the list of their favorite things.
Gwen and Brian Mahoney are in their ninth year as residents of a five plus acre corner of Baltimore's horse country. Gwen has written a book and is seeking publication. It's a wonderful imaginary recreation of my mother's experience as an eleven year old immigrant from Northern Ireland to Stamford, Connecticut. It's entitled, "Two Blossoms on a Single Stem." The other blossom refers to Bob's mother's sister, my second mother, Auntie Em, Emily Klein. Gwen is a home-schooling advisory teacher for the Calvert School program with twenty-five students around the world; takes care of their own four children, especially with a lot of chauffeuring; and, of course, manages the household, oversees the home repairs, and spreads mulch in her extensive gardens.
Brian takes a very big step this January 1st, staring his own merchant banking company with partner Josh Hall. Their office will be just a couple of blocks from their former employer, Legg Mason, and within easy walking distance of Camden Yards. One of the firms for which Brian provides managerial oversight makes mulch. Buy all of the Jolly Gardener bags you can find at your local garden shop.
Gwen and Brian's oldest, Jessica, is a tenth grader at Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore. She continues her interest in acting and in mid-November had a lead in a school play, "The Torch Bearers." Craig is an eighth grader at St. Paul's School. He golfs with his Dad at a nearby course; and plays lacrosse in a winter indoor league. Jack is also at St. Paul's and is in the sixth grade. He (Craig too) is well on his way to six feet three or four, trades Heroclicks with his cousins, and demonstrates insight beyond his years as to why people behave the way they do. Gwen has nominated him to be my successor in the pulpit.
Ben, precocious reader, and class bon vivant in the second grade at Pot Spring School, tags along with the older siblings and cousins and takes serious exception to any hint of teasing.
Teddy, our summer rent-a-dog, is Gwen's constant companion; but a jingling of my car keys never fails to entice him into my station wagon for a ride.
Kathy and Steve Curtis moved this past summer from Framingham to Shrewsbury MA. Kathy teaches yoga and has prepared a room on the ground level of their new home for classes, exercise, and massage therapy (think Shiatsu). Steve is two-thirds of his way to retirement as an instrumental music teacher in an elementary school in Northborough. He has added to his talents the arranging of music with a computer program; and, if you know where to look (www.Sibelius.com) you can listen to his instrumentations of "The Snake Charmer" and "Ukrainian Carol," plus trombone duets of Christmas carols.
Their daughter (our other granddaughter!), Alanna, is preternaturally proficient in music and yoga exercises... and however polysyllabic the word you utter, she can mimic it instantly. She turned three this month and will be graduating from high school next June (only kidding, but she is swift). Most days she spends the morning at nursery school. She collects Ariel dolls and anything that looks like a princess.
The Curtis pet of three years, Cubbie, died this past summer, apparently from a viral infection suffered during the family's week in our Vermont cabin. Kathy was inconsolable at the loss of her little guy, a toy poodle. That loss has now been assuaged by the addition to the family of another poodle, maybe a miniature, Pupcake, champagne in color and named by Alanna.
Which brings us to the matriarch and patriarch of our small clan. Barbara (along with her brother and sister) have devoted ample time and thought to the settling of mother Helen's estate. The house on Shelter Island needs to be looked after and maintained. The family's plan is to put it up for sale this spring. But Barbara's main task in retirement has been the same one she has gladly performed for the past forty-eight years: make the house we live in a home, watch out for her husband, and help her children with their children. I (Bob) have yet to hear her voice the standard retirement complaint about me, that "she married me for better or for worse, but not for lunch." She has her computer and I have mine. We read the same books. We go to the same churches, a different one almost each Sunday. We go to the local aquatic center two times a week, Barbara to exercise and swim, Bob to exercise and melt in the hot tub. And we vacationed in Tuscany and the Aquitaine.
Barbara's husband is an old dog having to learn new tricks. I've been reading a lot for the first time in fifty years, mostly about baseball and the medieval church, but wherever my interest leads me... and where my friends encourage me. I spend a lot of time managing and composing for my website. Email correspondence consumes an hour daily. With the help of a grandson's digital camera and Photoshop 7, I have become fairly competent at putting snapshots on Critical Christian. By the time you receive this Christmas letter I shall have undergone bi-lateral knee replacement surgery at Hartford Hospital, a report on which will likely follow someday on my website. But mostly I am doing what most Grandpas do, watch my children move into their commanding years, and bask in the reflected sunshine from our grandchildren's smiles.
And, dare I forget, the old dog has a new dog, Tappy, a bichon, who greets each of us every morning with complete disregard for decorum, licking and loving, and reminding me of a dearly beloved mutt who wagged her tail without restraint at the back door each evening when I returned home.
Christmas comes as icing on the cake of a delightful year. God knows, in this life I've gotten far better than I deserve.
May your holiday be filled with every good thing, but mostly love. That's what it's all about. I mean Christmas. But I also mean this mortal life.
Meanwhile, I shall be looking for you at Critical Christian.com.