Sunday, August 12, 2018

Getting Better

Things are getting better with commemorating birthdays (with one major exception which I’ll write about soon.) But this post is right on time.

So, Happy Birthday to my granddaughter Josephine. Today marks her ninth birthday. She’s the only redhead in her family and has a headful of curls. Josephine has been following her brothers into competitive swimming—and has done them one better by having some success as a diver.

In a few days she will be here with her family for a visit, so I look forward to hearing about some of her other recent activities. See you soon, JoJo.

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Sorry, Alex.

Yes, of course I knew it was your birthday yesterday. You should have received our card and I know you got my text. You are the first person I have not profiled after I decided I would not let any family member’s birthday go unmentioned. But . . . your dad and two brothers arrived here on Saturday, after spending the night with Aunt Liz in Canton. We miss you and Manny and your Mom so much and wish you were here. So much chaos and confusion: food and swimming and all kinds of things to organize. Your family spent this afternoon with Aunt Lucy—a biohazard and a trip to another park and Nate did a wonderful job playing with the little cousins.

I think you need to talk to your brothers about the impact of words. They were telling friends you are in rehab!

But I think this is what they meant! We are thinking of you and hoping that you are completely recovered before the next soccer season rolls around. Tomorrow we will celebrate Grandpa’s birthday. Wish you could be with us, but we are hoping that pretty soon it will be easier for us to walk out of the front door, jump on a plane and see you all in Virginia.

Happy belated birthday.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The End of July

During these past few days my obnoxious children have been texting back and forth unflattering pictures of the oldest female sibling.  I have divided up the family photos— well, most of them— a never-ending project. There are numerous photos going the rounds which my children, now they are all grown up, wish had never been taken.

So here’s the photo of Kate I am posting on this her fiftieth birthday. How well I re-member the day she was born. Ernie had been teaching summer school and was working on grading when I announced that it was time to go to hospital. He announced the grades were late and he intended to finish them and hand them over to his chair before we left. It worked out fine and we parked Al with a friend and off we went. Catherine Mary was a pretty large baby and Catherine Mary sounded like a pretty fragile name, so we landed up calling her Katie, until in later years she became Kate. Here she is with her youngest, Eleanor. Eleanor came after three strapping boys, and legend has it that when she was born, there was much weeping on the part of the neighbors! Here Eleanor is at the ceremony marking the end of 8th grade. Next year it will be High School, and she has announced she too will change, or at least shorten, her name.

Kate makes good use of her hands, her head and her heart. Cooking, sewing, knitting, running a training program at the university, teaching Pilates, being the daughter of aging parents and mother to two college students and two children in high school come easily to her. She and Ron work in unison to see that everyone is chauffeured, organized, fed and loved. No small accomplishment.

I too have been rummaging through old photos, only to discover that my scanner isn’t working. Again. So even if I wanted to include the unflattering photos of her youth, I can’t. Happy Birthday, Kate.

Friday, July 06, 2018

Say it isn’t so, Gody.

I suspect that the Ament household in Virginia has been filled with the sounds of soccer for the past weeks, and that the five male members of the family have (politely) told Gody it is soccer or nothing!

But since today is Gody’s birthday I hope there is a little pause, tho’ even I intend to join some of the Grosse Pointe family tonight for a little soccer which I recorded. I was going to post a photo of Gody and Al at one of Manny’s Randolph Macon soccer matches, but she deserves to be feted on her own.

This photo is a few years old, but Gody never seems to get any older. What an accomplishment for someone who twenty years ago knew no English to earn a BSN degree. Now she is a well beloved nurse and the mother of a university student, two high school students and an eleven year old, not to mention the wife of a demanding high school teacher. Her friends span the globe, but she has conquered Michigan too. See you soon, Gody, we miss you—and have a wonderful birthday.

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

The Day Before the Fourth

That’s July third and the day our first child was born. The story is that I refused to have a baby on the Fourth, but I don’t remember it that way. Fast forward to 2018 and Al is fifty one today. We spoke to him earlier and he had spent the afternoon doing one of the things he likes best—watching soccer. Until he was a teenager, his sport was baseball, but when he sprung up on his way to 6’7”, the high school basketball coach grabbed him for what would be a pretty good team. A college basketball scholarship followed. Four years in Africa introduced him to soccer and that became a passion. His four sons followed his interest in soccer, but now the younger two have decided to play basketball.

So we have him through the ages, from a bemused looking big brother to a new father with Manny in Pisa to a fifty year old in his role as a French teacher in Virginia.

I almost didn’t get this post up. Looking through old photos held my attention for way too long. I’m scared to look in the mirror: I guess I grew old along with him and his siblings.

Happy Birthday, Al.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

It’s Sebastian’s Turn

Today my grandson Sebastian is eleven. As his mother pointed out, as the third of three sons Sebastian has never had a bike that wasn’t a hand-me-down. That changed today and it looks like a pretty nice machine. Today was also his last day of school, so he’ll have some free time to scoot around the neighborhood—when he’s not at swim practice, because he is also the third of three swimming brothers.

I trust there will be some more photos of Sebastian with a cake, or celebrating with his family, but I choose to salute him as a boy with a new bike.

Happy birthday, Sebastian.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Lucy in Real Time

I’m caught up with forgotten birthdays just in time to observe a birthday which falls today.

Happy Birthday, Lucy. I took this photo at her daughter's second birthday. She looks pretty chipper for someone who also has a month old baby and a son five months short of three. After living for a while in France and working for a decade in Washington she came home and ended up living five miles away from where she grew up. She has never been happier. It took her earlier adventures to help her realize where she really belonged, and the children and Peter and Blake were what she had been looking for all along.

We’ll celebrate with a combined Memorial Day/visit from a favorite cousin/birthday party. The photo above is the “everyday” Lucy, who cooks, cleans, gardens and effortlessly visits the grocery store with three kids in a cart. Then there is the artistic Lucy, who tackles creative challenges, writes and graces the stage. We love them both.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Sorry, Gigi; Sorry, Frederick

I was doing pretty well at the “post about family birth days on the day” resolution, but as with so many things I messed up once which gave me, with my twisted logic, good reason to mess up a second time. If there were a bunch of birthdays in early May I would have continued my sloppy ways, but I have a little time to make amends before I have to write about the Royal Wedding. Or at least about Marmite.

The first birthday I missed was little Gladys Grace who turned two on April 25. I suspect I was thinking ahead to the party on the 28th. In the end, she got left out altogether. She didn’t eat all this cake, but she looks like she is doing her best. She’s a great kid, but some how I couldn’t imagine her as a bridesmaid at a Royal Wedding (see the theme here, in case I don’t get round to that auspicious occasion?). If it ever gets sunny here, she and I are going to have fun in the splash pad.

The serious side of Frederick

Then there is Frederick, who became fourteen on April 30. I have countless photos of him kicking a soccer ball, and now he has switched to basketball and the photos of him and his team winning tournaments are adding up. But I love this photo of him on his Confirmation, taken just a few weeks ago. Gigi is too young to realize she got left out of the birthday roster, while you, Frederick are old enough to realize, and hopefully to understand.

Love you both.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

This Year you Have to Share, Veronica

Veronica (l) with big sister Josephine
Today Veronica is seven. This little girl, born sixteen weeks early, weighing 1 lb. 4 oz. is celebrating another year in her dramatic life. It isn’t just that she has grown and thrived, it is that she has turned out to be such a funny, captivating little girl. I could’t find a good photo of her, because all the recent ones I have show her laughing and kidding around, happy to be around her siblings and cousins and enjoying life.  She visited us with one of her sisters in January, and I actually caught her sitting down. Love you, Veronica.

But this year, as she celebrates her birthday, her brother Theodore is celebrating his Confirmation, so there is much excitement in their house tonight. I wish I could be in Maryland tonight with you all. We are thinking of you.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Good Work

I am dividing up my books into five categories:

  • those I really treasure
  • those which are too dilapidated or unworthy to give away
  • those which I will give to special people
  • those which I will donate to the library
  • ones I don’t know what to do with*

 I am hanging on to the first category and pitching the second. The library is getting a number of unused cookbooks, books on quilting (never quite got the hang of that), fifty years worth of gifts, novels and all the books you buy but are really only good for one read. It’s amounting to quite a lot. I don’t want to do it, but it is time. An advantage of having grandchildren grow older is that I know their interests. So last week I could give Ben a book on Shackleton and the Endurance. A few weeks ago I gave Patrick a book that looked like this:

It is one of several similar editions I lugged across the Atlantic and kept with pride. Or nostalgia? An end of year school prize which was awarded to two or three pupils in each class. If you were going to receive a prize on Speech Day, you were notified in advance so you could chose a book you wanted and it could be bound in blue leather and embossed with the school crest and its motto “Onward Ever.” I forgot to photograph the volume of “Nicholas Nickelby” I gave to Patrick, so I photographed the one I received the following year, “The Pilgrim's Progress.” (So impressed was I to be receiving an award that it never occurred to me I was supposed to read it. Never did manage PP.)

The bookplate inside looked just like this,  signed by the Head Mistress and annotated “Good Work”, but the form was IIL not IIIL. I was dreading how to answer if Patrick asked about the form designation.

Let me explain: after passing the 11+, we went on to Enfield County Grammar School where we were at the mercy of a streaming system. So for the first form we were democratically known as I A, I Alpha and (I think) I B. The cream began to rise to the top and at the end of the first form about a third of us were told we could learn Latin (shades of Winston Churchill.) Hence II L, leaving behind II A and II B. At the end of the second form, the two latter classes were divided into III S (Spanish) and III DS (Domestic Science.) One of my best friends was ignominiously put into III DS, and realizing quite correctly that she was destined for more than cooking cauliflower cheese, she went on later to the Open University and earned a degree.  So on to the end of the fifth form, when V L was split into VI B Arts and VI B Science, and passed on the following year to VI A Arts and VI A Science (the creme da la creme destined for university and teacher training college). And those poor souls who made it to V S and V DS has the chance to enter VI B Secretarial.

I was dreading explaining all this to Patrick, but he didn't ask. I always used to justify this dreadful way of damning all but the brightest to a self-defeating streaming system by claiming it was part of a plan to make up quickly and efficiently for all the educated men and women lost in the war. It was, I believe, the result of the Education Act of 1944. Children were ruthlessly streamed. We paid a nominal sum for milk and the infamous “school dinner.” The blessing for me was that my university fees were paid, so I suppose it was good legislation, but these days I feel a little awkward explaining it. I do feel guilty, but at least I had a great education.

* As for the books in this category, the ones with gripping titles like From the Gracchae to Nero and The Latin Subjunctive, they will join the much greater collection owned by this houses librarian, and a decision will be made at a later date.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Henry Raises an Eyebrow

This has always been my favorite photo of Grand son Henry. Taken (I think) at his third birthday party after a hectic game playing in the garden with his siblings and cousins. It would have been even more perfect if it had been taken before his mother finally had the mop of curls sheared. Who knows what the first course was, but the dessert was this impressive cake—and he couldn’t stay awake for it.

Now Henry has put away childish things and entered the teen years. In Liz’s words, "This young man is an absolute joy (albeit an exhausting one  ) to parent: he's a smart, active, loving, FUNNY, wild, faith-filled tornado and EVERYDAY he makes me laugh!" Basketball season is over and we are looking forward to seeing Henry take the mound for his baseball team. Happy Thirteenth Birthday, Henry.

Maybe this will become a favorite photo. I was reading an article the other day on the effect of one raised eyebrow, illustrated by photos of Nicole Kidman, Jack Nicolson and Vivien Leigh. I think Henry could join the club.

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

An Easter Like No Other

I already knew this Easter would be different. Not only was it so early, but two of the three daughters who usually share the day with us were leaving town. And the third? Read on.

Click to enlarge.
I was happy that Kate and her family decided to visit Patrick in St. Louis. She is coming to the realization that before long it will not be possible for her entire family to be together for some of the major holidays. Remember in my last post I said that Patrick is developing great skill as a writer? Look at this and the name in the bottom left hand corner. He was also the recipient of a handsome check. Perhaps the birthplace of T.S. Eliot is wearing off on him.

Liz and her family decided to go East to visit the boys in Maryland and Virginia. Bizarre as it sounds, it is usually impossible for them to make this trip in the summer, due to conflicting sports obligations for the fifteen grandchildren involved. Easter is usually out of the question too because some of the families are students or teachers in schools that get their Easter holidays before Easter while others get them after Easter. But it worked out this year.

Not to worry, there would still be the solemn pageant of the Easter services and a brunch with Lucy and family on Easter Sunday. However, 10 a.m. on Easter Sunday, the time when normally everyone would be arriving, when glasses would be clanking, and the aroma of Ernie’s traditional ham breakfast would be filling the air, found me alone in the kitchen chopping up fruit for a fruit salad. Ernie was in bed, where he had been since Friday, leaving me to go to church alone, though two of the girls and their families had been at church on Holy Thursday evening, before everyone took off, and Lucy and Peter were at Good Friday services. He was coughing to beat the band and was too lethargic to eat or to watch more than a few token minutes of basketball. And that’s the NCAA semis and finals!

BUT, and here’s the good part, I was not unhappy to go alone to Lucy and Peter’s house (and it is even more extraordinary that they made it to church those two times) because there was this—
Ronan Gabriel, born on March 23rd. Things are so different these days. Even though he was born by Caesarian section (for many reasons, not the least being that he weighed 9 and a half pounds) Lucy was released from the hospital after less than forty-eight hours. It was a stroke of good luck that Peter’s company had instituted a two week paid paternity leave just a few months ago. Gladys will be two this month and Joe is three and a half, so their house is a monument to diapers. A very happy monument.

Click to enlarge
And the name? This photo hangs on our dining room wall. There is a better copy of the original photograph, and I will insert it when it is found. Sigh. The gnome-like gentleman seated to the right is Ernie’s great-grandfather, James Murray. Seated on the left is his wife, the former Mary Ann Ronan. Note how she is hiding her left hand: family lore tells that she mutilated it in some way on the ship coming over from Ireland. Her brother, Charles Ronan, married Elizabeth Fox and they had a son, Edward, who died in infancy in 1862.

Click to enlarge.
 Little Edward’s headstone found its final resting
place in our living room. How it made the trip from the graveyard in Iowa to a living room in Michigan is a long story, and perhaps destined to be another part of family lore, but I am assured that no laws, civil or ecclesiastical, were broken. So Lucy grew up with little Edward Ronan, who is now commemorated in our family one hundred and sixty years after his birth.

And me? I came down with the coughing curse and spent two restful days in bed, listening to the rain rattling against the windows.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Today . . .

. . . is Patrick’s twentieth birthday. He’s our second oldest grandchild and is seen here with our second youngest (for a day or two.)

We celebrated his birthday on Saturday, because he was home on Spring break and had to return yesterday to St. Louis (the city) and Saint Louis (the University.)
I am assuming he got back OK, although he was eleven hours late on his Detroit bound trip, thanks to a no show Greyhound. We are hoping that is good practice for travel in the Fall, when he will be enrolled at the Saint Louis campus in Madrid.

Like most college students he has re-thought his major a couple of times and has now settled on a double major in English and Philosophy. That means he makes his grandfather happy by his interest in esoteric philosophers and their theories of most things, and engages the rest of us by recommending books and authors a little more suited for our earthbound tastes. He is developing great skill as a writer—keep going, Patrick, we need more like you in the world. Happy Birthday.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Celebration in Rockville

It is Andrew’s birthday today. He reads this blog so no age will be given or hinted at. I suspect there will be no celebration for him tonight: he and Marcie spend their “spare” time running their six children to swimming, basketball, baseball and whatever else any of them have taken up recently.

This photo probably wasn’t taken at school, because the kids in the background are not wearing the neat green uniforms of St. Patricks. He teaches at the same school where five of his own children attend. Next year it will be four and so on down the line.

Hard to believe in is almost twenty-five years since he went to DC. He had a couple of great experiences while earning an M.A. at Catholic University: he got to be a proctor with the Senate Page program and then to work  at the Newman bookstore where he could indulge in reading—and sometimes buying—books.

Next year I will post some his wall building and woodworking projects, but for now I will only celebrate his work in the classroom, teaching Religion and Math with a class of Latin on the side. Happy Birthday, Andrew.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Cuneiform to Cursive and Beyond

In my last post I included a photo of Lydia’s paper on polar bears. It was jarring as I looked at it (in a good way, Diddy.) When I was nine I would have hand written the whole  thing and possibly given a rough idea of a bear's appearance with a hand-drawn blob. I was over fifty before I typed anything on a computer or figured out how to import a JPEG into my text.

I can’t remember learning to write, although I am grateful to whoever taught me that I was not forced to use my right hand. Like my mother I am naturally left-handed. She grew up in an era when being left handed was a mortal sin and I never noticed if she had been forced to make her right hand dominant in other tasks. I know I grew up with my left hand dominant for some tasks (knitting, sewing, throwing a ball) and using my right hand for other action (digging, hitting a rounders ball etc.) Once we could write in block letters, we waited for the next stage of growing up—learning cursives. I still have a few books with my name laboriously written on the fly leaf.

But then, after the 11+ and my entrance into Enfield County School, we had to give up cursives and learn “school writing.” We were destined for a life of essay after essay, tests with nary a  “multiple choice” question in sight and (no-one dreamed of computers at the time) years of wielding a pen or pencil. School writing was basically cursive, but with all the time-consuming loops and flourishes smoothed out or removed. It was not unattractive and it was certainly faster to use. I developed an unsightly, ink-stained “bunion” on the side of the middle finger of my left hand. The ink disappeared in the first decade of my post-graduate life, the bunion took a little longer to go. At the same time my handwriting reverted in part to my earlier style of cursive, incorporated a Greek epsilon or two  and became an unpleasant, messy hybrid.

Fast forward to the age of computers. I continued for many years to write letters by hand until it struck me that there were advantages to typing a letter. Mis-spellings were easier to correct, forgotten paragraphs could be inserted, unfortunate phrases or comments could disappear with no tell-tale remnants of Wite-Out. The warmth of my letter could perhaps compensate for the rigid medium. There are still a few letters which must be hand written, and I dread letters of condolence, not because I have no sentiments or sympathy to express, but because I often have to start again as my hand, and the brain that controls it, run amok across the page and nouns appear where I had intended to write verbs and so on. Even totally unintended words tend to make an appearance.

My grandchildren are products of their time. When we write birthday cards, with our sentiments lovingly expressed in our current version of cursives, we are often present as they open the cards and attempt to share our words with their family. Good grief, one would think we were writing in Linear B and they needed Michael Ventris to come along and put them out of their misery.

I should add that a couple of days ago we read an article about Georgetown University forbidding students to use lap tops for note taking, and insisting that their students use long hand to take notes in class. Misery ensued. Poor kids couldn’t even read their own writing. Enough said.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Double Digits for Lydia Jane

I have always loved my granddaughter’s name. Sounds like something out of Jane Austen. Within her family she has always been known as “Diddy.” Not sure what that sounds like.

She’s the youngest of five, which means she could be the most put-upon or spoiled.  With two older brothers and two older sisters there may be a little of both, but she is the happiest, smilingest girl you could want to meet. The spellcheck thing told me smilingest is not a word and I might want to substitute smelliest. It’s a word if I say it’s a word!

She also has a great imagination and creativity, as was shown by the cow-themed accessories she has made for today’s family birthday party.

Lydia’s teacher was most impressed by her essay on Polar Bears. Perhaps she will grow up to be an author. Happy Birthday, Lydia.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Great Expectations

The winter Olympics came to an end yesterday. I spent most evenings of the two week event watching the highlights on NBC. I could also have watched most of it live during the day on both an American channel and the Canadian channel (CBC) which comes to us across the Detroit River. I did spend time once watching CBC during the summer Olympics and they are nothing if not patriotic. I remember watching the Canadian team skeet shooting all day and I was afraid that during the winter event I would be forced to watch curling—though lo and behold curling certainly came into its own this winter. It was hard not to giggle as I caught sight of the American men’s curling team and remembered an article I had read early about some of the shenanigans in the Olympic village, attributed to “perfect bodies in skin tight lycra.” These guys looked like they trained on beer. However, they won the Gold Medal, and that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?

Personally, I don’t think it is and I was disappointed that the US sports writers and TV commentators did a great disservice to their country's representatives. Even before the games began we were regaled with little vignettes of a handful of skaters and skiers who the press though would win gold. We were introduced to old home movies of their beginnings in competition and a long sob story about injuries and rehab, while we were tacitly assured that these games would be the crown of their achievements. (And note, it was mainly the marquee sports that got selected.) Once the competition got underway, a newspaper which I usually enjoy reading published a long article entitled, in a rather large font, “U.S. Is Falling Down in Medals Race.”

Rachel Bachman who wrote the article picked the team to pieces, mentioning athletes by name, though I will just use initials,  “HB, the world record holder in the 1,500 meters, finished eighth in the race here and failed to medal in the 1,000. . . Gold-medal favorite aerials skier AC didn’t make the final . . . MS, the most dominant slalom skier in the world, vomited before that race and finished fourth . . . and on and on. She then hammered home her crushing comments by quoting  a “music promoter in Watertown, Conn”, who said medal count matters because  “It’s important to show United Sates exceptionalism.” Thanks for your input Mr. music promoter. No wonder the Norwegians who seemed to relax, enjoy everything and sport fancy mustaches had such a successful games.

For me there were two events which had me on the edge of my seat. My views on the sport quotient of the halfpipe events is fodder for another post (which I won’t write.) I was, however, watching the halfpipe skiing competition. Each rider has three attempts to earn the highest score, which makes sense as most of the riders crash on at least one run. David Wise, the defending gold medalist, had problems with his ski bindings on his first two attempts which meant he had only one chance to make a phenomenal score if he wanted to earn a second gold. He calmly slid into the pipe and did a series of breathtaking tricks. I don’t understand the technical terms, but this was poetry in motion. The result—a score of 97.20 and a second gold. Grace under pressure. The second event was one I only saw by chance as it was coming to a conclusion. It was a cross country ski relay race: each country had two skiers who took it in turn to compete a circuit, up hills, around the stadium, then out into the country side again. One of the skiers, Jessie Diggins, had appeared in the pre-Olympic vignettes, coming from a tiny town in Minnesota, where the inhabitants were shown getting up at 3:00 a.m. to congregate in a small cafe to watch the race. I just caught her last two circuits and the one by her fellow American skier sandwiched in between. She was struggling up a hill, a Finn and a Swede behind her. They jockeyed for the lead, fought to pass on the inside or the outside. At one point the Swede looked like she had run out of gas, but she came to life and the three women battled neck and neck as they entered the stadium and raced to the finish line. The girl from a small Minnesota town won by inches. I bet the town rejoiced.

That’s all until the next Olympic games. I have been ordered by the doctors to exercise. It won’t be cross country skiing.

Two of my last posts have been edited because I couldn’t tell the difference between February and March. Thank you, Andrew, for pointing it out.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Last Birthday in February

Today is Ron’s birthday. Three of the prior birthdays this month were celebrated by teenagers. Ron is a littler older, but no numbers will be mentioned.

Still sorting my iPhotos, so the last “real” photo I have of Ron shows him with his oldest son, sorting out donations at Christmas. No, Ron is not short, Patrick is 6’3” at last measurement.

I think of Ron as our Renaissance man. He plays the piano, he sings, he is a great cook and his family has not eaten a crumb of commercially made bread for many years, he writes a literary blog, and while the Detroit Free Press felt like book reviews were worthwhile, he was a book critic. He is a great husband, father, son-in-law and part of a fun loving family whom we have enjoyed knowing.

He is also a pretty fine pirate. It is hard to believe that in two years he will be the father of a college senior, a college junior and a college freshman! That’s when the grey hairs will start arriving!

Sunday, February 18, 2018

It’s Liesl's Turn

Those birthdays keep coming. Today is Liesl’s sixteenth birthday. She is our sixth oldest grandchild: we had five grandsons before Andrew and Marcie gave us a reason to think pink.

Like most girls of her age she looks different all the time—long hair, short hair, but the thing that is constant about Liesl is that she looks a lot like Marcie, and that’s a good thing. Here she is as she looked last Fall. She is a sophomore at Rockville High School, studying for AP exams and working on the schools’s literary publication. Nice to have another writer in the family. It was such fun to talk to her when she was here last summer. I admire her for deciding this year that she wanted to play basketball. She went to try outs and is now playing for the JV team. It brings back memories of her dad! So while her siblings all swim, she has chosen the path less traveled in the family. Nice going, Liesl.

Here she is with her siblings at Christ-mas. In this photo I saw her sitting on the left and actually thought it was Marcie.

Happy birthday to a granddaughter I remember so clearly sitting in a high chair with her blond curls and eating bombas (that’s blueberries to the rest of the world.)

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Another Landmark

February is a big month for birthdays in our family. Today it was Charlie’s turn. He is our third oldest grandchild, Kate and Ron’s second son, and today he turned eighteen.

 It’s a big day: he can now get married, vote and be called up for military service. It’s also a big year, because he will be off to college in the Fall. He has been admitted to all the colleges he applied to, and is now waiting for their decisions about financial aid. When he leaves we will all miss him but Lucy and Peter will be especially sad because Charlie is their invaluable baby sitter. The little guys love him.

Charlie is smart, plays the guitar, and writes thank you letters to us in German. Right now he plans to become a History teacher. I think he would make a good one. As we left his house, he was preparing to go out with a group of friends from the Mexican restaurant where he has an after school job. What memories that brought back to us of teenagers going out and leaving us to worry.

Happy Birthday, Charlie.
Charlie and Joe

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Marcie’s Big Day

Marcie is Andrew’s wife and today is her birthday. I am posting a photo of her wearing one of her many hats. This is Marcie the volunteer and tireless worker for her children’s schools. I could have shown the Marcie who works for Children’s  Social Services of DC—long hours, long commute. Or there is Marcie the mother of six, and everyone knows what that entails. Did I forget Marcie the runner of marathons? What about Aunt Marcie with nephews and nieces approaching thirty. Let’s remember Marcie the chauffeur of swimmers, basketball and soccer players to points all over Maryland and the District and now to meets in other states. Along with that we have Marcie, a qualified swimming line judge and eagle eye for DQs.

As I led off and perhaps most important is Marcie the wife of Andrew and patient in-law of our hard to handle family. Happy Birthday, Marcie.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Man Proposes, God Disposes

I was all set to commemorate last Friday with a blog post. I wanted to mark the date, February 9, as being the worst snow day of the winter (so far.) Fortunately bad weather was forecast and by Thursday night schools and colleges were closed, snowblowers were primed and shovels were at the ready. When we woke on Friday morning it was bad, maybe not quite the 8” that were forecast, but the snow kept coming down steadily. I got some chores done and my plan was to sit down after lunch and write a snow-related post. I had a rough idea of the structure of the piece: the title would be “White Stuff”, and I would start by remarking on the landscape, maybe even posting a few photos if I could get a few without icicles forming on my head. I wanted to recollect what snow had meant to me as a child growing up in the south of England, and end by noting I had filled the larder the day before, I was warm and comfortable, had a pile of books to read, the Olympics to watch later and absolutely no intention or need to leave the house.

Within an hour I had left the house, in an ambulance no less and with no time to grab a coat or shoes. I had been finishing my lunch, and started to realize I was having trouble reading the newspaper I was finishing up while I ate. Then I couldn’t use the fork that I had in my right hand to eat some leftover ginger bread. I knew I needed to lie down, but I couldn’t get up and though Ernie was sitting with me I was having trouble telling him what was happening. It had happened once before so he figured out my problem. I know I kept saying “No, no” as he said he was calling EMS. We live about three blocks from the Police, Fire and Ambulance station and within minutes the decision was made to transport me to hospital. I threw up quite spectacularly before they could get me on the gurney and cover me with blankets. My wonderful neighbor Dave saw the ambulance and rushed over to shovel the newly fallen snow from the front steps. In minutes I was in the Emergency Room, where most of the personnel were wearing masks to protect them from flu germs. I was whisked off to have a brain MRI and an EKG and the rest of the afternoon passed by in a flurry of doctors, blood draws test and questions.

Eventually I was admitted and stayed from Friday afternoon to late Sunday afternoon. I was assigned to a one bed room and the hospital is blessed with wonderful, friendly staff who made my stay as worry free as possible. The final verdict was that I had suffered a TIA in my left frontal lobe and that I could go home, take additional blood thinners and cholesterol lowering medications, make follow-up appointments with my neurologist and a cardiologist—and watch what I eat and make sure I indulge in exercise.

Had it not been for my original intention to write a piece about the snow I would merely have commemorated February 9, 2018  in a blog post entitled “The Lost Weekend". In the interest of brevity I combine my two themes with a photo of snow from my hospital room.

From 322B.

Saturday, February 03, 2018

Fourteen Candles for Eleanor

My granddaughter Eleanor was fourteen today. I can’t post a photo of her blowing out the candles on a cake, because she decided she didn’t want a cake and but rather bowls of ice cream with squares of regular and chocolate shortbread. At fourteen it is time to make some choices and changes. There is a photo of her blowing out two candles balanced on some vanilla ice cream, but I liked this one of her getting the table set and pouring out water from the gluggy fish pitcher.

Earlier in the week she surprised us by sending a letter to Ernie. He had given her a copy of The Fifty First Dragon some years ago, including with the gift some questions about the book. She had not responded at the time, but she just came across the book with the questions enclosed, and encouraged by the skills she has picked up in some book clubs lately, she decided it was time to give her critique. Way to go Eleanor.

Instead of writing about her, I decided to link to a piece posted today by her father. Not because I am lazy, but because he who knows her so well, says it so well.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

You’ve Aways Got Your Nose Stuck in a Book.

That was my mother’s constant complaint/observation/criticism of me. It depended on how much she needed help and of course it wasn’t until I had children of my own and a house to run that I understood her problem with me.

And it was totally justified. I had books by my bed, always brought a book to the meal table and crammed every spare moment with reading. I was, however, a little miffed when Christmas came around and I got books from my grandparents and other relatives, rather than sweaters or games, but I came to love all those books and to read and re-read them all. To this day Jane Eyre and Little Women are my comfort books and A Tale of Two Cities is my ultimate thriller. It says a lot that I brought so many of my books with me across the Atlantic and I having been giving them away to my grandchildren in the hope they too will cherish them.

I do not remember my parents reading to me. I hope they did; we certainly tried to pass our love of reading on to our children. It was the age of Where the Wild Things Are and Dr. Seuss (neither of us was especially fond of the latter, although we thought we were supposed to be.) Our children all have memories of the books we shared with them and have become extensive readers. But their children are grown up in a vastly different age. Parents are facing the siren song of the world of technology.

I've read the articles about the bad effects of allowing children to spend too much time on-line and I have heard my grandchildren telling me that their computer time is rationed. There are a couple of TV commercials which show draconian mothers cutting off signal so the family can eat together (though in one case, when they do they seem to be standing around a table grabbing slices of pizza.) There are stories of the dangers of children not inter-acting with each other or engaging in physical activity interspersed with the accounts of how the writer spent his childhood happily playing with a stick and a ball of string. I tended to agree.

Then last week I read an article by Christopher Mims in The Wall Street Journal, which began, "Imagine someone traveling through time to the days before the internet, regaling audiences with fantastical tales of a future in which children can access devices containing the sum of all human knowledge and which gain new powers daily to instruct, create and bring people together.

Now imagine this time traveler describing the reaction  of most parents to the devices—not celebration, but fear, guilt and anxiety over how much time children spend with them.

You can see where this is going. An exhortation backed up by a recommendation by the American Association of Pediatrics to distinguish between different types of screen use—say FaceTime with Grandma versus a show on You Tube. (Grandma’s not going to win that one!) There were lots of statistics and articles by learned psychologists, all leading to the claim that the intelligent use of different types of technology can be beneficial. Now another guilt trip for parents deciding how to pit Grandma against Dora the Explorer, though I feel any parents worth their salt can, and have been, instinctively making good choices.

For me, the source of the sum of all human knowledge was a battered copy of an ancient Pears Encyclopedia which I read from cover to cover. Several times. I learned foreign words and phrases, the flags of all the countries. My Pears would never gain "new powers daily" to update their names from the Belgian Congo or Rhodesia. Let’s not even mention Sri Lanka. 

So the more things change, the more they stay the same. If I were growing up today my mum would be saying,  “You’ve always got your nose stuck in a computer."

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Happy Birthday, Blake

Each year one or two of our grandchildren reaches one milestone year or another. Today Blake became a teenager. It was five years ago yesterday that she came ready made into the family, and she is a real joy.

Here she set off on the long walk up the aisle and I think her smile said it all. She played her role in the wedding graciously and gave a self-assured speech at the reception. Laughter erupted from the guests as she described how she loved accompanying Lucy to second hand shops in the neighborhood and the thrift they displayed in buying their clothes in them.

In the last five years she has shown her interest in acting and singing, playing volleyball and doing well in school. Her hair has been long. Her hair has been short, but the smile is always there.

When Josephine and Veronica were in town last week the girl posse of Evelyn, Caroline, Lydia, Eleanor and Blake entertained them royally.
Happy Birthday, Blake.

 And we will never forget that Ernie’s brother and our beloved family member, Fr. Bob, would have been 91 today. He died nearly eight years ago, and we miss his steady, funny presence with us still.