Merry New Year 2013!

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I am not sending this newsletter out online because I am too cheap to buys stamps or get to the dollar store to buy a box of cards. I did send cards to folks I don’t regularly connect with via the Internet but when I went to write a newsletter it was so boring I just could not send it. Here is some news with photos of our 2012.

For Tony, this was a sad year as his father took ill and then passed away in June. We had just gotten passports for Jenna and Sara to visit England, but their trip was not to be, so Tony went twice alone to visit and be with his mother and family. We were all sad not to have been able to go but the airfare is beyond prohibitive. John Leo Dempsey will be greatly missed but we do have our wonderful memories of him and his warm, loving, and funny personality.

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This  year I was fortunate due to a very generous gift to be able to travel for almost three weeks to San Francisco. I spent time with my cousin Adriana who made my trip possible. With her daughter Celestine, we had an amazing time, including a trip to the much touted Chez Pannisse, founded by Alice Waters who started the locally grown movement. The food was fantastic, in fact I truly felt like the Queen of England the entire time I was with Adriana who wined and dined me all over town. I took a great photo but sadly, shortly after I came home from my trip my computer crashed. Here is one of me and Celestine at Lafayette Reservoir.

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I also spent time with one of my oldest friends, Annie and her family. The two of us got to camp in Yosemite (on my bucket list) just in view of Half Dome. We also hiked to Vernal Falls (in the photo) and Emerald Pool, I think I have been to heaven and back and I will NEVER forget this experience.

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Annie and Mimi on ledge of Vernal Falls

Anna is amazing in every way and I could brag on and on but I’ll keep it short. She will graduate from University of Virginia in May at age 20 with a double major in Anthropology and Archaeology. Unlike most young people her age, she is self supporting and paying her own way through school. This summer she worked in the blazing sun with no shelter doing a dig at Ferry Farm, the boyhood home of George Washington.

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ImageAnna posing with fellow interns, "crossing the delaware" on July 4th at Ferry Farm

Mia is a full fledged adult at 18 now and continues to make us all laugh with her quirky sense of humor. She has very nearly completed her associates degree and with her grades has her choice of almost any school in Virginia. She is thinking of George Mason or Mary Washington, but we’ll see. She works hard saving people’s lives at the YMCA as a life guard and has turned our boring old family mini van into the “swagwag”. She saved up her money and went to Colorado to visit her good friend just in time for the wildfires and very nearly got evacuated but was to come home just in the nick of time.

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Jenna turned 16 this December, where did the time fly? She is learning to drive and working hard educating herself, often at home with her younger sister. In the spring of last year she took and passed her lifeguard test. She was hired by the local Y but then told they had changed their policy and would only hire 16 year olds. Hopefully she’ll have a job there soon. She has also done a variety of volunteer jobs this year, as a camp counselor and with an ecumenical church group helping needy people fix up their homes.

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Sara keeps us all on our toes with our gadgets. She has given her dad who is an IT Director numerous tutorials on how to use his iphone, however, she tends to get impatient with our learning speed, oh youth. She is now a full fledged teenager and is as tall as I am. This seemed to happen over night. One day Tony and I looked at each other and wondered who had stolen our baby. She is also schooling at home and told me her favorite reason to homeschool is that she gets to sleep in. With hair and clothes to worry about, she would literally have to get up at the crack of dawn to catch the bus and who has time for that? She is constantly on the go, mostly with her best friend who lives a few doors down. She was active on the swim team, goes to church weekly and has done a fair amount of volunteer work, also as a camp counselor and helping me regularly with my nature classes.

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I’m sure I will be roundly chastised for putting in “that horrible photo” but I just decided to put out this letter anyway. I hope you all have a blessed New Year and will come to visit us or at least give us a call.

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A Best Friend

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I had a best friend as a child. His name was Bo. This was his nickname which I loved and frankly, I still do. What a wonderful southern nickname with such character. Bo was an adorable and clever boy whose impish mischievousness identically matched mine and whose mother beat him so badly with a belt that his legs would be covered with black and blue. We did all those things you read about in the cute little clips about, “I grew up in the age of no helmets, drinking water out of the hose”, etc. We also played really fun games like pretending my baby doll was dead and we were having a funeral. We especially loved humming a funeral dirge as loudly as we could while running up and down the street with my doll which really did look dead after having been dragged around the neighborhood for god knows how long. We had her on a makeshift stretcher. It seemed like a perfectly good game to play and we loved it.

In our time adult neighbors were allowed to interact with kids, including to tell them they would “jerk a knot” in them if they did such and such again, our parents did the same so we did not question authority. We had a neighbor who lived a couple of streets over and we would go knock on her door periodically to ask if she might just have any candy. I remember feeling like we  hit the mother lode when she gave us each a tootsie pop. What could have been better. Even though she had been kind and given us the candy and we smiled and thanked her grandly we hunkered together to whisper and giggle that her last name sounded like witch.

Peanut butter and jelly was a fine lunch to be made by us and dragged into the woods WITHOUT washing our hands or using hand sanitizer which hadn’t even been invented. I don’t think we got any sicker than kids today, in fact if I hadn’t grown up with two smoking parents which caused me endless allergies and ear aches, I don’t think I would have gotten sick at all. Picnics were adventures in the woods where our imaginations truly ran wild. We ran around like feral children with no adults to supervise us other than to call us in for dinner at night. We got filthy on a regular basis and when we skinned our knees we would just stay out if it wasn’t too bad. Going home might mean being asked to fold laundry or for Bo much worse.

We grew up just after Beatlemania but we were crazy about The Monkees and Herman’s Hermits, of “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughtah” fame. Bo and I would regularly do fake British accents which must have sounded pretty bad combined with the intense Tennessee twang we had mixed in but we would giggle and I am still surprised to this day that there were some folks, adults included, who actually believed we were British. Pretend was our best playtime and Bo would don his cub scout uniform and I would come up with some get up and Bo’s older sister would play the wedding march on the little plastic organ they got for Christmas one year. We felt rather solemn about this and I was  afraid that maybe this was a little too serious, in the end it only added to the excitement of the event.

Bo had a G.I. Joe and I had a Barbie. Needless to say we joined the two and what fun we would have. I loved all the cool accessories G.I. Joe had as much as the Barbie stuff and anyway I really only had a Barbie with NO accessories. Let’s face it, G.I. Joe was a real man compared to Ken so off Barbie would happily go in the US Army Jeep. I was occasionally jealous of my other friends who had all the extras, like the houses, pink cars, clothes and the Kens but none of them had a friend like Bo with all the cool boy stuff so I was content.

When I was eleven Bo’s family moved away and I was heartbroken. There was no Internet then, no Facebook, long distance phone calls were expensive and I wasn’t much of a letter writer, though we did try really hard to stay in touch. I finally lost contact with him by about age 13. I did have the chance to reconnect finally after after almost 40 years and have had the opportunity to hear how lonely and difficult his life has been. Bo’s mother drank herself to death when he was a young teenager and his father put him out for things many parents of teens routinely deal with. Being the gifted young man he was he did get to college to study Spanish and Art but his life has been a lonely one, disconnected to his family who I don’t think really ever could connect with his free and yes unusual spirit. Fortunately he has a better memory than I do and any story I can recall he can add to with colorful details. It is wonderful to have a best friend as a child.

In the photo I am the one with the cool sailor hat with inset sunglasses, I did love that hat, and Bo is the boy in the middle next to me with his lovely impish grin, and yes we were probably drinking out of the hose!

Moss in a Shoebox

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When I was about seven or eight years old I had the good fortune to be able to become a Brownie Girl Scout. This afforded me the grand opportunity to wear a lovely little brown outfit complete with matching, knee socks, sock holder uppers, pins, sash, belt and the literal crowning glory, a little felt beanie. Words can not express what wonderful pride I had to don that little number to school, to wear it before my classmates as if I were a four starred general, or the queen of England for that matter. Although I can not remember what we did, other than to collect a dime each week for dues and say our Girl Scout promise I do remember looking forward to that meeting all week.

One of my most vibrant “snapshot” memories of childhood which is etched in my mind and comes back to me repeatedly in vivid color is of a trip I took with my Brownie troop. We took an outdoor nature hike to Chickamauga Battlefield. I had a shoe box which I was told I could use to store any items of interest I found. Our leader bent down to show us a patch of emerald green moss and explain what it was to us.

I do not remember what she said or even who she was. I do not remember who else came on the trip but I do remember carefully collecting a specimen of moss in my shoebox and being allowed to bring it home. This has such a monumental effect on me. Who could have known this would be one of those color memories that just will never fade. It truly brought me joy to have that moss in my shoebox. I felt as though I was carrying a box full of priceless gems and in a way I was . Perhaps this is why I still feel like the little Brownie Girl Scout when I go out in the woods and am in awe of the majesty and miracle surrounding me.

My Life Appears to Me…

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My life appears to me as a series of color snapshots stored in the memory bank of my mind. When I was four years old, after a very long car trip, I arrived at my new home to find that my father had gone into the woods and cut down a tiny evergreen tree and affixed pieces of bubblegum to it with string. I’m sure he could not know at the time that this small gesture would be a brilliant color snapshot I have carried in my mind and heart for my entire life.

Not all of my snapshots are brilliant color, some of them are black and white and still others are underexposed and so that they fade altogether after a time. My gentle, loving father was also an active alcoholic for my entire childhood. More later…