Merry Christmas to all . . .
This year will go down in the annals of the 20th century as the Year of Jet Lag and Margaret's Thanksgiving Turkey Stuffing. It began with a late Christmas visit with son Dan and daughter-in-law Michelle and grandchildren Shane and Erica in Saratoga Springs, and it will end with a visit to them on Christmas. Shane & Erica are delights, getting straight "A" report cards (natch). Shane is one of the few 9-year-olds who has hiked the high peaks of New York, and Erica has become a great letter writer. We delight in getting her terrible jokes on email. Their parents purchased their dream house so far in the country that even Dan is happy. "Life is so good, it's scary," crows Dan, who has been promoted to Sergeant, taken off the streets (thereby making them safer for criminals), moved to Division headquarters, and turned into a policy wonk!
We also visited with son Shannon and daughter-in-law Dawne and grandchildren Hillary (the "Sweet One") and Connor -- they are both charmers. Shannon will DJ a party this New Year's at the top hotel in Saratoga where they now live.
While still in Iceland, we attended Adam Hills & Sara Dwornik's wedding in the biggest snowstorm in years. He is the law student son of old friends Allen and Jean Hills. "Hail to the Chief" was their reception march (modest is not one of that young man's shortcomings). We also had talked with Larry Hills & Toni. The 22-hour flight back from from Albany to DC on USAir, was truly memorable event!
Our annual vacation in Puerto Escondido, Mexico with Clay & Eve Cummins was enjoyable, though the distance does gets longer every year. Sun, sand, palms, temperatures in the 80s, and seeing old friends Bill & Rosemary James, Dick & Mary Anne Giganti, and Gina Machorro are easy to take in February.
We cut short our Mexico trip so Elizabeth could represent the U.S. at the TIMSS (Third International Math and Science Study) conference in Morocco. (There has been lots of press on how well the U.S. did NOT do on this exam.) Morocco sounds exciting and visiting the Kasbahs, Marrakech and Casablanca was fun and interesting. Air Morocco might be better named AirSloppiness, e.g., they forgot to pick up food before landing (bouncing cups!) or check restrooms (upon landing a woman exited a bathroom with her infant, having stayed there during the entire landing). Arriving four hours late in London (not bad for a three hour flight), she missed her connection to the U.S., spent 8 hours trying to nap in Heathrow (leading her to quip she slept in London with her colleague Patrick Gonzales), arrived in New York at midnight, missed all connections to DC, stayed overnight, and arrived semi coherent in DC for a 9 a.m. meeting.
March and June saw Elizabeth on Long Island, visiting her family and her ever amazing 88-year-old and completely independent Father (still reading more than anyone); in July for Godson Michael's 30th birthday -- they all danced or tried to dance on the "yacht" that Toni had leased -- (Elizabeth's former housemate and VanderPutten family attorney Pat Moore entertained everyone); in August for her father's 88th birthday, and again in November.
After April meetings in Montreal and San Jose, Elizabeth stayed home until her birthday in June when we both visited long time friend Nancy Jane Stubbs in Daytona Beach. We were wined, dined, and entertained (which included a minor league baseball game). She made Elizabeth get up before dawn to walk 9 miles on the beach every morning. Nancy Jane taught Brian to play (and win) dominos.
The summer highlight was a June party at Grafton Lakes State Park outside Saratoga Springs for our granddaughter Sara's high school graduation. She is now at Oswego studying theater production. Most of the Larkins were there. Daughter Kathi (Sara's mother who works in a research program at the University of New Mexico) and grandson Stephen came from Albuquerque. Son Ruane and his friend Pearl were there as were most of the grandchildren. Unfortunately, football star and thespian grandson Rory (who will graduate from high school this year and is destined to great things) couldn't make it. Rumor has it that a girl was the reason!
Then in September, Elizabeth was in Maine for a meeting (she sometimes complains that all she does is decline proposals and go to meetings). While there, she climbed Cadillac Mountain with some friends. Cadillac claims to be the highest point on the Atlantic coast (which isn't saying too much when you consider that most of the coast is beach) but is 1800 feet. They made it! Of course when they got to the top, they found 1,000s of people who came the easy way -- by bus.
Our families remain mostly well. Aunt Annette (the "Bionic Woman") is a source of inspiration for all. As one of her childhood friends said after seeing her after 30 years or so "you haven't changed at all," which is true. Brother-in-law Bob, as part of his very complex job of managing his Uncle Max's affairs, sold his house in Long Beach and found him a much better place to live in a nursing home. Sister Jean keeps adding to her doll house collection and managing plays. (In all seriousness, she says this year's play is named "Nuts") A highlight of Jean's year was introducing the author of the best-selling thriller, The Magic Fungus to her mycology group. Some people get excited about yeast!
We all eagerly look forward to the birth of Meg & nephew Rich's first child and brother Dick & Peggy's first grand child. Niece Dorothy began the year by announcing her engagement to John and ended it by getting promoted to supervisor at Computer Associates. Mike & Toni have moved into their new house that Aunt Annette calls "the Manor House." We expect them to have many summer parties on their deck and by their near-Olympic size pool (slight exaggeration). John and Pat continue to brag about their four grandchildren. Niece Dawn & Basil have a new Townhouse, new furniture and room for both kids and his computer. Jill and Kevin are enjoying their new home. Carole-Ann aced the state tests (naturally, says brother John).
Throughout the year we often heard from Brian's sister Maureen (who has taken to email and is readying for semi retirement) and almost daily from niece Caitlin who continues to battle the Darth Vaders on behalf of the mentally ill. Nevada State engineer niece Tracy, who has been going to college since she was four, says, "I took Structure Analysis this past semester. In one of the classes they asked the average age (19!). These kids could be my kids. The up side is this gives me a chance to look over the candidates that I will be hiring in this summer." (Dick, are you paying attention?) Nephew Steven and wife Diana live close to Tracy. Writes Tracy of children, "Krystal (13) is turning into a very beautiful young lady. Joshua (8) is a math whiz. Katy (7) has no fear. Rebecca (6) is all girl. Jon [Tracy's son] & Steve (both 4) are best buds and most likely to irritate each other."
In September, to visit Kati (and with a continuing eye for a possible retirement spot), we made an extraordinary trip to New Mexico. Starting in Albuquerque, which we toured with Kathi and Stephen. We are all proud of Stephen's incredible grades and citizenship awards, as well as the fact that this year he made his first Holy Communion. We were sorry to miss that. While in New Mexico, we had dinner with our best man Dan McKinnon (whom we had not seen in 20 years) and his wife Eleanor, went to Santa Fe (where we visited every museum Elizabeth could find), Taos, the Rio Grande Gorge, Bandelier and Jemez Springs, and finally to a site where friends Barbara & Glenn will retire. In Rio Rancho, we enjoyed brunch with Elizabeth's Uncle Bob, Aunt Doris & cousin Robert. We wrote a little Web site booklet about this trip and illustrated it with the best of our photos.
October saw Elizabeth on a round-the-world trip to Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, with intermediate stops in Tokyo and London, for the final TIMSS conference of 1999, and where the time is exactly 12 hours different from our EST. Talk about "Jet Lag!" She and her colleagues enjoyed Singapore but almost got busted (this in a country where chewing gum is illegal) for having five people in a cab! The meeting in KL was fascinating -- 34 countries arguing about science and mathematics education. But the really difficult part was the 36-hour trip home. Once again, she missed her flight, spent 8 hours in London, once again quipping about sleeping in Heaththrow with Patrick Gonzales.
Sadly, Elizabeth's Uncle Bert, her father's younger brother, died this year. We all remember him as the Cary Grant of the family as an unfailingly sophisticated and vivacious host who cultivated her love for Mexico and life in general. While funerals are sad, it was good to see the cousins, including Laurie Loken who represented the "West Wing" branch of the family.
Finally, we get to Margaret's turkey stuffing. Every family has some dish that is held as the standard. Perhaps it is mother's pot roast or grandmother's apple pie. Well, we had Thanksgiving with Alan Bow & Margaret Windus, and Margaret did a stuffing that will be remembered forever as THE standard for turkey stuffing. Email her for the recipe (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Merry Christmas to you.
Brian J. Larkin and Elizabeth VanderPutten