December 19-20, 2003

"Runners take your mark!" ERRRRRT! (Air horn sound). A sequence we heard again this year at the start of road races: one so crowded you almost couldn't pass a soul; one so cold your breath condensed before it left your mouth, one so long my mind drifted through 47 states, one so snowy we slipped on nearly every footfall. But Madelyn and I ended all of these with some kind of success. It's been a whole year of startings and endings of varying kinds....

Two longtime close friends each had their first child. Kim in Colorado after a winding road seems to be the great mom I anticipated. And I can't wait to see Daddy David! From a wedding under the giant Redwoods in Berkeley, California early in the year to a birth in Brooklyn, who would have guessed? Those are big beginnings. (So what ended, David? I hear it's not your record-collecting-days....)

My grandmother Parker ended her time in this world this year. I know her body was ready and I think her self was not far behind. And so my mother begins as matriarch.

Caralyn started Public School. She started it with Second Grade, a bit odd to some and sundry but she has taken to it like a falcon to freefall. She loads up her bookbag and marches off each morning to her adventures. On Open House night she formally introduced us to all her teachers: Music, Art, P.E. and Classroom. And she reads. Of course that ended her official Home Schooling, at least for now.

Nathaniel had an academic beginning, too. He started High School (9th grade) with a computer programming course, Algebra II, more Spanish and an extra-curricular called Academic Games where they travel around the area to compete in brain games. My Natman (I'm sure that's Nate to his friends these days; and he is indeed taller than me now) has qualified for the Nationals in one of the games called "On Sets". He also bought himself a $350 digital video camera. Where'd he get that kind of money? He earned it as a soccer referee. He seems to like that about as much as playing. He went away to a weekend camp for soccer reffing at a nearby college, his first weekend away from family, made me nostalgic for my dorm days.

What else? We broke two ice cream scoops in August that we had used for years. They'd probably filled 10,000 bowls! The new ones are starting their service, even in snowy weather. At work this morning we had 19 turkeys walk end-to-end through the front parking lot, very pretty in the snow as we watched from the third floor. Some of them flew up into some small trees across the street by the Vector building. They were too big for the branches that were only a few feet off the ground in the first place and then under the turkey weight they drooped ridiculously low. Then when a second bird fluttered onto one occupied twig it sank further until it hung nearly vertical and both ended up having to flop off to the ground. Fattening up at the start of winter.

Caralyn has been enjoying the snow, too. She likes to play outside with her brother and the neighbor kids, but just as often she plays alone, in any dry weather. She loves the thin woods on the back half of the lawn where the shed is, and the weeping willow in the high wet patch of grass, and the big deck across the house back. She collects sticks and rocks for soup, watches bugs and soaks in life. She's my play child.

Caralyn also likes to watch a show with me that started on TV this year, Joan of Arcadia. I got into doing a report in Junior High French class once on the original "Maid of Orleans", so this one resonates some with me. They use the "What if God was one of us" music and he speaks through various normal people and I think, "isn't that funny, God as a sort of Everyman;" and that's recursive or maybe full-circle, like a wedding ring, love with no beginning and no end....

But we're talking about things that had beginnings and/or endings this year, so perfect gold circles don't fit that square napkin holder. Well, except that The Lord of the Rings is ending and Nathaniel and I want to see the final installment. The cinematography has been magnificent, even if the character development hasn't been able to measure up to the books. And there was another "first" in big screen films this year, Disney began turning amusement park rides into movies, and did it pretty well. Pirates of the Caribbean is top-notch entertainment and stirred my memories of Disneyland circa 1967. It was Cathi's favorite ride.

Madelyn and I took a ride to San Francisco on an airplane to see David and Kryssa get married. I was glad for the chance to spend a couple days in California. We ate at Jack-in-the-Box; we stayed at The Claremont Resort in Berkeley; toured a vineyard and attended the wedding at the botanical gardens. We also walked around UC Berkeley and went to the Catholic service at the Newman House there. The Brother who delivered the sermon was as good as the cane-walking white-haired rabbi had been at the wedding the day before. The monk taught me a new word, "kerygma" and he referred to giving the new regional bishop directions to their church as "just to the left of where ever it is you're headed". Ah, Northern California. We enjoyed immersing in the liberalism for a time; and in the sunsets. The reception was in a house full of art; museum art; and it had an open air rooftop where we hung out with friends from college and it was fine. But it ended and we flew home to our children (non-stop SFO to PIT, gratefully) and we weren't sorry.

In July we all took a ride, in our RAV-4, to the Outer Banks for the First Drumm Family Reunion. This was the first time that Madelyn and all her grown siblings have gathered to share vacation. John found us a great house in South Nags Head, NC -- pool, hot tub, billiards, giant dining table and on the beach. We were its first ever renters and the first to leave notes in its guest book. In the mornings, from the third floor balcony, we watched dolphins combing the beach line. In the evenings one couple cooked and all ate. It was a bonding experience, combining the seven small family units into one big family, for a time. There was also plenty of time to get off by ourselves. Madelyn and I ran in the heat. Nathaniel and Caralyn enjoyed Jockey's Ridge State Park, walking the dunes or attending the programs, like "Tracks in the Sand". We visited Bodie Island Lighthouse and we ate seafood. Of course the time went too fast. We also snuck in a trip with the kids to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls over Labor Day. Water, mist, funny money and butterflies, of course this trip went fast, too. The whole year went too fast. This fact smacked me in the hands in October when I felt the half of my yearly week-at-a-glance planner in my right hand was unexpectedly thinner than that in my left hand. Fall a'ready!

But I know that next year will bring more new beginnings and endings. I hope you are looking forward to them like we are. Peace forward,


-- Chip, Madelyn, Nathaniel and Caralyn