To you “two feet of snow” New Englanders, sub zero Mid-westerners and New Yorkers, balmy breezes southerners and all those in-betweeners – a hearty if interrupted greeting from the “southern” Barkers, Jacksonville style.
After a year’s hiatus, we are back by poplar demand, as incredible as it may seem. The response to silence we had last year was astounding as heartwarming. And anyway, we sort of missed doing it too.
When we last left, I was working through a project with NASA to see if satellite data could be used in forestry applications. The project ran it’s course, results were better than expected, management accepted the notion of an operational system within St. Regis and we are now ensconced in new quarters surrounded by machines and screens that rattle, whirr and blink lights. At times I am not sure who runs who –thank heavens for a staff that does.
From this Space Invaders environment one is plunged into the mundane with a clatter when walking through the back door and into construction paper, white paste and a question like: “Who were the three men in a tub?” You got it – Joyce still teaches kindergarten and with her usual zest. If the projects around here are any measure, she must be enjoying it more every year.
After a year in Jacksonville teaching, Diane decided she needed to broaden and enrich herself and a she spent last year in Philadelphia. We went to see her in June, via Virginia Beach with short side trips to places like Chincoteague, and Wallops Island (wonderful names). After spending two days with Diane in her unique row house in North “Philly”, we headed back by way of the North Carolina Outer Banks; Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills and best of all, Nags Head. These were all places we always wanted to visit.
After a final stop in Myrtle Beach we arrived home just in time for the riddle of the year and the real underlying reason for this letter; ready? Alaina’s her name and G.P. is my game; what is it? – Give up? A granddaughter, of course! Alaina Michelle born to Karen and Barry, and I am the proudest Grandpa ever; and Grandma – well, she is beside herself as I have been dragged through every toddler shop in the city and beyond. Why, the first time I held Alaina in my arms, I got that warm feeling all over. Then I looked down – oh oh – the good news was, I only had to change myself. Being a G.P. does have its privileges like handing them back when under crisis! At this point, she grabs on to everything, I am told. While babysitting, George, all 185 lbs of him couldn’t get her into the crib because she grabbed onto everything. Finally Barry’s brother Jerry showed up and between the two of them got her down. Can you believe it, almost 400 lbs. of meat to lay to rest a 14 lb. Powder puff! Oh, but she is a doll. Joyce and I do good work, don’t you think (of course Karen and Barry helped a little)
Another bit of good news, great grandma Barker (Ma) was with us over Thanksgiving. This was especially nice since Ma had a rather grim summer punctuated by a bone-shattering fall. True to form, she rebounded well and with her full sense of humor in tact, was able to make the trip. She really stepped into a zoo! It all started by George arriving home wanting to go hunting immediately, that very afternoon, so we did (only about 20 miles away). Well I dropped him off and went to where I was going. Getting out of the car, I heard a bang, but theorized it couldn’t be George yet. I sat and waited until dark, seeing nothing except assorted song birds and two armadillos trying to out-dig each other. As usual, my assumption was wrong, George was waiting along the road with a six-point buck! I don’t know about that boy – I think he anoints himself. I figure my only hope is to stake him out in a field and let him blink his eyes and look coy (in a white tale sort of way).
This was all followed by Karen, Barry, Alaina and Jaws (the dog) on Friday, and Bruce came in on Saturday when we cooked our 20 lb. Turkey. The weekend was topped off by a Sunday 7:00 a.m. football game in which I found myself officiating! How did I get involved? Well by a mistake and a need: a). I claimed they would never make it by seven (there was some question as to whether they would even be home by then). WRONG AGAIN! and, b). they needed someone to knock off the sandspurs and wipe the dew off the ball after each play. Gads, what a weekend.
Now, substituting Diane for Ma, we are looking at a reprise over Christmas! (I wonder if the Y has any rooms?). Really it’s great. The period between Thanksgiving and Christmas is like the eye of a hurricane. So quiet! Joyce and I feel compelled at this point, to introduce all you devotees to another Karen; Karen Owens (for short and clarity). Having dated George over the past four years (in itself, quite an indictment) she has become an integral part of our entire life style. Although no impending announcement is implied, she has become someone very special to us. During this season of joy, this letter would not be complete if she were not included.
Allemande Left and Do-Si- Do Would you believe after 17 years Joyce and I are back square dancing! We forgot how much fun it was (and confusing too!) Trouble is my mind remembers but my feet don’t! As a result I spend most of my time looking at my feet trying to make them understand. The other day in a crowded hall, I looked up to eight strange faces. During an intricate maneuver, I defused into another square. In 1964, it took 12 weeks to learn all the moves (that mattered) – it’s 40 weeks, no less. And is it ever popular! In the above referenced dance, 50 squares (400 people) in one hall! We highly recommend it for the maximum bang for the buck and to leave your problems behind (you really have no choice).
You know, it’s always great when old friends drop by. This year Joan and Tracy Greenlund and their daughter Becky came through and we had a delightful evening together. Joan was Joyce’s roommate at college and they tried (simultaneously) to recap the last 30 years. We wish more of you would do this as you come through. This summer we will be all driving to Kansas to pick up Diane. Any of you along our root are subject to such a call. Even if it is just that, it is a touch with old friends
May this year be prosperous and joyous for all of you.
Love, Joyce, Bob and Clan (K.O. too) –plus two dogs and a rabbit.