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The Christmas I Couldn’t Forget

When I was in fourth grade, my parents both had jobs—a novelty in Northern Maine during the late 1960s but start of a national trend.  Dad worked as a supervisor at the food processing plant and mom was night manager at a local hotel/motel. Financially, those were good years, when both my parents generated income. My mother would later lose her position, after the elegant facility burned down under mysterious circumstances. But that’s another story.

Christmas Eve, when my three younger sisters and I could open one present, I hardly could contain my want. Actually, I couldn’t contain it. My parents had gone out to food shop, preparation for feast as part of a spectacularly planned Christmas Day. They could afford to spend more on us that year than ever. Quite excited were they to give to their kids. 
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Remembering Lennon

December 8, 1980, I was volunteer fundraising in New York City. I beat the street until late and beat to bed around midnight. I lived in a group house a few blocks south of Columbia University on the Upper West Side.

I crawled out of bed around 8:30 a.m. on the 9th, a Tuesday. I recall bouncing down the stairs, laughing as I moved along. In those days, I was skinny and bushy blonde and always bubbling optimism. To a fault. I drove people nuts with my energy and enthusiasm.
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Somewhere Between Dickey and Rivière-Bleue

I am in a storytelling mood, and so here comes another one. I swear, by all people precious to me, that this is a true story and not a tall tale. I have to say it, because you, the reader, might not believe the account or the accuracy of my memory.

My dad first took me camping when I was seven years old. Where I’m from, camping had nothing to do with RVs or tidy, civilized campgrounds, or at least when I was a kid. My dad, uncle and their crew—about 10 men—headed deep into the woods along the Crown of Maine, or Aroostook, west of an area better known as the St. John Valley.
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The Geography Lesson

I spent a good chunk of my twenties traveling, for reasons better explained some other time. One day—oh, winter 1985—I walked into a west Texas fast food place looking for cheap Mexican eats.

I’ve got to digress and talk about Texas towns and food, or what they were then. Pretty much any Texas town big enough to have a gas station has a Diary Queen. Rule goes: Every town in the Longhorn state has a Dairy Queen (It’s not true, I found one in southern Texas near the New Mexico border without a DQ. Of course, my last visit was years ago, and there might be one now). Restaurants are a good measure of just how many people live in a Texas town. First there’s the DQ (about 25 to 3,000-4,000 people) and next up is the Sonic (4,000-5,000 range or so). Pizza place means more people, etc. etc. 
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Mittens and Shoes

This afternoon, on what turned out to be an uncharacteristically summer-like day, I walked toward the veterinarian’s office to see if Mittens the stray survived her fender bender. Turns out the real bender—chug-alug-lug—was the man who first came to our door about the car-struck cat. He walked back from the direction of the vet’s, in socks. No shoes! Sure the day was warm, but not for going down the street in socks.

Turns out he drank up overnight and someone stole his shoes and jacket, or so he claimed, during a blackout. “Could you help me out?” he pleaded. I felt somewhat entangled because of yesterday’s goodwill with the cat. The guy said he couldn’t go back to his “woman” without shoes. I decided to be generous, and gave him a good pair that I don’t wear anymore. He took the shoes and disappeared. I had my misgivings, because sometimes some people take advantage of generosity. 
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Mittens

Some days, people give me hope. About an hour ago, my wife rapped on my office door—sliding glass that goes from the basement into the backyard—and said, “Come here. There’s something I’ve got to show you”. Her body language suggested more, so I responded to the urgency.

A car had hit one of several feral cats that maraud the neighborhood. I had chased this animal, grey with white paws (mittens), out of the backyard whenever it stalked the wild squirrels. Now, the animal lay prone in the street, panting and meowing. 
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Gramps and Digicams

It’s mixing-and-matching time—pulling together elements of the last post (on digital prints) and the next-to-the-last (about my father-in-law).

I have used digital cameras for a long time, at least as far back as 1997. The photo of my daughter and her grandfather was taken in late 1998 with a digital camera I can’t recall. I suspect that it was Kodak’s then top-of-the-line 1.6 megapixel shooter, which sold for more than a thousand bucks. A year later, I moved up to Canon’s PowerShot S20, a lightweight (for the time), full-featured 3-megapixel digital camera.
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Simply Amazing

My father-in-law visited over the last two-and-half days. I didn’t spend as much time with him as I wanted to, because of my work schedule. That’s too bad, because my wife’s father is an amazing man.

He’s 83, still spry, alert, and interested in continuing to grow and mature his character. He flew out to Philadelphia and drove down to Washington for the visit. Later, he braved the pelting rain (more than five inches fell in the Washington, D.C. area over the last two days) to drive back to Philadelphia, before going onto New York and then back to California. 
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