Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays’ take on things and experiences

Archive for December 2017

Shocking Transition

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From this:

To this:

It was a 92° swing in a matter of a few hours.

Ouch. There is a reason they refer to below-zero temperatures as “biting cold.”

I can report that our pets were exceptionally well cared for while we were away. The horses were snuggled in the barn when we arrived after dark last night. Both Delilah and Pequenita were very excited to see us and offered a full dose of canine and feline affection, respectively. The chickens are hunkered down in their coop, which is what we will also do for much of today, by the fireplace in our house.

It was a great family vacation, and  it is great to be back home again.

Being away certainly helps me to better appreciate how much I love the place we call home. There is no place I’d rather live, even when the air outside is ridiculously, bitterly cold.

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Written by johnwhays

December 31, 2017 at 10:33 am

Going Tropical

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From the series of previous posts reviewing my history with Cyndie and her family, I hoped to provide a more complete background for what led to this year’s adventure to the Dominican Republic over Christmas.

After years of growing families, the Friswold Christmas spectacle of the classic gift exchange had expanded almost to the point we couldn’t fit all the gifts in one room. This was despite an effort long ago to rein things in by drawing individual names for the adults giving gifts.

I witnessed Cyndie and her brothers making an effort to encourage moderation, but it’s hard to restrain the love of giving. It was difficult to detect much evidence of change.

They were also putting energy and imagination toward devising ways to reduce the (mostly self-imposed) burden on Marie of hosting to the nines for hours on end, three or four days in a row. That effort was also producing mixed results.

Then, along came the year 2017, which just happened to include several significant milestones for Fred and Marie. They both celebrated 80th birthdays, certainly a benchmark for which they deserve the reasonable courtesy of reduced stress and aggravation in their days.

Equally noteworthy is this year’s marking of their 60th wedding anniversary. With these special events dealt to their hands, the two cunning card players set about making the big play.

Obviously, they had been counting cards all along, because they knew what was going to be dealt in advance. We found out a full year ago that Fred and Marie wanted to bring the whole clan to the Dominican Republic for Christmas this year.

No names will be drawn, no food needs to be planned or prepared, no setting up of tables and chairs, no world-class flower arrangements will need to be flown from Boston by Carlos, no dishes will need to be done for hours on end.

We will have the gift of a full week of each other’s company in the warmth of sun, sand, palm trees, and ocean breezes.

The whole clan, together again like a decade ago on Hilton Head Island.

I have no concept of what they could possibly dream up that could top this ten years from now, in celebration of their 70th anniversary.

What a family.

To Fred and Marie:

You have done the world a great service, raising these four amazing individuals with so much love.

You’ve given me an amazing opportunity to be included as family. You have blessed all your grandchildren with bountiful and limitless love.

Here’s hoping your dreams for this tropical Christmas were fulfilled, and that you enjoy many more days as stress-free as this week hopefully was for you both.

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What About

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What about the Hays family Christmases? How could we fly off to the tropics for a week over this holiday!? Well, it’s not for lack of love to my birth clan, that’s for sure. Here’s a shout out my siblings and their families.

I see the difference between Cyndie’s and my family as an asset. Basically, it starts with the difference in age of our parents. Ralph and Betty were nearing the end of their high school years when Fred and Marie were born. I was the fifth of six kids, while Cyndie was the first of five. Our combined perspectives are broader than they would be, each on our own.

Now my parents have moved on to the world of spirits and my siblings are all grandparents. They are the matriarchs and patriarchs of their own respective families. My siblings and I haven’t maintained a specific Hays tradition of celebrating Christmas together.

However, the memories of our glorious past endure and I’m sure have directly shaped the new traditions of our kids and grandkids.

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Just three years ago, Cyndie and I had the pleasure of hosting a gathering of Hays families at Christmastime and I wrote about it here on Relative Something. Here is an excerpt from December 2014’s “Sibling Revelry.”

Despite a sloppy wintry mix of precipitation doing its best to dampen our spirits (sorry ’bout the pun), the gathering of Hays relatives was a joy and a half. As always happens to me at family gatherings of limited duration, the riches of access to siblings I grew up with is enticing, but the reality of our usual chaos leaves me wishing there was more time. It is hard to finish a story, and sometimes a single sentence, without interruption. My attention is too often wrenched away from the person I was listening to, and time flies by so fast, the hour of departure comes up way too soon.

Regardless, every moment was precious. Reconnecting after long periods of separation, with siblings who share so many tendencies and characteristics, is refreshing and invigorating. I tend to feel a kind of validation of who I am, discovering the brothers and sisters that I grew up with remain so similar in behavior and perspectives. I am among my people again.

DSC03401eCHI’m lucky that, as a family, we all get along. These are the people who inhabited Intervale Ranch with me from the day I was born until 9 years later, when our family moved out and the property was razed for development into an industrial park.

With technical assistance from my son, Julian, I was able to display a digitized version of a slide show I put together close to 30 years ago, which featured that old farm property. It provided an opportunity to exercise our memories, as we analyzed some of the images and compared recollections.

Meanwhile, there was non-stop food to be consumed, youngsters to get reacquainted with and entertained by, and horses to visit…

Love you, Hays relations! Hope you all had fabulous Christmas celebrations at home while we were away!

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Written by johnwhays

December 29, 2017 at 7:00 am

Fiftieth Anniversary

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The big five-oh. It is a milestone that deserved the biggest family trip yet. To celebrate 50 years of marriage, Fred and Marie found a way to include all of their children and grandchildren into one awesome week of vacation. They rented a mansion that could house all of us on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.

Spending a week at Hilton Head together was so much more than just a vacation to the beach. We weren’t staying in hotel rooms. We had an entire house. Granted, it was a mansion large enough that we could retreat to our own rooms, just as if it were a hotel.

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A significant difference was that family prepared the meals right there in the kitchen. Cousins had some extended quality time to develop greater bonds. Kids all got a dose of supervision and play from aunts and uncles that gave parents occasional breaks and expanded everyone’s understanding of the rest of their family.

Staying together in one house was the big key that set this trip apart from all the others. It was like a week at Wildwood, except on the ocean with an expansive sandy beach.

And, well, it was extravagantly luxurious, too. It felt like a dose of what being rich and famous might be like.

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Those stairs. So big, it was hard to capture in a picture. Walking up them inspired feelings of royalty.

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It’s comical, really, that part of the regal impression was created by the simple fact you could choose to walk to the left or right. They both lead to the very same place.

Having a pool right outside the back door was rather plush, given the Pacific Ocean was just a stone’s throw beyond.

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We played games beside the pool, we made castles in the sand.

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It was an absolutely grand time. I believe it set the stage for what might be possible a decade later.

When it came time to celebrate a sixtieth anniversary, how would they ever top that week at Hilton Head?

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Written by johnwhays

December 28, 2017 at 7:00 am

Different Destinations

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You see, the thing is, I have a much stronger inclination to stay home than I do to travel, unlike the family I married into. More than one person has told me I was crazy to pass up the chance to travel to Italy’s Amalfi coast with Cyndie, her parents, Barry and Carlos.

I’m okay identifying with a percentage of crazy.

But, I’m not stupid. As our kids grew older, the opportunities to expand their world with travel made total sense to me.

While we had indoctrinated them to the three-hour drive to Wildwood starting from the first weeks of their lives, other destinations soon beckoned.

Disney in Florida was a no-brainer. It would have been just fine with the four of us and Cyndie’s parents, but having her brothers, Steve and Barry figure out a way to include themselves pushed it up to that next level of greatness.

The plan wavered a couple of times, such that a room reservation for them was canceled, but when they were able to make it work at the last-minute, it meant that Fred and Marie would get to cut their space in half to share a Disney Resort room with two of their grown sons.

The daily Disney parade had life-size green army men from “Toy Story.” The Tower of Terror was a real scream. It was Disney-erific!

Cancun, Mexico was a perfect next step. Part artificial environment of the tourist hotel, part historic Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza.

We swam with dolphins and played volleyball on the beach. It was a great vacation for us and our kids.

I had an opportunity to venture out on my mono-lingual own in search of a souvenir soccer jersey from a local shopping mall. It was interesting because I had no idea what team I was choosing and I needed to rely on the clerks guessing what I was after through gestures and facial expressions.

¡Go, Pumas!

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Written by johnwhays

December 27, 2017 at 7:00 am

Winter Olympics

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Among the too-many-to-count moments of my life thus far when I have found myself in the midst of something that my wildest dreams never imagined possible, attending the 1994 Winter Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway, was off the charts.

That Fred & Marie were able to consider this a viable option for a family vacation, and then pull it off with such incredible results, is enough to leave me at a loss for words to adequately describe.

I love sports. Olympic competitions are some of the best. Winter is my favorite. A trip to Lillehammer, Norway? A bonus on top of a bonus and a bonus, and another bonus.

This trip was spectacular! To be able to do this with family was wonderful (although we left our young children at home with a nanny). The other family (Friswold friends) traveling with us were precious. The authentic accommodations were priceless. Obviously, the Winter Games were world-class. And Norway did a fantastic job as host country.

We were able to stay in the home of a farm family. The boys gave up their rooms and slept somewhere else, but they still had to come home to do chores, so we saw them at breakfast.

Through the Friswold connections, we ended up attending a black-tie dinner event heavily themed with Norwegian culture. We had an opportunity to do some nordic skiing in a gorgeous mountain forested landscape blanketed with deep snow. We attended a hockey game, a downhill skiing event, saw the luge up close –nothing like it with the roar of speeding blades grinding against ice as sleds rocketed past our heads– and watched moguls freestyle skiing.

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This trip was so much fun that the experience lingered for a long, long time as one of the best things I had ever done.

Other than the week Cyndie and I spent learning winter survival skills from Will Steger at his homestead property in Ely, Minnesota, and the lodge-to-lodge dogsledding adventure vacation we took our kids on with Sue and Paul Schurke, the trip to Norway for the Winter Olympic Games fulfilled my snow-season passions better than I thought possible.

The success of this family trip went a long way toward showing me how much fun was possible, traveling with this clan.

Even if the next excursions weren’t likely to be headed to a cold weather climate zone, it was pretty easy to talk me into going along with whatever wild idea the family was plotting next.

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Written by johnwhays

December 26, 2017 at 7:00 am

Happy Christmas

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But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,

“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

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Written by johnwhays

December 25, 2017 at 7:00 am