Lasley Holiday Letter 2001

Previous Letters

The New Year dawned with a massive snowstorm that left our kids stranded with the Grandparents in Florida for an extra day (awww!), but they returned safely to enjoy the snow.   Usually, January is our only quiet month, but Jacqui’s 4th grade play was in full rehearsals, and so we pressed on.  Dan even got recruited into running the lights!  The kids did a fantastic job recounting the tale of one Princess searching through all the fairy tales to find the best Prince.

In February, we took a long weekend to our favorite ski place, which was fun up until Jacqui fell during a lesson and sprained her wrist.  Dan and Laura played volleyball again, with their team reaching the first round of the playoffs for the first time.  Jacqui had indoor soccer practice leading up to a March tournament, which was fun.  Ben started to gear up for the Spring play.  As the Stage Manager, he was responsible for all the sound, lighting, and other tech crews, as well as the stage crew.  In addition, he had to train younger students so that they could take over the following year.

In late March, outdoor soccer resumed, with both teams building on their solid performances from the previous fall.  Ben continued as keeper, earning the respect of his teammates and opponents as well.  One player was overheard “Oh no, it’s that keeper again, and he’s gotten bigger!”  Fortunately (?), our team’s defense wasn’t that strong, and Ben got lots of opportunities to show off his talents.

Jacqui continued to lead her team from the defense and midfield.  In one game where they were losing badly, the coach called for a “jail-break”, which meant that there was only one defender in front of the goalie, while the other 6 players were on offense trying to score.  Jacqui was that lone defender, preventing the other team from scoring for the entire second half.  Her team went on to play in two tournaments and some other memorable games, including one in the pouring rain.  She even took a turn as keeper, imitating her brother with great success.

In April we went to Cancun for a week, enjoying the sun and sand.  Despite several years of Spanish classes, Ben wouldn’t speak it there, although he said he understood much of what was being said.  We went horseback riding, played volleyball, swam with tame dolphins, and did a bit of shopping.  Ben did a one-day scuba venture, which he declared as “interesting”, which defies clarification.  Ben also lamented that we never “relax” on vacation.

As the Spring Play approached, it became obvious that Ben had it all under control, and Dan didn’t have to spend every afternoon assisting.  The production of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” was quite elaborate, but it all went smoothly, and Ben was given an award from the staff for his 4 years of service on the tech staff.

As June arrived, we realized that we were approaching the end of an era.  Ben would be leaving Bedford Middle School, where Dan had gone in the 70s, and due to redistricting, Jacqui would not follow in their footsteps.  Jacqui would also be moving on from elementary school to middle school (Coleytown), but with only half of her classmates going along.  At the final performance of the play, and at each succeeding event, Laura and Dan said a few more goodbyes, and it was strange to try to anticipate this future loss of friends.

On the plus side, we were extremely proud to learn that Ben had been accepted to Phillips Exeter Academy for 9th grade.  Although it was awkward for him to have to explain that he would not be joining his friends at in high school, it was obvious he was looking forward to this new opportunity.

Since it was the final year for us to play at the Bedford Bistro talent show, Dan decided he wanted to fulfill his long-time dream of playing with a full brass section.  So in addition to the core group of students (drums, vocals, and sax), we recruited 3 more brass players to fill out the section, plus Jacqui on clarinet.  Dan bought the full charts for 3 songs, and he and Laura orchestrated the entire gig in just 4 rehearsals.  After the show, one young girl asked if we could play at her Bat Mitzvah!  Such praise was gratifying, even if we had to keep from laughing.  As usual, the entire family ran the stage show too, shuttling 30 sets of parents and students on and off the stage in less than 3 hours.

We went to all the concerts and moving up ceremonies for both Jacqui and Ben, abandoning any pretense of false modesty for either of them.  Yup, we think our kids are great too!  At both the 4th grade and 8th grade moving up ceremonies, we reflected on how many of these kids we had gotten to know quite well, and what a wonderful group of young people they are indeed.

Every year, after school is out, Westport hosts a festival for UN employees and their families that live in and around NYC, and this year they wanted to add a youth soccer game to the activities, intended to follow the adult game.  Somehow it fell to Dan and Ben to gather an all-star roster of players ages 12-15 and practice once or twice.  Unfortunately, somebody dropped the ball at the UN (insert sarcastic comments here), and their youth team never showed up.  So we played the tired adult team instead, and it was fun anyway.  Another group of kids we are proud to have known.

Then it was summer!  Ben was heavily immersed in doing nothing, except for racing sailboats (Vanguard 15s) on Thursday nights.  Jacqui was seriously into the sailing classes.  They both went away to the same soccer camp for a week, and then we were off to our family vacation.

This year we combined our sailing trip with the Riverside Jam, sailing from Traverse City to Mackinac Island and back, and then jamming in Chicago.  It was strange to pack both guitars and lifejackets, but it worked.  Sailing in upper Lake Michigan was supposed to be idyllic, but the wind blew from the wrong direction – or not at all – for 10 days straight.  But the boat was nice, and the region was different than we were used to.  And we got our chocolate covered strawberries on Mackinac; what else matters?

This year’s Riverside Jam in brought together 25 musicians of varying talents, many of whom we’d met through our online writings at www.guitarnoise.com.  We had a pretty nice stage and we all switched on and off freely.  It was great to listen to Ben play his first Springsteen song on sax, as well as adding his sweet flute sounds to several ballads.  Jacqui sang and played clarinet and congas too.  Laura really enjoyed playing with her new and old friends, and Dan alternated between basking in the shadow of his bass mentor and teaching a young bassist some tricks of the trade.

Fall soccer for Jacqui started oddly, as she had not made the cut for the Westport teams, and so was playing for a neighboring town.  To be fair, they were most accommodating, but it was hard having to learn all new girls (and every game was “away” for us!), and a different style of playing.  As the season progressed, the team jelled and it became fun to play.

One of the biggest events of the fall was packing and sending Ben to Exeter.  He packed remarkable lightly (he’s a boy!) considering that he was moving OUT.  The most important item was his computer and his computer games.  Second on the list was the bicycle.  We think the shirts and ties (required) were last on the list, though quite necessary.  At last the big day arrived.  We had Dan’s wagon packed, though not stuffed, with Ben’s bike on top and Ben and Laura set off at 6:30a, so that we could wish Ben’s girlfriend goodbye before she left for her high school bus.  Then we took to the roads, playing Ben’s favorite CD’s in the car, singing together and enjoying the gorgeous morning, as well as some McDonald’s hash browns.  Somewhere on the Mass Pike, about 9am or so, Laura called Dan on the cell phone to confirm the best way to bypass Boston.  Did we mention that move-in day was September 11? Dan gave Laura the driving instructions, then clued her as to the world news.  We were all completely shocked.  The news announcers kept talking about the images, and Ben and Laura were frustrated as to the lack of TV footage on a radio broadcast. Ben knew it was war and terrorism long before the radio announcer did (they were still mumbling “accident”).  He was worried that there would be no school (there is a clause in the Academy rule book about war), but since we were closer to NH than CT, we kept driving.  After getting to campus, it became clear that school was definitely starting.  We saw footage on CNN and gasped.  What an incredibly sad day for all of us.  There was a wonderful assembly run by the principal, where he reassured the parents that the kids would, indeed, be OK at school.  He discussed the importance of regular routine, and thus school would start on time, although it took over a week for some of the overseas kids to arrive.  Laura did more of the unpacking than she had intended, (straightened ties, hung up shirts, made the bed, unpacked clothes into drawers) while Ben did the “guy” things (set up the computer, etc).  It was difficult to leave him that day. Since he was so at home there, with the faculty and other students clearly coping well with the situation, Laura left to go home.  Jacqui and Dan were waiting up when she arrived, about 9 pm.  The entire state of Connecticut had mobilized to provide emergency support to NYC.  The saddest part was realizing that Laura didn’t need to go to the hospital to help triage and treat survivors.  There weren’t any.

Back at home, Jacqui was settling into her new school and rehearsing for her first “real” play.  Her days were busy, but she was having fun – mostly.  She was also learning that middle school children can be strange and hurtful sometimes, even with classmates who were recently good friends.  While she remains confused as to why they would behave this way, she maintains that it is “their problem,” not hers.  And she has made new friends through the play.

On the last weekend of September, the 3 of us ventured onto an airplane (very weird) and flew to San Francisco to attend Elyce’s wedding.  Since we had been anticipating this event for almost 20 years, we felt it was important to make the trip.  And as always, Laura’s medical knowledge came in handy, but that’s a long story…

One week before her drama performances, Jacqui fell hard during a soccer game and injured her hip seriously.  X-Rays showed no damage, but she could not put any weight on it.  With the help of a friend in the play, Jacqui re-blocked all of her scenes and dance moves to adjust for her crutches, and presented the changes to her director.  Dan decorated the crutches with old hemp rope, and she looked great as an old peasant.  On the morning before the last performance, Jacqui awoke to find no pain in her hip.  Laura made her jump up and down and run around the house twice before clearing her to perform in the play without her crutches.  The director OK’d her to go on without them, but she couldn’t confuse the rest of the actors by re-blocking too much.

Ben came home before Thanksgiving, saw some friends, and after a few days he announced that he had been “hooked” by Exeter.  While he was glad to be home, and to catch up on his sleep, he was looking forward to going back.  He’ll be home again for Christmas, but then gone again for 10 weeks.

We had a quiet Thanksgiving dinner, and followed it up on Saturday with a raucous Dim Sum with 25 people in the Flushing NY Chinatown.

Every year, we promise to slow down and try to cut back, and every year we fail to do this.  However, we will once again endeavor not to be so busy, which you would think would be easier with only one child in the house – but it’s not!  SO far, we have no big vacation plans for 2003, and will probably do our summer sailing in local waters.  So this year, come and visit us instead.

We hope each and every one of you has weathered the storms of this autumn’s events, remaining safe and sane through the holidays.  Stay warm and safe into the New Year!

With Love;

Laura, Dan, Ben, and Jacqui