Now We Are Eight!

October 8, 2018 at 5:51 pm (Family)

Our granddaughter Etta turned eight yesterday. This picture is a good indicator of her ready-for-anything, sunny nature.

I told her that I could hardly believe  that she was already eight years old. She apparently had some trouble believing it too, declaring that “I feel more like five.” (This may have something to do with the fact that little brother Welles turned five only three weeks ago.)

I also love this picture of Etta at the keyboard:

Happy Birthday, Etta!

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Grandchildren, and the endless curve of learning and loving

September 16, 2018 at 4:13 pm (Family, Film and television, Music)

On a recent visit to my son, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren, the children introduced me to a movie called Song of the Sea. I’m not normally a fan of animated films, but this one, made in Ireland, had a charm and a mystique that was oddly appealing.

One of the characters in Song of the Sea is a Selkie (variant spelling is Silkie). The Selkie legends, a component of Scottish folklore, have come down to us from Orkney and Shetland. It posits the existence of beings who are seals in the sea and, by shedding their skins, become humans on dry land.

I was reminded of the song sung by Joan Baez, The Great Selkie of Sule Skerry. The version she sang was drawn from Francis James Child’s landmark collection of English and Scottish folk songs, a multi-volume work published in the late 1880s.    The song relates the havoc and heartbreak wrought by a male Selkie during his sojourn upon the land. Song of the Sea, however, ends on a happier note, as you wish stories to do that are told to children.

I cherish this version of the song by the Unthanks, with Julie Fowlis singing in Scots Gaelic.

Anyway – back to the grandchildren: Here they are, going back to school, earlier this month:

Etta, age 7, and Welles, age 4

And Welles turns FIVE today. Happy Birthday, Welles!!

 

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Father’s Day

June 17, 2018 at 5:28 pm (Family)

My Dad was a wonderful man. He loved my brothers and me, but I got the lion’s share of his attention when I was little by being sick much of the time. (This period of susceptibility on my part, though it  produced plenty of anxiety, was relatively short lived.)

Dad was somewhat impatient for us kids to grow up. He was eager to take us to one of his favorite venues. He had the idea that I would especially appreciate the place. And so off we went…

…to the race track.

Here we see Dad and myself in animated discussion as we compare the various tip sheets. Dad kindly placed bets for me. I paid especial attention to the colors worn by  the jockeys.

I cherished experiences like these, because they represented a rare opportunity for me to get close to my father. For the most part, he was a reserved person and one not easy to know. This eased somewhat for me as I got older. Certainly he was always there for me in times of need, which were, luckily, few.

This photo of Dad was printed and framed and given to me as a gift by my son Ben. It resides on the living room wall. From the couch where I love to sit and read, I can see it clearly. In ancient times, families possessed lares and penates, defined as “…the protectors of a family’s treasured possessions and regarded as the souls of deceased ancestors.” (From Tales Beyond Belief). I often think of these as I gaze upon Dad’s portrait.

I think my father would be especially pleased to know that his grandson Ben is also a splendid Dad.

Welles, age four; Etta, age seven, and Dad. All rather depleted, but still happy

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A Mother’s Day Visit to The Art Institute

May 24, 2018 at 5:21 pm (Art, Family)

Our goals this time were to visit our former favorites, find some new favorites, and of course, have as much fun as possible.

Our old friends were right where we left them when last we visited (this being one of the excellent things about museums).

Etta and I have grown somewhat sentimental about this bizarre Roman theater mask. Seeing it for the first time, Welles was properly amazed – “He’s  got a hand in his mouth!”

Of course we greeted Degas’s Little Dancer:

 

And Georges Seurat’s Un Dimanche Après-Midi à L’Île de La Grande Jatte:

Each time we visit this place, we see something new (to us) and wonderful:

The Poet’s Garden, 1888, Vincent Van Gogh (Click to enlarge)

 

Fishing in Spring, the Pont de Clichy, (Asnières), 1887, Vincent Van Gogh (Click to enlarge)

 

Adolphe-Joseph-Thomas Monticelli, 1874: Still Life with Fruit and Wine Jug…

…and Gorgeous Little Girl in White Dress and Shoes of Gold… Ah, well, no chance of objectivity here!

Sir John Shaw and his family in the park at Eltham Lodge, Kent, 1761, by Arthur Devis

I’d never heard of Arthur Devis but I was completely captivated by this work. How did I miss it until now?

Boar Incarnation of the God Vishnu (Varaha), ca. 10th century, India

 

An Elegant Woman at the Elysee Montmartre, 1888, Louis Anquetin

 

Noh Costume (Nuihaku), 1801/25

Etta and I made our rounds together; Welles and his Mom went a different way. When we met up, Welles was nearly beside himself with excitement. He had something truly wonderful to show his big sister! So upstairs we trooped to the Kania Collection, and lo and behold, what did we find there but this:

Officially designated as “Untitled (Portrait of Ross in LA),” this work  – in some places referred to as an installation – is by the Cuban-born artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres and is dated 1991. The Art Institute site describes it as follows:

Candies individually wrapped in multicolor cellophane, endless supply
Dimensions vary with installation; ideal weight 175 lbs.

An endless supply of candy! Surely this is the stuff of dreams, especially for children, and especially for Welles, a confirmed candy aficionado at the age of four. (‘Endless supply’ translates into the fact that visitors may help themselves to the sweet stuff, as long as it’s promptly replenished by staff.)

Felix Gonzalez-Torres‘s life was tragically cut short: he died in 1996 at the age of 38. But with this work, he gave joy to my grandchildren and no doubt to others as well. I am grateful to him.
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As for that other famed denizen of the Art Institute, alas, it is still at the Whitney in New York. I mean, of course, Grant Wood’s American Gothic:

This is the fourth time in the past two years that I’ve come to the Art Institute and missed seeing it! I must have faith that it will some day come home – sigh….

As usual, we finished our visit at the museum’s gift shop. There are two, actually, both equally filled with a tantalizing selection of goodies. The array of art books is truly impressive; there was an entire rack of these from my current favorite art book publisher, Taschen.

Among the other merchandise, I particularly love a series of hand painted silk scarves by Chicago artist Joanna Alot. This time I came away with this beauty:

As for the children, they selected kits of modeling clay. Welles and Etta are lively, energetic, and affectionate. Sometimes it is all their no-longer-young grandmother can do to keep up with them! And yet, once home from the museum, they became lost in clay play. Etta was creating her own version of marbles; Welles was making small containers for them. (It is absolutely necessary for Welles to have at least part of his vast collection of Hot Wheels nearby, whenever he undertakes a project of this sort – or just anytime.)

Watching them so quietly absorbed in these projects, I was reminded once more of the miracle of their existence, and of my equally miraculous and boundless love for them. And many thanks, too, to their Mom, my beautiful daughter-in-law, for making all of this possible.

 

 

 

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A Wonderful Man

April 24, 2018 at 1:38 pm (Family)

  Yesterday, we said our final farewells to Dr. Harold Gilbert. I always called him ‘Uncle Hal,’ but actually he was my cousin. More precisely, he was my father’s first cousin. His father was my Grandmother Ida’s brother. Not only that – his mother was my Grandfather Jake’s sister. To add to  the confusion, both men were named Jacob.

The short version of this is, Brother and Sister married Brother and Sister. It’s an explanation that almost always leads to head scratching and mumbling to oneself and to others. (Hal loved to tell people that I was his cousin – the only extended family relation on his side living in the Baltimore area.)

No matter. Yesterday, the focus was rightly on Hal himself. When after decades of happy marriage, Hal lost his wife, my ‘Aunt Patsy,’ he had the great good fortune to meet and marry Phyllis. She added love, joy, and companionship to his final years.

In words of love and praise, Hal’s ‘works and days’ were described by Phyllis, granddaughter Alaina, daughter Debbie, and the Rabbi. Hal’s entire family has been a model of devotion, and with good reason: Hal was one of the most loving and generous individuals I’ve ever known. The Jewish religion and his family were always top priorities for him. (Special love goes out at this time from me to my cousin Stephany, more a sister than a cousin.)

At last year’s Passover Seder, he proclaimed Passover to be a wonderful celebration. Over the years, it also served as the celebration of a wonderful man.

Hal, it was great having you with us for the ninety-seven years of your life. You will be in our hearts way beyond this time.

Dr. Harold Gilbert

 

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The Art Institute of Chicago: the third visit…

March 13, 2018 at 4:19 pm (Art, Family)

…And this time Mom and little brother Welles came with Etta and me. After we got inside the museum, we split up: Welles and his Mom went off to see the miniature rooms, the paper weights, and other items of interest. Etta and I had sampled  these delights on a previous visit, and we hope to visit them again in the future. But meanwhile, wet went off in search of certain other favorites.

Such as:

Little Dancer, Age 14, by Edgar Degas (with littler dancer, age 7)

Etta calls this “The Dot Painting.” (A close look at it reveals the artist’s signature use of the Pointillist technique):

Un dimanche après-midi à l’Île de la Grande Jatte (A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte) by Georges Seurat, 1884

And then, there’s this character:

These tasks happily accomplished, we wandered off to do further exploration. Quite by happy accident, we found ourselves in The Deering Family Galleries of Medieval and Renaissance Art, Arms, and Armor. This new installation opened only last year and is really stunning.

St. Francis Before the Pope, by Spinello Aretino 1390-1400

 

Left – St. Lucy Vergos workshop ca. 1500 Right – St .Agatha Vergos workshop ca. 1500

 

Retable and Frontal of the Life of Christ and the Virgin Made for Pedro López de Ayala, 1396

Adam and Eve, engraving by Albrecht Durer, 1504

 

Adam and Eve by Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1533-1537

Medieval and Renaissance music played softly in the background. We fell under the spell of these beautiful works. Etta was inspired to dance!

The arms and armor display was  also quite striking. We were especially impressed by these two who were jousting on foot:

In the European Decorative Arts collection, we saw a beautiful door whose design is attributed to Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo:

I think of the Art Institute as having three iconic paintings: L’Apres-midi Sur La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat (see above), American Gothic by Grant Wood, and Nighthawks by Edward Hopper. I’ve been eager to lay eyes on the Hopper, painted in 1942, for quite some time, and finally – finally! – we did:

Here’s a somewhat better close-up:

About ten people were clustered around this painting. We waited a few minutes for a clearer view. Etta stared intently.

I said: “Etta, what do you think is going on in this picture? The two people facing us seem to be discussing something important. The man around the corner may just happen to have dropped in – or maybe he’s there for a reason. What do you think?”

She thought for a moment and  then replied: “I think he’s onto them.”

She left it at that, and so did I. 

The Khan Academy has an interesting video on Nighthawks:

Singer-songwriter Tom Waits has his own take on Nighthawks:

As for American Gothic, painted in 1930, it was once again out on loan – sigh… Later in the gift shop, when we were lamenting its absence, a person within hearing commented that she’d been to the museum three times in recent years and missed American Gothic every time!

Here it is, anyway, absent yet still in our hearts:

While Etta and I were covering all this territory, Welles and his Mom were also ranging far and wide:

The Family Room in the Ryan Learning Center, also one of Etta’s favorite places

 

 

Enchanted by the Thorne Miniature Rooms

Thanks to Welles and Etta’s Mom for these snapshots of Welles in action!

The four of us met up in a room filled with colorful helium balloons:

This was followed by lunch at Terzo Piano on the third floor:

At last, we rounded out the day with a visit to the Museum Shop, where we all did ourselves proud!

My daughter-in-law Erica took this picture of the children and me across the street from the Museum:

With her usual generosity, Erica made this day possible for all of us. I especially admire her skillful driving in the city and her negotiation of the interior of an especially challenging parking garage. Thanks so much, Erica! And bountiful thanks to my very special grandchildren, Welles and Etta: You make all things possible and joyful in my life.

 

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When to the sessions of sweet silent thought…

January 27, 2018 at 3:08 am (Book clubs, Book review, books, Family, Historical fiction, Mystery fiction)

  So there I am reading this mystery set in New Jersey in the year 1914, when I come across the following:

Deputy Morris went first and cut to the left, which would take him down a narrow street occupied mostly by cobblers and tailors and other such shops whose doors had closed hours ago.

Constance Kopp, the main character, is headed for a potentially dangerous rendezvous. She’s being discreetly shadowed by members of the Bergen County Sheriff’s Department, including Sheriff Heath himself. (This novel is, in fact, based on a true story.)

The above quoted sentence, however, plucked me out of that scenario and hit me in the face with another – one that, for this particular reader, was very close to home.

But first – a bit of background:

My father was  born in Westfield, in Union County, New Jersey in 1914. Shortly thereafter, the family moved one county north to Maplewood, in Essex County. (My grandparents had immigrated from what was then called Russia, now the Ukraine. They came through Ellis Island, where immigration officials struggled with foreign names written in unknown alphabets. What they came up with for my father’s family was ‘Tedlow.’ ‘Tevelov’ might have been closer. As best I’m able to reproduce it, it might have looked like this in Cyrillic: ‘Тевелов.’)

My grandfather Jacob Tedlow had a small tailoring business in Maplewood. He named the establishment The New York Tailoring Company, or something like it. I know that the name contained “New York” because I recall my father commenting that the choice of moniker revealed “delusions of grandeur” on his father’s part. (This was said in jest, but it was a sort of poignant jest.)

Below is a map of the counties that make up the state of New Jersey:

It can be readily seen that Essex County is just below Bergen County, with a section of Passaic County inserting itself in between the two. (Some of the action in Girl Waits with Gun takes place in Passaic County.) So you see, the mention of shops occupied by tailors and cobblers in the city of Paterson, in Bergen County in 1914, caused the personal association  to spring immediately to mind.

In the early 1990s, when my parents were  still active and healthy, Ron and I went with them to a restaurant in Maplewood. If recollection serves (which it often doesn’t), this small eatery was across the street from the building in which my grandfather’s tailoring business was located. The family, consisting of my grandparents, my father, and his two sisters, also lived in that building. (This was not an unusual arrangement in those days. My mother’s parents had a candy store – or confectioners, as it was officially designated – in Montclair, also in Essex County. They, my mother, and my uncle resided in an apartment on the premises.)

After we’d finished our meal and gone outside, my father pointed to the building’s top floor and told us that as a boy, he used to carry coal up to an elderly lady who lived there.

My father was a handsome and reserved man, not given to revealing his feelings or indulging in recollections of the past. The only other childhood memory that I remember him sharing was  of standing outside with a crowd of people who were cheering the soldiers who’d come back from the First World War. That would have been in 1919; at the time, he would have been five years old.

(I’m digging deep into the past here, and I hope I haven’t made any egregious misstatements. If I have, I apologize.)

Girl Waits With Gun is our next selection for the Usual Suspects Mystery Book Group discussion.At present, I’m about two thirds of the way in, for the most part, I’m enjoying it, especially as regards the novel’s historical aspect.  For me, it has certainly summoned up “remembrance of things past,” and I’m grateful to Carol for choosing it for us.

I admit, though, that I was made somewhat uneasy at first, as there were several disparaging references to those of the Jewish faith made at the outset. For instance, here is Constance Kopp relating some of her family’s history:

My grandfather—an educated man, a chemist—liked to say that he brought his family here to give them a more stable and certain future, and to keep his boys out of the endless wars with France and Italy, but my grandmother once whispered that they moved to get away from the Jews. “After they got to leave the ghettos they could live anywhere,” she hissed, and glanced out the window as if she suspected they were moving to Brooklyn, too, which of course they were.

However, thus far there’s been no recurrence of this kind of casually tossed-off antisemitism, and I can only conclude that it’s been made a part of this narrative for the sake, alas, of verisimilitude. (Although my parents and grandparents rarely spoke of it, they had from time to time encountered the expression of this prejudiced attitude firsthand.)

Some years ago, my son Ben made me a gift of a beautifully framed photograph of my father. It enjoys pride of place on our living room wall. When I’m reading on the couch – a favorite place for that activity – I can look up and see it. In this way, he keeps me company during this solitary pursuit.

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The Nature of California

November 13, 2017 at 9:45 pm (Art, California, Family)

The bark of the Madrone Tree is reddish in color. When you handle it, it feels like some sort of heavy fabric, pliable and singularly lacking in the expected brittleness.

Bet you didn’t know that…

Neither did I. But this I learned and more, while walking and hiking in the woods and forests of the Bay Area, more specifically the Peninsular region of Northern California. The photo above was taken in Huddart Park in Woodside. We hiked the Bay Tree Trail.   Being enveloped by these woods was delicious. Most of the time, we were the only ones there. The words that kept recurring to me were: ‘This is the forest primeval….’

From Bay Trees such as these, we get the leaves of culinary fame. Growing in profusion along the eponymous trail,  they gave their scent to the air around us.

I’m a great lover of ferns; they are so primordial. They were plentiful along this trail.

And then. of course,  there are the majestic redwoods….

My younger brother, who loves and savors the nature of California

We went for a walk in a place called Hidden Villa. Nestled in a nook of Los Altos Hills – when they say ‘Hidden,’ they mean Hidden!’ – this is a nature preserve with a mission, to wit:

Hidden Villa is a nonprofit educational organization that uses its organic farm, wilderness, and community to teach and provide opportunities to learn about the environment and social justice.

From the Hidden Villa website

At Hidden Villa, we encountered a lush growth of trees and shrubs, a modest number of sheep, goats, cows, horses – oh, and plenty of children on school outings. All added to the magic of the afternoon.

We even came across a brook that was actually babbling! This was significant, as many dry creek beds were pointed out to us in the course of this visit. In a dry land, that sound is magical.

Hidden Villa was established by Frank and Josephine Duveneck.   The Duvenecks come across as entirely admirable people, but something else was going on for me as well. ‘Duveneck’ is an unusual name, and as soon as I saw it on the information brochure, I recognized it as a name I’d seen before – and recently, too.

Of late, I’ve been reading quite  a bit about American artists of the late nineteenth century, and the early part of the twentieth. The father of Frank Duveneck, husband of Josephine pictured above, was also (confusingly) named Frank. Frank the elder was a painter of some repute. He was married to Elizabeth  Boott, herself a painter as well. Elizabeth Boott and her father Francis were good friends of the novelist Henry James (someone I am always reading, and reading about).

All of this was revealed to me in the Wikipedia entry for Frank Duveneck. (I had simply googled ‘Duveneck.’) Click on the name of the son – Frank Boott Duveneck – and you’re taken straight to the entry for Hidden Villa.

In 1886, Lizzie Boott gave birth to a son Frank; she died of pneumonia in 1888, leaving behind her small son and a devastated husband.

Apple Tree Branches, by Elizabeth Boott

Elizabeth ‘Lizzie’ Boott, by Frank Duveneck

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Linden Tree Books in Los Altos specializes in Children’s books. In this era of disappearing bookstores, it was a pleasure to spend time there.

When I mentioned that I’d like a book for my four-year-old grandson, a lover of cars and other means of transportation, one of the sales associates suggested this:

My sister-in-law favored this:

And I simply coundn’t leave without The Water Hole by Graeme Base, a truly amazing illustrator:

This shop also carries a small but carefully chosen selection of books for adults. Luckily, the marvelous News of the World was there. Handing it to my sister-in-law I exclaimed “You have to read this!” Naturally it made the cut.

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My lucky brother and sister-in-law live amidst great beauty. In their yard, a lemon tree flourishes:

In the yard also is a sign of the times, alas….

Finally, in the kitchen of their lovely home, my sister-in-law, a gifted and enthusiastic cook, whipped up one heck of a moussaka!

Yours Truly helped as best I could. This assistance mostly consisted of measuring out spices and other foodstuffs, stirring the bechamel sauce, and struggling with recalcitrant containers:

When finally assembled, the dish was delicious!
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On our final night, a harvest moon shone brightly:

Ah California, mi amor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Once again, Etta and Grandma ‘Berta visit the Art Institute of Chicago

October 29, 2017 at 2:06 pm (Art, Family)

Etta and I enjoyed our first visit to the Art Institute of Chicago so much that we decided to go again. This we were able to do, earlier this month.

This time we entered through the Modern Wing.

We went first to an architecture display.  One of the exhibits allowed you to draw lines on a screen just by waving your hands around! Etta enjoyed this quite a bit.

Next we went to the French Impressionist Gallery. We have decided that this is one of our favorite spaces in the museum. We saw some of our old friends, and some new art as well.

And then of course there’s Georges Seurat’s marvelous canvas, A Sunday on La Grande Jatte (‘Un dimanche aprèsmidi à l’Île de la Grande Jatte‘). Etta has learned about the technique of pointillism used by Seurat in the creation of this masterpiece. As a result, she refers to it as ‘the dot painting.’

A beautiful child, a beautiful painting…Life is good

One pleasing result of time spent with the French Impressionists: Etta now delights in  the art of Claude Monet:

Waterloo Bridge, Sunlight Effect, 1903

 

Irises 1914-1917

 

Étretat, The Beach and the Falaise d’Amont, 1885

For this visit, we were lucky to come across some lovely objets d’art.

We then proceeded to the Asian and ancient art galleries. We had our eye out for a truly strange object that had fascinated us on our previous visit and that I’d somehow failed to photograph. As we rounded a corner on our way to the Artist’s Studio in the Ryan Learning Center, Etta spotted it – “There it is!” we chorused together.

This is actually a some kind of Roman theater prop. (I had thought it was Asian.) Etta attempted to enter into the spirit of the thing:

Next, we went to the Artist’s Studio. In this gracious space, tables and art supplies are freely provided for the children. We came here last time, and Etta was looking forward to a return visit.

Finally, it was time to visit the Museum Shop. This being partly a celebration of Etta’s birthday, I encouraged her to pick out several items that appealed to her. (Actually, I might’ve said, “Knock yourself out, Kid!” – I don’t quite remember.) Museums are among my favorite shopping venues, and this one did not disappoint – quite the opposite, in fact. We were both like kids in a candy store (Etta being the actual kid, of course).

Etta understood what was being asked of her and rose wonderfully to the occasion. As befits her generous nature, she picked out a nifty toy for little brother Welles, and a set of coasters for her Mom and Dad. Finally, for herself she selected this lovely tote bag:

Finally, after this thoroughly exhilarating day, we trooped back outside, to be hailed by Etta’s Dad, who’d been with Welles at a birthday party not far from the museum. Welles – known to some of us as ‘Wellesy’ – was also on hand to greet us; Mom too.
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The Art Institute is located within the grounds of Grant Park (much as the Metropolitan Museum of Art dwells within the precincts of Central Park). When we initially arrived at the museum, it was not yet open. It being a beautiful day, Etta and I crossed  the street and strolled a bit through the park.

We found a peaceful water feature and sat down on the coping above it.   People had thrown coins into the water and presumably made wishes in the process. Etta wished to do this, and I provided her with the means. She solemnly explained to me that you shouldn’t reveal the substance of your wish until after the coin had  been tossed. I concurred. She followed suit, making several wishes as she did so. A benign sun shone down on us.

I admit that I can’t recall Etta’s wishes. I know that I had only one: that this moment could last forever, and that my heartfelt gratitude would be known.

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A Story for Etta and Welles

September 1, 2017 at 8:12 pm (Family)

Last month, Grandma and Grandpa came for a visit.

They got to see Welles and Etta honing their computer skills.

Welles and Etta have just been to Yellowstone National Park! This is why Welles has a nice new stuffed bison. Etta has one too.

Etta and Welles are about to leave for a Superhero-themed birthday party.
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During the visit, Welles and Etta made a fort. This is an activity which all children seem to enjoy.

 

 

(A fort can be a great hiding place.)

Grandma, Etta, and Welles went for a walk to the park. Along the way, they saw some interesting sights:

As they walk, they hold hands, ever mindful of safety.

Etta really loves her little brother! The feeling is mutual.

 

Sometimes the sheer joy of being alive takes hold. And then you just have to take off running! (That’s okay, as long as you stop at the intersection. Welles  and Etta are very good about that.)

Etta and Welles both have birthdays coming soon. Happy birthday to both of you!

 

 

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