All our love to all of you in this holiday season -- whichever holiday you celebrate in your house. This was a banner, memorable year for everyone, but especially for us.
After the terribly long and too often ugly campaign season, we finally got a new president, one that we supported enthusiastically. For the first time in eight years, I feel hopeful about this country again. I sat here hugging our current foster puppy as I watched election night, crying emotionally as I watched that joyous crowd in Chicago greet President-elect Obama.
Closer to home this was a very memorable year, and I'll take the events in chronological order, since it's impossible to rank them in order of importance.
In March, Tom and Laurel brought a beautiful little girl into the world. Brianna Lee was born on March 31 and was taking her first tentative steps, holding onto furniture before Thanksgiving. Obviously our first grandchild is not only beautiful, she is brilliant as well. Everyone told us how grandchildren change everything, and now we know what they meant.
It's difficult to live 400 miles away from this little girl, but Laurel is great at posting photos and entries about her progress and Tom has set up a webcam so we can see her from time to time (I got to see her in her Halloween costume before she went trick or treating...or however babies trick or treat!) We have been invited to spend Christmas in Santa Barbara, so we will be able to share Bri's first Christmas.
The other big event for our family this year was Jeri's wedding to her long-time friend, Phil Sequeira, at the end of August. It was a very informal ceremony on the beach in Santa Barbara (so that 95 year old Grandma Sykes could make it) and was a celebration of love from start to finish. (for a video of the entire ceremony, go here.) Jeri and Phil have been friends since junior high school, when they were both in the Sunshine Children's Theatre. They have been such good friends that Jeri always assumed that if she ever married, Phil would be her "maid of honor" since he was her best friend. But a few years ago, those "friendship" feelings deepened and now they are married. We couldn't be happier. He is a beautiful man and we love him very much and are so glad that he is now a part of our family -- officially.
The ceremony itself was a family affair. Marta was the officiant; music was provided by Ned and his friend K.C.; Ned, Tom, and Phil's sister Vicki did readings. Walt's sister was matron of honor. I made the cake. Lots of people contributed food for the lunch after the ceremony, and when all had eaten, there was a pinata for the kids and a wiffle ball game for anybody who wanted to play (the groom's team won). Jeri wore the veil that I wore at my wedding (and that three others had also worn--it was my friend Char's veil originally). To anybody who knew Jeri and Phil, this wedding could not have been more perfect.
Ned and Marta went to Mexico this year, for the wedding of Marta's stepsister. They also finished the room they have been adding onto their house for the past year. They've done an amazing job and it's the perfect party room...where we had Christmas dinner last year, Jeri and Phil's engagement party, and celebrated Marta's 40th birthday. Ned continues at Jack-FM, now in the "Charlie Sheen," role, writing jingles and producing videos. Amazing that he's being paid to do all the stuff he used to goof around doing when he was growing up! Marta's massage business is doing well and she's become proficient on the bass guitar this year. She also started doing a bit of acting for a Standardized Patient program (yes, like Kramer on Seinfeld). And if anybody needs a wedding officiant, she comes with excellent references!
Walt will soon mark his second year of retirement. He retired just in time, as he has had the freedom to spend time helping his sister and brother with their mother. We've had a couple of scares this year and we were afraid that she wouldn't make it to Jeri's wedding, but she's still going strong, having lived long enough to see all three of her children and four of her grandchildren married, and the birth of her great-granddaughter. Walt has put in a lot of miles traveling back and forth to Santa Barbara. He also took a trip by himself to London, just for the heck of it and had a great time doing his usual theatre orgy. (Jeri and I are doing a girls' trip to Italy and France next year, so I encouraged him to scratch his wanderlust itch and go somewhere, so I didn't feel guilty about the money the Italy trip is going to cost!)
He was invited to join the board of directors of Citizens Who Care, a volunteer organization which advocates for the frail elderly and their caretakers. And he continues to volunteer at his old office regularly. He also took a trip to Boston to visit Jeri and Phil this fall, to go to a Red Sox game (his Christmas gift from Jeri).
The two of us went together to Los Angeles to see another broadcast of the radio show, "Says You," and had a delightful visit with panelist Tony Kahn, for whom I had done some transcription earlier in the year (along with a wonderful committee of people).
We have had a number of SPCA foster dogs this year, from Bissell, whom I named after the steam cleaner I had bought for our Pergo floor the morning he arrived, to Nicki, who is here as of this writing. She's our neurologically impaired puppy and we are trying all sorts of things with her to get her ready to be adopted. I told one of the people who is helping us help Nicki that she's never going to win any agility trials, but if there is ever a Special Olympics for dogs, she'd be a likely candidate!
Last minute additions to our canine family are Poochini and Tosca (because "Turandog" seemed too pretentious), miniature poodle puppies, who arrived here at the whopping age of 2 days, when their mother refused to feed them and they were turned over to the SPCA. I am now bottlefeeding them--or, more appropriately, eyedropper feeding them!
"Cousins Day" continues to be a special part of my month. My two cousins, my mother and I have grown very close and we all feel that this is a "must do" event. We laugh, sometimes we cry, we eat well, we drink lots, and we play endless games of cards...and then we laugh some more. Then we spend the night and do it all over again in the morning (except the "drinking" part), until it's time to go home. My mother is going strong at age 89 ("almost 90" she will correct me!), though she had a bout of sciatica this year, so I did my own traveling back and forth, taking her to doctors' appointments.
I continue to be a theatre critic and have lost track of how many shows we have seen this year, sometimes three a week I've also done some really fun feature articles, including one that apparently annoyed a ghost. It concerned a Southern plantation that was moved from one location to another, along with all the family ghosts. When the article was published and the couple I interviewed were reading it out loud to each other, suddenly the lights went off in the living room and they figured that Miss Mary was expressing her opinion.
But the best show I attended all year was one I didn't review. It was the premiere of my friend Steve Schalchlin's song cycle, "New World Waking," sung by the gay men's chorus at Davies Symphony Hall. It was a fabulous night, with participation by Steve and his partner Jim's friend Piper Laurie and soloist Jennifer Holliday (from the original cast of Dreamgirls.) What a magic night!
Compared with the disaster that 2007 was, 2008 has been a mostly wonderful year. As the year ends, we are hopeful that with Barack Obama in the White House, we might finally see the end of our very long national nightmare and get this country on the upswing once again.
We send all our love and best wishes to everyone reading this. And if you're on Facebook or Twitter, be sure to look me up--I'm basykes on both.
~ The Sykes Family ~