It's the holiday season once again. And you, like most people, have one question on your mind:
"What happened to the Gavers this year?" The answer, of course, is plenty. Pull up a chair and
I'll fill you in.
I'll begin where we left off in the our last letter. Christmas merriment in Wilmington was over,
and we began the traditional southward journey on I-95. The ultimate 95 experience takes place
on the Sunday after Christmas, when all Washington bureaucrats are also returning to their place
of toil. You must have two overtired and overstimulated children forced to sit in close
proximity, and a lot of road construction. The father drives, while the mother threatens that "that
beanie baby is history if you don't stop whining." As the car stops completely in beltway traffic,
Christmas toys are observed being ejected from other similar vans, sports utilities, and station
wagons, presumably by exasperated parents. Yes, Virginia, another Christmas has come and
The most memorable experience of the return trip took place in North Carolina. Picture a little
widening in the road just off the interstate, where the Cracker Barrel is most people's idea of
upscale dining. Since the hour was late, and the kids just needed a "bathroom break," we
skipped the Cracker Barrel and ducked into a neighboring McDonald's. All was well until Annie
got her finger caught in the ladies' room door and started to howl at the top of her lungs.
Everyone stood there gaping as I begged the 17 year old manager for ice. Finally, a middle-aged
lady with big hair held up her hands and prayed that she be healed "by the love of Jesus." I was
understandably short with Ken who was waiting in the car and demanding to know what was
taking us so long.
But enough about the trip. You are all wondering "What has Ken done this year in the back
yard?" 1998, my friends, was the year of the dumptruck. Over a period of about three days, they
rolled in, one after another. A veritable juggernaut of dumptrucks. Thirty-seven dump trucks,
450 tons of red, Georgia clay. Where we once had a cliff, we now have a plateau. Of course, the
plateau requires a mighty retaining wall to hold it all up. No problem. Imagine 400 blocks, each
weighing 75 pounds, arranged (by Ken) into a wall that is 4 feet high and 70 feet long. We are
now impregnable from attack from neighbors on all sides. Actually, it's quite a conversation
starter. A lot of the work this year was done by the Dove brothers, Eric and Rodney. The
interesting thing about this is that they also cut hair - my hair. I can get a beauty consultation
and a few tons of sand all at the same time.
In other hair news: remember Annie's long curls? Chopped! She begged and I finally gave in.
It was a metamorphosis for her. She's bursting with confidence and is shaping up to be quite an
athlete. She can't decide whether she likes swimming, tennis, gymnastics, or soccer best. Both
kids did the swim team thing last summer, and I can tell you that there is nothing more
interminable than a swim meet in 98 degree Georgia heat. There seems to be some unwritten
law that your kid will always be assigned to the first and last event, with a lot of waiting in
between. It's exciting when they're finally in the water, though!
After long and, if I may say so, somewhat distinguished academic careers, the unthinkable is
happening. Ken and I are cracking under the pressure of the third grade. Yes, John is in third
grade, and it's tough. Spelling homework, math homework, English homework, reading! The
hardest part for him is keeping track of everything. Most days his mind is less on spelling and
more on plotting ways to bump Ken off the computer so he can get on and track down
information on the latest games. Of course, we encourage John to think "long-term." At this
point, his career goal is either to become a podiatrist or a professional wrestler. (As they say,
"the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.") At the risk of immodesty, we believe that his high
aspirations are probably due to the enriched environment we've always tried to provide. We are
that rare family who believes in visiting our podiatrist weekly, and boy do we see the benefits!
John, Annie, and I are all patients, and we've been through fungus, corns, calluses, plantar's
warts, and hammer toes together. Quite an education for any young child!
You are also probably wondering about the family trips we've taken this year. After all the
disasters in 1997, you ask, could there possibly have been more in 1998? The answer is, "yes."
Case in point: weekend trip to Calloway Gardens, Spring break. Annie: picture of health when
we put her into the car; full-blown case of scarlet fever by the time we reached our destination
three hours later. Fall trip to Williamsburg: by our standards, almost perfect. There was only
one incident of throwing up in bed, and hey, he was sleeping with Ken. We did discover, and
will pass this on to you other parents, that the optimal age to take children to Williamsburg is
about thirty. Before this time, they are too immature to grasp the true decorating implications of
our colonial heritage. It is also a well-known fact that the same child who can ride the Dizzy Tea
Cups three times in Fantasyland, trot over to Frontierland to plunge down Big Thunder
Mountain, and then jog happily to the Alien Encounter in Tomorrowland will be taxed beyond
physical endurance when asked to walk three blocks in Colonial Williamsburg. This is when the
stocks and pillories are really worth their weight in gold.
You're right, the throw-up and whining stories are nothing new. You want to know if anything
really momentous happened to us in 1998. As a matter of fact, it did. My parents relocated to
Athens. To put this move into perspective, you must bear in mind that they had been in
Wilmington since the Swedes first made landfall at New Castle. In fact, they attended school
with many of these early settlers, and haven't missed a University of Delaware football contest
since the game was first introduced in the New World. It was a very courageous step for them,
and great for us to have parents/grandparents in the same area code. So many special moments
are possible now. Dad is schooling John in the art of the cross-word puzzle and the science of
selecting the best single-malt scotch. Mom is helping Annie to reach her full potential as a
shopper and consumer of hairdressing services. Friday nights are now spent drinking wine and
consuming 1950's comfort food. We sit around companionably, reviewing our latest health
problems and trying to avoid any mention of Monica Lewinski. It's a real respite from the hurly-
burly of daily life.
Of course, no cozy family tableau is complete without a four footed friend (the kind with fur, not
scales, Ken!). Delta roared into our lives on July 27, a leaping, licking, wagging blur of
perpetual motion. A canine Jackie Joyner-Kersey with no concept of a finish line. A dog who
grabs for the gusto, especially if it isn't nailed down, locked up, or running in the opposite
direction. A dog who knows what is what and who is boss. After two months of cowering, we
knew that we needed professional help. On October 7, Delta was involuntarily committed to a
six-week re-hab program offered by the Georgia K-9 Academy. She's out now, working a
program, and we feel that the $800 spent to teach her "down" was worth every penny. In fact,
we believe that we are just one therapeutic lobotomy away from domestic peace. We just have
to check with Delta to find out who gets it.
I could go on, but you may have other things to do, especially at this time of "peace on earth
except at the shopping malls." I hope that, like us, you are having fun. I'll be the first to admit
that life's little "challenges" can be a royal pain in the butt. But, with advancing years and liberal
doses of desiril, I have entered the "don't sweat the small stuff" phase of life. In fact, I'm
thinking of writing my own pop-psychology bestseller tentatively titled "When Bad Things
Happen to Good People It Makes Great Christmas Card Material." I believe that this could be a
more powerful agent for social change than another earnings management study, with the added
plus that someone might actually pay to read it. To close, I could wish you a new era of obedient
dogs, efficient fast food clerks, steadily rising stock prices, and generally smooth sailing. I
could, but I won't. Hey, we all know that's not going to happen, and it would probably be a little
boring if it did. The best we can hope for is a modicum of mental health and a few good laughs.
Until next time,