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2008: chugging along!

Here’s the 2008 annual update that we sent to friends and family for the holiday season at the end of the year, with a few embellishments:

Happy Holidays to you and yours!

Alban’s 19th birthday, spent at least partially at home with Daphné and the rest of us.

One of the many reasons that we enjoy the Holiday Season so much, and of course the New Year rolling around, is that they give us a reason to share our news with family and friends all over. That’s you!

The Hanlons came over for dinner on Christmas Eve, 2008. Marie-Hélène spent two whole days preparing a great spread, and Russ brought us some really good wine, one of his specialties. Here we are settling into a post-prandial good humor. From the left, Russell (behind Brendan), Alex (behind Ian), Charles (behind Marie-Hélène), Daphné (behind Alban) and Nick (behind Annie).

And sharing our news means first that we look back ourselves on the year, and put pen to paper, rhetorically speaking. This Holiday update then comes to rest as a page on the family web site, and bingo, we have a diary on the web!

Only a few days after he moved out, here is Tom on the Metro with a bottle. Judging by his open-mouthed stare at the camera, it looks as if he’d already sampled the contents! The drinking age in France is much younger than in the US

2008 saw our older children moving further away. It’s not a bright line: each of the four of them is always welcome at home, for a birthday cake or an extended stay. But we can feel the inevitable: they are functioning more independently, and growing up and out. 

Tom left for a three-week vacation before the New Year had even begun, and he has yet to return! He is living with his mother in Paris, attending music school and looking after children part-time in “centres aerés,” or activity centers. The school started in the fall, and he is learning piano to complement his guitar.

He played on the “Métro” and in bars before school started, and recorded his first song, just voice and guitar. He sent it to us, and Charlie says that it is his favorite song, and Alban played it on the boom box during our lovely Thanksgiving dinner at home.

Tom was the only one of the children who did not celebrate with us, and then with his music he was home after all. Thanks Alban!

Nick during a spell living at home during the spring.

Alban moved down into our in-law cottage during the summer. Nick lived there first, and then Daphné, and now it’s Alban’s turn. He is pretty happy about it!

The lighting leaves something to be desired, but here’s a happy Alban on his birthday. The cake read: “Happy Birthday Banban the Pimp!” (I have no idea!)

He turned 19 in September, and is going through the process of figuring out what he wants to do with his life. The first half of 2008 rushed by working in the Safeway deli, which did not feel like a very promising career. And he and his girlfriend both found a job there, which did make things quite difficult when they broke up. So back to college in the fall, but not really feeling his direction yet. He’s signing up for advertising and business next semester: maybe that will work. Exploration is allowed, even encouraged.

Daphne in Chili’s for Charlie’s birthday dinner.

Daphné moved out during the summer, up to San Francisco. She turned 21 in August, and so the timing seemed right. We agreed to continue covering her living costs while she continued her education, but on condition that she did not move in with Noe, her boyfriend. We happily moved her up to her flat shared with other students, and then discovered that Noe lived right across the street. Literally!

Hey, she followed the rule!

She spent the second half of the year waitressing at Bubba Gump’s Shrimp Restaurant on Pier 39, which brought in pretty good tips, and studying at San Francisco City College.

The drinking age in California is 21, and Daphné’s French passport states that her date of birth is 3/8/1987, which is how August 3rd is written in France. In the US, the date written that way is March 8th.

Bars here systematically request proof of age from their patrons who could be less than 21 years old. Daphné carried her passport as her id. Would you care to hazard a guess as to on what date Daphné started being served in bars here!!

Here we are, the parents, taken by our host(ess?) during a visit to the Nasons. Great pic! Thank you.

She’s enjoying life in the City so much that Nick is now talking about moving there. He spent the year in Santa Cruz, at home with us for a few months, and then sharing an apartment walking distance from downtown and the beach. He is learning more and more as a computer programmer, and prefers to do so on the job rather than in class. As his earning capacity is good, even without a degree, this is hard to argue with! It is also hard to argue with his indulging in his hobby of playing poker when he typically does not lose money. But, being parents, we do still manage to argue. No surprise there!

Nick partying at his shared house. Needless to say, I have no idea of the context!

The growing independence of our “big kids” has visibly improved our collective relationships with them. Absence makes the heart grow fonder!

Plus we all found something in common. In November, the older children were all eligible for the first time to vote in a Presidential election. They picked a great time to start, a time when democracy showed one of its finest hours. Tom voted by absentee ballot from Paris, and Ian voted on his way to a client’s early in the morning. Marie-Hélène, Nick, Daphné and Alban all voted at the same time, and others in the polling booths were treated to the spectacle of their mother telling the children whom to vote for!

We took Alex and Charlie down to the Disney Resort in Anaheim, and stopped off to visit Hearst Castle on our way down the Coast. Appearances aside, this photograph was not taken in front of the castle. No, they use a photograph of the Castle as a backdrop so as not to be bothered with the constant clutter than can make a photographer’s life so challenging!

They already knew, of course, and we all participated together on the same side in the extraordinary spectacle of Barack Obama being elected the 44th President of the United States of America. “Yes We Can.”

Marie-Hélène kept up her demanding schedule ensuring that, in addition to school and homework, Alex and Charlie continue with their soccer, music (violin and mandolin for Alex, and drums for Charles) and other activities that took the boys’ fancy, like karate during the fall.

Ar her request, I made things easier for her by finally moving work out of the house and into an office in Santa Cruz, in the aptly named NextSpace This collective work space was set up to encourage economic development in the town, and I share it with start-ups and web designers, among others. Never a dull moment!

On the way back from Disneyland, Marie-Hélène took this lovely one of Charlie and Alex at Pelican Point on California’s scenic coastal highway 1.

We missed our annual summer holiday in France and the UK, but installed hardwood floors in the living room and a new gas fireplace to compensate.

All the most recent home improvements on display!

The mantelpiece came from the LA company that made the mantels for the Titanic movie, and the fireplace works with a remote control, which everybody likes. Ian‘s new toy is the last part of the living room’s improvements: a 52″ Sony high definition LCD TV! Even Marie-Hélène likes the high definition imagery. Let’s hear it for toys!

Which brings us back to the Holidays. We went Christmas shopping at Macy’s at Union Square in San Francisco. Once they had finished their ice cream in the Ben & Jerry’s kiosk in the store, this errand bored Charlie and Alex. The trip had already meant that they were unable to play video games on one of the two days a week (the weekend) that they are authorized to do so. In no time, they had discovered the shiny metal ramps at hand height next to the moving banisters on the store’s escalators.

Scrunched up pieces of paper were soon to be seen racing down these ramps, eagerly watched by two attentive spectators at the top of the escalator and the occasional worried shopper: “where did those come from?” Ian knew, but kept his peace and picked up the evidence. Our excursion was a success.

As we hope that your New Year will be.

Health and happiness to all!