Here’s a summary of 2005, loosely based on the annual update circulated to friends and family around Christmas time.
Greetings and best wishes for the holiday season from Santa Cruz!
2005 marked the first time that our bustling household actually reduced in size, if only provisionally. During the summer, Nick moved out, into a shared house near the wharf (pier in England) where he could walk to surf Steamer Lane, one of the best local surfing spots, less than half a mile away, most of the walk on the cliff overlooking the Pacific.
Needless to say, he was delighted, but ouch! It may have become quieter around the house, at least for a while, but this was the beginning of a process that we parents would willingly have delayed. It’s on you before you know it.
His house was also in sight of the Ocean (you sort of had to crane your neck) and only a few hundred yards from the Boardwalk, Santa Cruz’s own seaside funfair. Consequently, there was regular family traffic to Nick’s on the way to the beach or the Boardwalk.
He made the Dean’s List (which means he did very well at his studies) his first semester at Cabrillo College, and found a summer job programming that he held part-time for about a year. Cabrillo is the local junior college, which hopefully prepares students for the University of California or similar follow-on. Of course, his driver’s license was suspended, but that’s another story, one that we will not go into here. . . .
We knew less about what he was doing those days, obviously, but did hear that he had been recording some freestyle rapping with friends. Never did hear any of that. He still visited us, mostly the other children, except for birthdays, Thanksgiving and the like.
Daphne too studied at Cabrillo and worked part-time, holding a few jobs during the course of the year, ranging from a hostess in Chili’s, a Tex-Mex restaurant, to a cashier in the local Halloween store. She was a customer service rep. at Gottschalk’s department store for the holiday season. We liked the Chili’s job, because she seated us so quickly!
She took to driving with ease, and her jobs helped fund increased independence as soon as California law permitted it (young people must spend significant time driving with an over-25 adult and then alone before they can drive their peers, laws which work to reduce serious accidents among the young). What else did she do with what she earned? She spent as much of the winter as she could afford skiing with friends at the Heavenly resort in Lake Tahoe.
For her 18th birthday, she arranged and spent five days with friends in Manhattan, yes that one, paid for herself. She loved the Met, Greenwich Village, the night life, you name it. In short, she had a “blast!”
Alban had a red letter year. Not only did he turn 16, he also began gently applying himself to his studies. With his great personal charm, it was hard to imagine him unable to make a living, but we were very reassured by the improvement in his study habits. He particularly enjoyed, and in consequence did very well in, his computer graphics class.
His computer’s screen saver featured an attractive girl for a while during the latter part of the year, but we knew little about her or about the rest of Alban’s active social life, which kept him very busy outside the home most weekends. He skateboarded all over town (his favorite hobby, and a scarily dangerous one from the parents’ point of view), and visited Nick regularly in his rental. Nick’s house became a kind of second family home for a while, parents excluded for some unfathomable reason!
It was Tom‘s year in orthodontic braces, meaning that it was hard to get him to smile for the camera. In fact, it was hard to get him in front of the camera, period. He had the hardest time in the home during the year of all our teenagers, which may have had something to do with his reticence. He turned to his guitar, and it was his guitar that really began to preoccupy him. He too marked turning 16 by making more effort in his studying, but not at the expense of his music. He’d found a calling, something more important than whatever was eating away at him.
This had its good sides, both his having stumbled on to something that really grabbed him, and the obvious enthusiasm and enjoyment in what he was doing. He learned to play tunes that we recognized and could identify, and that brought joy all round. And then there was the somewhat less than good side, hearing those same tunes 50 times with loud backing from his stereo! More shots of Tom and his guitar are on the music page.
He played comp soccer for the first time in the fall, for the Santa Cruz Arsenal, and proved to be a big and strong defender: he was almost as tall as his dad already, but built more solidly! He spent more time in France during the year than any of the other children, visiting his mom.
During the year, all of our adolescents were on some level announcing their coming independence, their coming departure, as adolescents do. Both Nick and Daphné took steps in their respective directions, but if anything we could feel the others’ centrifugal inclinations more strongly. It’s what happens, it’s the way that it has to be: over time, they always move on. I’m not sure that I ever quite adjusted.
Charlie was a ten-year old pre-teen. One of the most visible qualities of our household was always the influence of the older children on their younger admirers. So by now we had four teens and one would-be teen in and out of the house. Duck!
He remained football crazy, and in the fall season his under-10 team came first in one of the best under-10 leagues in Northern California. Needless to say his coach, Paul Gooch, is English!
Charlie is a right-wing midfielder, and scored a couple of times directly by bending in corner kicks. That was quite a feeling for a watching parent, let me tell you! He helped make more goals (they call that an “assist” in the US) than anyone else on his team. If only his father (completely objective, of course) could calm down on the sidelines!
Alex is another soccer wizard. He eagerly awaits the day when Charlie will have left Happy Valley School so that Alex can be the best player there. At seven, he was one of the youngest on his team, a competitive under-9 team, but held his own very well and scored a couple of great goals.
He can also be very moving on the violin, at least to my untrained ear. But we were already running up against his boyish feeling of not wanting to do something sissy. To make his maman happy, he had kept it up for much longer than he would have chosen to himself. But the writing was on the wall this year. It won’t be much longer: sigh.
He was our only real remaining cuddle bunny, although Charlie can still give a good hug from time to time. (Okay, that’s embarrassing. It was included in the annual update. I was having a hard time letting go!) Alex also did very well in all subjects at school.
She began to sell to friends the very attractive greeting cards that she made as a hobby called stamping here. If you received this annual update by mail, you’ve just opened one! If by email, it’s an attachment.
If she can find the energy, perhaps she’ll do more with them. They are uniformly well put together and interesting.
But finding the time between taking the boys to school (three different schools), soccer practices (we lose count!) and the like is obviously a real challenge for her. They may have been starting to move on, but they were all still here in one way or another!
I was moving on in my own way this year. My notice period from my General Counsel layoff ran out in April, and although I had been pretty late in starting to job hunt, I did put a lot of effort into it for several months at the beginning of the year. Instead of jobs, I began to find work on a contract basis. It didn’t take long for me to figure out that I was better off with several small jobs than one big one, and so I hung out my own shingle during the summer.
This was quite a switch. I’d been in full-time employment from early 1998 until I was laid off in 2004. Now I was back to being self-employed. Of course, the rules of that game had changed totally since I was last self-employed, in Paris from 1992 to 1997. Not only was I in a different culture, now social media were a key client development tool: I barely knew what they were! It was all delightfully rejuvenating if more than a little anxiety provoking. Developing a clientele went so slowly: three steps forward, two steps back.
Because of that switch, I did have more time to do things with the family, especially during the summer, before a mild dose of panic crept up on me! Not major vacations – there weren’t the resources – but trips here and there.
First was a trip to Yosemite with Daphné, Gael and Nick. Gael was friend from Hermeray in France who spent a few weeks visiting Nick in July. We camped at a lake in the foothills on the first night, and Daphné and Gael went for a walk around the lake, hand in hand, in the moonlight. “Hmm,” I’m thinking, “is this okay?” But Nick didn’t seem too worried, and the next night in Yosemite they did not seem to repeat the experience. I felt totally clueless, but that was not a problem. The teenagers were fine!
Poor Gael then had Nick leading him on, just as his cousin Antony had lead Nick on. Antony is a long-distance runner, and he had really impressed Nick with a story of having gone all the way up Half Dome and back in the same day. Nick decided that he was going to do the same thing, and that Gael was going to accompany him.
Daphné and I passed on this adventure, stopping our upward movement at the top of Vernal Falls. Nick pressed on, with Gael in tow. I felt such sympathy for Gael when the two of them found us on the Valley floor around six that evening. He looked bedraggled, all in. Nick was still pounding along on pure adrenaline, pretty much oblivious to his friend’s suffering.
Marie-Hélène and I then took Charlie and Alex down to visit their cousins in San Diego. It was Charlie’s birthday, which we duly celebrated with Courtney and Antony. Courtney was about seven months pregnant with Avalon, but that seemed to have no effect on her hospitality. They took us out mini-golfing, with Antony reprising his wonderful big brother role for the boys, showing them how to put, that sort of thing, and vaguely competing with them, pushing them to do better. Then the birthday cake was cut and shared on the breakfast nook table at their place.
We had more local day trips, of course: Carmel for a visit to the Mission there, and San Francisco a couple of times. That’s the advantage of living in a holiday town, a scant four miles from the beach.
Speaking of which, it’s time for a breath of Pacific Ocean air . . ..
“May your days be merry and bright . . .”.