Christmas Letter

December 20, 2009

Our daughter Dory and her husband Skip came into town yesterday afternoon from Texas, so I’m not keen to be investing a lot of my scarce time with them on blogging this week. My solution is to recycle, always a winner in the CSA mindset. What I’m recycling is some verbiage developed for this year’s Thompson family Christmas letter, with a bit of editing and revision. It occurs to me that Christmas letters may be about to go the way of fruitcakes. They became increasingly common over the last few decades, as Xerox and computers made ready duplication of text easy and cheap, but over the last few years the tendency to either brag too much or overburden readers with excessive detail has made them the butt of seasonal jokes. Apologies to Thornapple members who really didn’t need another Christmas letter to read, especially one that talks about a bunch of stuff you already know.

So I’m cruising down I-496 (the local connecter) on December 11 at about 60. We’ve had snow but the road is clear and dry. I’m still 10 miles under the limit because other surface roads are not so clear, and lots of the other morning commuters are going even slower. I normally don’t get out during rush hour but I have to give a talk this morning. I’m edging by a guy in a Suburban on my right when out of the corner of my eye he starts to fidget like he dropped his cell phone. A few seconds later, kablam! and I’m spinning down the road, taking up all three lanes. I finally come to rest on the right shoulder. Amazingly, I’m fine and the car can be driven to the body shop. However, my precious ’04 Jetta was declared a total loss by the insurance adjuster, so in addition to other holiday business I’m shopping for a new car. All this comes after emergency outpatient surgery in early October and two and half months of tests following my dermatologist taking a mole off my back that turns up melanoma. I’m clear for now, and taking no anti-cancer drugs at least until the next round of tests next March. So I have plenty to be thankful for this Christmas, like just being here to write this.

As noted above, Dory and Skip came in on December 19 for a week-long visit that we have been looking forward to with great anticipation. We haven’t seen them in 2009. Both seem to doing fine. Dory is still in her crazy job with the wildcat oil company in San Antonio, TX, and Skip is working his way through exams and training to reach certified financial advisor status. We also get good reports on Francis (their dog). The main problem with them is that they just don’t do enough funny stuff to mock sarcastically in the annual Christmas letter. That situation was relieved slightly when they arrived yesterday to several inches of new fallen snow, something neither had seen for years. We were able to convince them that shoveling the walk would be great fun, and that we would let them do it if Skip would be willing to pay for dinner at SanSu last night. Our walks are clear and the sushi was fantastic.

Diane (local food advocate) is another case. We don’t worry about funny stuff in her case; she is hilarious. Diane has given up pestering the mayor over the condemnation of our Lansing City Market and has decided to become a farmer herself. As Thornapple Readers know, she’s starting her own CSA. (Technically Diane is just “core group coordinator” but as far as the in-laws are concerned, this is “Diane’s CSA”.) That’s CSA as in “community supported agriculture,” not communist society of America. A CSA is a co-op partnership with a farmer to supply fresh fruits and vegetables over the growing season, while members pay up front and share the risk. Diane’s CSA involves a work commitment, which she has taken to heart, going out almost every day. This has meant that I am regaled constantly with tales of hoeing and weeding, worries about the chickens, and complaints about how Tractor Supply Company won’t put their seed in less than 50 pound bags. During the summer I’m entertained with stories about her troubles on distribution days at the Allen Street Farmer’s Market on Wednesday afternoon. Apparently some of the farmer/venders are less than enthusiastic about sharing space with a CSA. If you don’t know what a CSA is, you should, and you can learn lots more by exploring other parts of the Thornapple website. Lately Diane’s stories have turned to sheep. They run to meet her when she arrives (not that the bucket of food in her hand has anything to do with that). And as they say, I’m not making any of this up.

The news with Walker has been all about expecting a grand-baby, which was finally delivered on Dec. 8. We are overjoyed by this new arrival, and Walker has spent almost all his time since the delivery playing with her. She is a reconditioned 1908 Steinway Model A, “Martha Washington”. Oh did I say ‘grand baby’? I meant baby grand, but technically there is nothing baby about this grand. James Reeder, who performed the delivery, tells us that she qualifies as a “parlor grand”. Go to Wikipedia and look up “piano” if you really want to know what this means. At any rate, Walker and Martha are making beautiful music together. He’s even agreed to learn some Christmas songs, which, if you know Walker, is unprecedented.

Well, that’s it from the Christmas letter. Merry Christmas from the Thompson family 2009.

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