The Nine Days of Ruby 

Given their proximity to Christmas on the calendar, December birthdays are always at risk of being eclipsed by another widely celebrated birthday. I can’t believe I was ever concerned about that with Ruby. She has made it perfectly clear to the rest of us at Fry Lodge that the first half of December belongs to her.

Ruby turned nine on Friday. There was no school that day. Coincidence?

Breakfast in bed is a Fry Lodge birthday tradition. Ruby ordered nine waffles.

Her birthday cake request? Nine chocolate cupcakes. Candles to be inserted into her  cupcake? Nine. 

The number of guests to be invited to her bowling party today? Nine.

Is there a limit to our love for this little force of nature? Nein. 

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Henry and Ruby hear from their Representative

Henry and Ruby received both received a letter from their Congressman, Representative Rick Larsen, this weekend. Back in June, their friend, Sam, who lives in Maine, sent the kids some postcards to send to Larsen – reminding him to keep fighting to help preserve our oceans. They were thrilled to get a response. Thanks to Sam, Henry and Ruby for reminding us how it’s supposed to work. Oh, and Patty and Maria, we’re sure your letters are in the mail. 

Blindsided 

Tonight after dinner, while Kristine and Ruby took the recycling down to the garage, Henry told me he had something to tell me as soon as his mom and sister were safely out of earshot. When he heard the garage door close, he turned to me with a smile on his face and said, “I know that you and Mom buy all the Santa presents. I know you stuff our stockings. I know you hide the Easter eggs. I know all of it.” 

I was completely blindsided. It’s August 28th. Who brings this up at this time of year? I mean, it’s not even Labor Day yet. These are the types of questions/assertions one starts to expect around Thanksgiving. Halloween at the earliest. Not in the dog days of summer! I was not prepared, damn it. 

As I heard the girls coming back up the stairs, and as my son just stood there, smiling at me, all I could muster was, “Why are you talking about this right now?” I was panicked. What if this was some sort of a bluff? 

Well, it wasn’t a bluff. When Ruby left the room again, I loudly started doing the dishes and beckoned Kristine to the sink. 

“Henry just brought up a very unexpected topic,” I said, with the intonation of a question. 

“Oh, yeah, I forgot to tell you. He brought it up today after school, so I told him everything. He asked about a bunch of other stuff, too.”

And so starts 5th grade for Henry and 3rd grade for Ruby. 

The Fry Side 

We spent the last full week of summer in North Idaho, home to many Fry side relatives and venue for the 2017 Fry Family Reunion. Unlike the Eitings and Watsons, who gather their extended family annually, the Frys only manage to get together every several years. And that’s probably a good thing. 

Brother Mike hosted the extended Fry clan at Priest Lake this past weekend. Four generations of descendents of Margaret and Carl Fry Sr. gathered at Mike’s place, which is only a few hundred yards away from the spot where Carl, Marge and their young family built a rustic cabin on the beach in the 1940s. So many Frys have made so many memories there. And, I’m sure more than a few were conceived in that old cabin. Frys, we’re like salmon returning to Priest Lake to spawn. 

It was a great way to end the summer. I spent quality time with each parent, sibling, cousin, aunt, uncle, niece and nephew. Henry and Ruby got acquainted with their North Idaho cousins. And my mom and I finally had our potato salad face off. 

Fry family reunions are… rare events. Fittingly, as we drove home across Washington state today, the sky dimmed as the moon totally obscured the sun for the first time in nearly 40 years.

Once upon a time there was light in my life. But now there’s only love in the dark. Nothing I can say.  A total eclipse of the heart.

Nebraska 

On Sunday, we wrapped up another four-day Eiting/Watson reunion at Eugene T. Mahoney State Park outside of Omaha, Nebraska. The last day of the reunion is always the hardest. Not only do you have to say goodbye to loved ones you won’t see for a while, you have to pack up the compound – usually in sweltering heat, working on too little sleep. As the morning goes on and the mercury rises, hugs are given and families peel off to catch planes. 

The reunion, as always, was a big success. This year we celebrated Jim’s 70th birthday and retirement. Meat was prepared.  

The cousins, after a several year hiatus, picked up where they left off. It was great to see the kids together again. Upon arriving in Omaha, I put them to work scraping dead bugs off the RV. 

The 100+ degree heat made daily trips to the swimming pool mandatory. The kids are now big enough to go down the water slides themselves. I still needed somebody to hold my hand in the wave pool, but I managed to few dives off the diving board.

I got some quality time with my good friend and brother-in-law, B.E., as we took a few long bike rides through the corn fields. That, besides trying not to drown in the wave pool, was the extent of my physical activity at Mahoney, unless you count the constant 12-ounce curls of La Croix.  

Jim and Mary Kay with all eight grandkids 

The Eiting and Watson clan’s dedication to family is inspiring.  These days it’s rare to see such large families, spread all over the U.S., commit to an annual reunion, not to mention travel to every cousin’s wedding. In other words, this family loves to party. 

The Fry Family Quartet was sad to say goodbye, yet excited for the week-long journey home that is in front of us. Sunday, after leaving Mahoney, we camped on the shores of the Merritt Reservoir in the sand hills of Nebraska. Tonight: Devils Tower in Wyoming. 

Hello Summer 

Another year, another school for the Fry kids. The 2016-17 academic year is a wrap, and Henry and Ruby are one summer away from 5th and 3rd grade. It seems like they both grew at an accelerated rate this year – on every level. Comparing their first and last day of school photos, it looks like each is a head taller. 

Emotionally, socially and academically, both Henry and Ruby made big strides this year in Bellingham. Henry joined the chess club and made it to the state tournament. Ruby discovered her artist self and blew all of us away with her unique perspective on the world. Both took up ice skating and soccer and made so many friends in the process. 

The week before school let out, Kristine and I had the opportunity to review the kids’ portfolios that document their units of inquiry and work over the course of the year. Among Henry’s projects was a how-to chess book, which he sweetly dedicated to me. Ruby’s art section was stunning. Both of their teachers were amazing, which is a huge reason why they both excelled as much as they did. 

The Fry kids have hit their stride in Bellingham. This weekend we start a well deserved summer vacation. In preparation for our cross country RV trip in July, we’re doing a shake down cruise with the RV this weekend. Next week Ruby begins swimming lessons. Then Henry goes to LARP camp. The adventure continues. 

The Cedar Chest 

When my dad was 19, he bought my mom a cedar chest. I never knew how the cedar chest made its way into our family. I just remember it always being around – the place where we stored old family photos, birth certificates, baptismal gowns, and other family heirlooms. When I was a young boy, sitting on the floor of our rec room, I would occasionally open it up to sift through its contents. I loved the smell of cedar that would waft out as I opened the lid. I could keep myself busy for hours looking at black and white photos and my parents’ wedding album. I’m pretty sure I was the only person to regularly look through it, so the cedar chest became my hiding place for my own secret treasures. That’s where I kept my baseball cards.

This Memorial Day weekend, Kristine, the kids and I traveled to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho to help my parents move out of their house on Lake Coeur d’Alene, where they have lived for 20 years. That chest has sat untouched in a closet under my parents’ stairs for those two decades. My mom and dad have known for a while that I’ve had my eye on the cedar chest, so they are now ready to part ways with it. As she cleaned it out in preparation for our visit, my mom said she found my old baseball cards. She also found old photos of my dad and her from the dances they attended at Gonzaga Prep and Gonzaga University in the late 1950s and early ’60s. Henry and Ruby got a kick out of those.

Today, we all visited my parents’ house on the lake for the last time. My dad helped me load that cedar chest in the minivan. When we get back to Bellingham, that cedar chest is where I’m going to keep the memorabilia of Fry Lodge. I wonder if Henry or Ruby will develop their own relationship with that piece of furniture. Either way, I’m sure I’ll occasionally find myself sitting in front of it with the lid open, as the smell of cedar washes memories over me.

Goodbye, Fry Lodge Rockford Bay