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.

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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. 

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 

Henry is Ten

As Kristine and I walked around Lake Padden this morning, we reminisced about another 3-mile walk she took exactly 10 years ago. At 40 weeks pregnant, and after 2 months of bed rest, Kristine decided to walk to Blue Moon Burger, where she ordered the spicy jalapeño burger. That, combined with the mile-and-a-half walk home, quickly led to labor and the birth of Henry Owen Fry, who turned 10 today. 

The large volume of red meat preceding his birth probably explains Henry’s preference for a juicy steak birthday dinner. He also likes spicy food. 

Everybody was extremely pleased with how Henry’s 10th birthday unfolded. It started, of course, with breakfast in bed. Immediately after chess club, we opened presents and ate cupcakes. Nothing fancy. Small presents. We told Henry he should go downstairs to play the new video game Ruby gave him. Waiting for him at the bottom of the stairs was a new big boy bike. We’d successfully underset expectations and overdelivered. 

Happy birthday, Henry. I’m so glad Kristine ate that burger 10 years ago. 

Optional Lenten Dispensation 

For those among the Fry Lodge Faithful who do not know, the Catholic tradition requires abstinence from meat on Fridays during Lent. Unless, that is, one lives in the Seattle Archdiocese, which is granting an optional dispensation from this obligation because St. Patrick’s Day lands on a Friday this year. Corned beef and cabbage it is! 

Excerpted from this week’s Sacred Heart Church bulletin