Written December, 2016
Hi Friends and Family,
The Year 2000 diaries did have a brief note from the two Kiev parties described here, but in hindsight I thought they deserved more pictures than was my practice back then. (Before about early-2001, there was no website for these diaries and they were simply periodic emails sent out to a list of family and friends. That meant, I could only send a few, relatively low-resolution photos. In 2016, things are different.)
My work Christmas party was on Friday, December 8th, presumably after a long week of work I am never sure I managed to make other than frustrating. As noted in my original email from December 10th, 2000, we were served course after course, in true Ukrainian style. Our party was expanded a bit from the previous year since we were now four engineers, including my old friend Roman, an American of Ukrainian descent who was fluent in Polish-sounding Ukrainian. After several hours, the desert course was served, along with fireworks.
On the very next day, we went to the Christmas party for Marianne's school, Kyiv International School. KIS is the school of choice for many diplomat families and the US Ambassador Steven Pifer joined the celebration (far left picture, white hair). Our good friend Marv, the #2 in the Canadian Embassy, was also there. (far right picture, ribbons in hair. Eh yea.) We still see Pifer on CNN from time to time, but it is hard telling where Marv may have ended up. Anyway, a good time was had by all.
On December 15, we flew to Washington, DC, via Frankfurt, our normal transit airport. Here is Marianne enjoying our stopover at the frequent flyer lounge. We had no idea that our life would change drastically over the next year and, eventually, the air base at Frankfurt would host Marianne's next school. At least we had already decided we liked the FRAport frequent flyer lounge!
In the DC area, we had lots of people to catch up with. The day after we arrived, we started with lunch with Roger and Kathleen, friends who had visited us in Kiev and been part of a memorable train trip to Lyviv. Re reminisced about how close Roger had come to being run over, on track 17 as I recall.
From there it was a traditional Swedish spiced wine party at Jack and Gunilla Stone's house in Bethesda. Jack was one of my bosses in the old NUS days in the 1970s, when we were all younger (except Gunilla did not seem to age). They had invited Don Couchman and Duane Fitzgerald, also bosses from the NUS days when I was first sent overseas. I suppose I can blame or thank these people for the wanderlust I've suffered, although they would claim it was all self inflicted.
Our next stop was an overnight and breakfast with Chuck and Alice Negin. Chuck too was a previous boss and ten years later we would spend a Christmas with him and Alice in Lisbon. The Negins remain friends whom we will try to entice to a visit out in Fresno or France? Who knows?
From Negins, it was a short drive north to my sister Bim's place. Naturally, Bim and Ron's place had been a base for trips in and out of the DC area for years, so it was natural to be there at Christmas. Their son Mike joined us from his Marine Corps assignment as did my son Geoff and his fiancée Suzanne. (At least I think they were engaged back then. Married now.)
On the 20th we flew out to California, ready to see more family. First, however, we stopped by our former neighbor Marge to see how she was doing. She absolutely had not changed in the few years we had been gone. The next Los Gatos appointment was for Marianne to have Deb "do" her hair. The two have been hairdresser-client-friends for decades, and are still are today, despite the years and moves and hair style changes.
With the important cosmetic business completed in Los Gatos, it was time to start the Christmas rituals in Fresno. These start with Mamo's birthday on December 23rd, her 83rd if I'm counting right. Husband Elemer served as host and Gabby, Brian, Babi and the Henrys (Senior and Junior) all wished Mamo well. We repeated the 2016 rendition of this same party just a few days ago, so it all fells familiar.
After the birthday came Christmas Eve and a then-traditional tri-tip barbecue dinner. Nice table and good food.
But the main attraction on Christmas Eve is always present opening followed by use of the toys by the younger set.
On Christmas Day, Brian and I had a slow start with newspapers and eventually everyone showed u for yet another good meal, breakfast this time. Marianne broke out her old sheet music to provide some holiday tunes. Nice, part of the good memories of Fresno rituals.
But the California routine includes Christmas at Monterey Mamo's too, so we drove over to the coast for yet more food, drink, laughs, and presents. I will let the pictures speak for themselves.
We started the next day with yet another good meal. At the time, everyone seemed pretty trim, so all this eating must have just been for our "benefit". Never doubt that travel is hard on waistlines, especially around Christmas.
OK, weddings are not normally part of Christmas, but this year was different. Gayle, one of Marianne's long-time friends was marrying beau Joe and we were invited. It was quite a show. They had chosen to wed at San Francisco City Hall, which had just recently reopened after years of earthquake refitting. I think there were weddings every fifteen minutes that day! Gayle had chosen all white and fancy and Joe had chosen black-hatted cowboy for dress code. Our wedding bunch paraded around San Francisco for hours and never failed to draw attention. Great fun.
The next day, it was back to family events: meeting young niece Clara. Marianne's brother Tom was as proud as any father could be and we all took turns holding the little bundle. (Now she's making university plans. Wow.)
There was still one more celebration: New Year's Eve. More of Marianne's longtime crew were meeting at Rita and Pete's house overlooking Santa Cruz boat harbor. It was a perfect celebration venue with folks who have been friends for decades, and still are.
On January 4, 2001, we made the long return flight. Marianne used the airport time to write her diary of a very busy three week home leave. This probably was a record for a tightly-packed "vacation". At this time, we had no idea just how much our world would change before we returned for an American Christmas. In 2001 we would go from working, settled in our wonderful Kiev apartment, and adapting to life in Ukraine, to unemployment and serious European road travel.
But that's another story.
John & Marianne
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