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 U.S. Christmas (2002)

This diary covering the US portion of 2001 Christmas holidays was originally written in February of 2003.  In December of 2016, I added more pictures and reformatted in a new style where pictures are made part of the text flow.  I also recommed a look at an earlier diary showing the Heidelberg and Frankfurt Christmas Markets.

December 1-31, 2002)

Dear Families and friends,

After the few days as a new grandfather, it was back to work for a couple days. The flight from Denver to Washington started with thorough screening once again. Shoes off, pockets emptied. Computer on. And have a nice day. I have noticed that these new security folks are very friendly, in a formal, trained sort of way. It does help and I appreciate the care in doing a difficult task.

From Washington to Lynchburg is a pleasant three or four hour drive. Driving through the Virginia countryside I am reminded how much space America has. It seem that the farms surrounding our European roads run right up to the parking lane. Here, even in the long-settled Eastern US, land is just not used as intensively. I'd never noticed it before.

Lynchburg is a pleasant place, but it seems a world apart from Frankfurt or Washington. My employer, Framatome ANP, is one of the bigger employers in town even though the operation is smaller than it was ten or 15 years ago under the name Babcock & Wilcox. That's the story of my industry. Employment is down and going lower as operations get smaller and more efficient while there is no growth to compensate.

d021221_02_skyline.jpgLate Thursday afternoon, I left Lynchburg for our company's other main location, Charlotte South Carolina, another nice place but definitely more active. The morning view from my hotel reminded me of the skyline back "home" in Frankfurt. Now it was one more workday and finally, Christmas vacation.

The drive from Charlotte to almost-Baltimore was up through the Shenandoah Valley. It was the weekend before Christmas so the road was crowded but nonetheless it was a very pleasant drive; a bit long, but very pleasant. The Blue Ridge Mountains run along the right and the hills of the western edge of the Valley define the left. I recommend this as a wonderful alternative to the infamous Interstate 95 traffic jam. But try it on something other than a holiday weekend.d021224_02_xmastree.jpg

Finally it was "home" to Bim and Ron's. I've visited enough in 2002 to feel like it's my American home. At Christmas, this is important. It's even more important with the two cancer patients, both of whom are doing fine. Ron's done with treatment and he had as much hair as I do - not that that's saying much. Bim's chemo seems to be pretty balanced too and does what cancer treatment is supposed to do: allow a normal lifestyle.

d021225_04_snowshovel.jpgMarianne was flying in on Christmas Day evening. When the day started with a big serving of snow, everyone else was delighted with the first White Christmas in years but I was out in the driveway, getting exercise. I'd forgotten this part of winter and I'd like to forget it again. But everything worked out fine and my Hungarian-Californian-German wife showed up on time and it was nice being back with my travel buddy.

Back home we enjoyed the rest of Christmas. Bim and Marianne did kitchen things (as did I apparently). Mike was also home on leave. It seemed he alternated between being a kid wrestling with Dad or Uncle John and an adult Marine. We will view the upcoming war with Iraq with these images in mind. Hopefully the helicopter-repair crew Mike is assigned to will stay out of harm's way. Hopefully, all nephews, nieces, sons and daughters will stay out of harm's way.



The rest of our American vacation was a blur. We shopped. We saw a couple movies. We opened presents with Geoff and Suzanne and her family.



And then we had a News Years Eve dinner with our whole crew. The next day we were off to Germany so this was a good ending to a full Christmas vacation.

Take care and remember the nephews, nieces, sons and daughters.

John and Marianne

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