After celebrating 40 years in fine style with the whole family, including a fabulous dinner, Don and I decided to extend the anniversary celebration just a little longer with a get-a-way to our just about favorite campground. Olive Ridge is a Forest Service campground about 10 miles south of Estes Park that my parents discovered I-don’t-know-how-many years ago. The giant rocks, gravelly road, and mountain trees have been host to Berrett family reunions and family camping trips enough times that when I think of camping, I always think of our little tent trailer parked at Olive Ridge.
Arriving early on a Tuesday afternoon, we had our pick of spots. Don backed the trailer in, we leveled it, put out the slides, and felt like we were home!
We walked through the campground and reminisced about the times we’d been there when our kids were younger.
Our kids played on these rocks many times
Very similar to our tent trailer
We love it here!
It rained and even hailed a couple of times, but we loved hearing the rain on the roof while we played Qwirkle.
We hiked Deer Mountain and biked around Lake Estes.
Twin Sisters peak behind us
The Stanley Hotel across Lake Estes
And every night we had a campfire – because isn’t that what mountain camping is all about?
Just after Don received his Master’s Degree from BYU, we set out on a Middle East adventure by moving to Iran. After three years there, we continued that adventure with seven years in Saudi Arabia before returning to the United States and settling in Greeley. With a child born in each of those countries, and many great experiences involving friends, travels, sights, sounds and smells from that part of the world, we have very fond memories of our time spent there.
So we were delighted when our kids surprised us with an anniversary dinner at Rumi’s House of Kabob right in our very own Greeley. No, it doesn’t look at all middle eastern, but that actually adds to the authenticity of the whole experience. Because why wouldn’t a middle eastern restaurant be housed in an old home on Colorado’s eastern plains?
The kids had reserved a private room upstairs, those windows over the porch, and Nikki and Brittney handled the decorations.
The menu brought back so many memories – nothing is printed to any particular standard in the middle east!
Family style meal we settled on
check out the upside down note about the bread not being gluten free
We started with hummus, which was some of the best we’ve ever eaten. That was followed by a fabulous red lentil soup (recipe, please?) and a traditional salad. When the main course was served, we determined we’d probably ordered way too much food!
Maybe we didn’t each need to order an entree . . .
Rice, lamb, curry, kabob – all delicious
The hummus was delicious
The older grandchildren enjoyed some of the deliciousness
Don and I especially loved the Lamb shank with Kabsa Rice – #3 of the family style choices. The first luscious bite was enough for us to remember that we had eaten that dish at some Saudi weddings we had attended. The smell and taste transported us right back to Dammam. Don was grateful that this time he could eat at the table using a fork instead of on the floor eating with his hand as he had done at the weddings!
Warning – this group shot was done as a panorama and the resulting picture is a little distorted. At least I’m telling myself that it’s the picture . . . But I’m posting it here to remember that we were all together.
After several hours of eating and reminiscing and a very pleasant evening, we remembered that we had the next generation of Butlers who probably needed some parental attention. Those children and the fact that the restaurant had closed moved us reluctantly down the stairs and out the door.
Thanks Mike and Emily, Nate and Nikki, Mark and Kate, Pete and Brittney! It was a fabulous meal, a very fitting celebration and an evening we will always remember. Your thoughtfulness has not gone unnoticed!
Emily wrote this letter to Don in August, 1979. He was working and living in Saudi Arabia, and the kids and I were waiting for housing and visas so we could join him. We finally got there in January, 1980, and were so happy to be a family again.
August 13, 1979
I colored this picture. Mommy did the letter for me. I wish you were here. Mark is getting bigger. I think we’ll bring our bikes. Daddy, I hope that you’re safe. I say my prayers some nights, but not every night. I hope that you have choosed us a nice home. My mom bought me some gum and Nate is getting four pieces of his. Daddy, I hope this is a nice letter. Markie is not being good, but he’s being good. On Saturday night we picked up our legos and straightened our room. This is the end of my letter.
I went to Mr. Steak tonight. I had big French fries – bigger than McDonald’s. I had shrimp and I gave my mom one piece, but I ate half and she ate the rest of it all gone.
I had to write a little more, but I said this is the end of my letter.
As a little girl, I had an insatiable interest in playing the piano. My sisters and I loved to play Sunday School, and I was always the piano player. I don’t remember if that was okay with them, or if they would have liked a turn at the imaginary keyboard, but it didn’t matter – I was playing the piano. Our family did not have a piano at that time, and I was too young to know how to play one anyway. But whenever we played Sunday School, I took my place at the window sill, propped a book against the living room window and “played” the songs with great enthusiasm while the others sang along. I also played the table tops, the arm rests in the car, the kitchen counters, and any other available surface.
As a result of that kindergarten passion and eagerness to perform, when I was about 6 years old, my parents bought a used piano. My memory is that they paid $200 for that piano, but that seems like a huge amount of money for 1960. I started taking lessons shortly after that. Sharon Reeve, the oldest daughter of my parent’s good friends, was my first teacher. Sharon was young, cute, and fun, and I loved learning how to play a real piano with her on the bench beside me.
After a while with Sharon, I started taking lessons from Miss Clara Briggs – a professional piano teacher, I suppose. She was kind of a cranky old maid, and I was quite intimidated by her. A demanding teacher with very high expectations and little tolerance for children who didn’t practice, she taught in downtown Saginaw on the second floor of a building which was a couple of doors down from the movie theater on Court Street.
To get to her studio we entered the building through a glass door on the street, and then had to climb a long, steep stairway that always smelled kind of dusty and unused. On weeks when I knew I hadn’t practiced enough to get her approval, my feet dragged up each one of those steps dreading what was ahead. The studio door was wooden, with a big milky glass window in the middle on which gold lettering announced something like, “Clara Briggs – Piano”. On that same floor were several other offices, I suppose used by lawyers or other businesses. I was curious, but I don’t recall ever exploring the area beyond Miss Briggs’ domain. As an eight year old girl, I imagined the whole building as kind of an unknown land for grown ups, and I was a little nervous that I would encounter one of the other occupants and maybe get yelled at for being someplace I didn’t belong.
The piano studio was a large room with very high ceilings. It was sparsely furnished with a sofa and a couple of chairs for waiting pupils. Decorative crown molding bordered the top of the walls, and the hardwood floors echoed with our footsteps announcing our arrival. An alcove opened off the main room, and it was there that the the pianos were located – both of them! I was amazed and impressed that my teacher had two pianos. In my young mind that added to the seriousness of the whole piano lesson experience – two pianos were proof that she was obviously a very important teacher. The pianos were heavy, dark uprights and could be inviting or intimidating depending on how well prepared I was. Sometimes Yvonne and I played duets on those pianos, and sometimes Miss Briggs would play along on one as I played the other to show me how the piece was supposed to sound.
Miss Briggs was quick with her criticism and tight with her approval, so if she did praise me, I knew I had done well. Yvonne and I often argued over who had to have the first lesson. Some weeks I wanted to go first, anxious to demonstrate my amazing progress! And other weeks I thought making Yvonne go first would make up for my lack of practice, but of course it was just delaying the inevitable. It was while taking lessons with her that I started playing music from the well known composers such as Brahms, Bach, and Beethoven. After our piano recitals, each student was rewarded with a plaster bust of one of those composers, and Yvonne and I accumulated quite a collection. They decorated the top of the piano for several years, until after time they got broken, lost in moves, or discarded in a cleaning frenzy. I don’t remember that even then I saw much use for those small statues, but I knew they were important to my teacher and therefore they were important to me.
Although my memories of Miss Briggs are colored by her stern personality and her no nonsense approach to music lessons, she was an excellent teacher and gave me a very solid foundation for my subsequent piano training. After leaving her studio when we moved from Michigan, I was taught by a variety of other piano teachers until I stopped regular lessons at age 16. I have never aspired to be a performer, but my piano know-how has served me well. I’ve played for church services, weddings, funerals, and most importantly, for my own enjoyment. I’ve certainly gotten my parents’ money’s worth!
I still have that piano today. I think it became mine by default, because Michelle and Lorin didn’t want to move it to Salt Lake City when they left Greeley a number of years ago! Mom and Dad had it refinished in the early 1970’s, so it still looks pretty good. And now I’m teaching lessons on the same piano I learned on.
Teaching Little Fingers to Play – the title of one of my first piano books.
I’ve accepted this challenge! I’m going to make a concerted effort to record stories from my personal history. I don’t expect they’ll be in any specific order, but I’m excited to write my memories. So watch this blog . . . we’ll be traveling from Saginaw to Saudi, Uniopolis to Isfahan, and many places in between. We’ll meet a lot of people along the way and learn a little of their stories also. Because really, our personal histories are greatly influenced by those who have come before and after us.
The challenge is for the month of February. I’m hoping to continue throughout the year and maybe even have something to publish by early next year. . .
You were just a kid when I left home – a 13 year old pest to be exact! At that time you were still making dumb and inappropriate comments about and to my friends. You were still wrestling with Jeff until something or someone got broken. You were fighting with Mom about cleaning your room. You were avoiding daily showers. You were so obnoxiously normal.
As you grew up, you became a very likable guy. (or maybe I’m the one who changed?) You had a great sense of humor and made me laugh a lot. You did some great impressions – remember “H-e-l-l-o, B-e-a-r”? You were a great football player, even though you were part of a couple of heart stopping moments on the field. You were fun to be around, and my kids thought you were the best.
You handled leukemia with faith and courage. I learned a lot as I watched you establish priorities knowing that your time on earth was limited. After doing all you could do to prevent or delay the inevitable, I watched you accept the outcome gracefully. I have a good memory of our last phone conversation the day before you died. Who knew the end would come so soon after that?
Because your life was so short, we haven’t had a chance to be adult friends and siblings. I’m pretty sure we’d have had a good time together. But I’m also sure the chance for more good times is in our future.
We still miss you, but we know that you’re in a good place.
I’m thinking of you on this day. Give my love to Mom.
. . .by the chimney with care –
in hopes that Saint Nicholas soon would be there.
The mystery of Santa Claus and the anticipation of what surprises would fill my Christmas stocking were huge contributors to the mood of excited, noisy chaos that filled our home on Christmas Eve. I felt something almost magical when I carefully positioned my empty and flat Christmas stocking in its place on the couch – in line with those of my brothers and sisters – knowing that in the morning I would find it lumpy, bumpy and filled with presents, candy and an orange in the toe. Settling down to go to sleep was almost impossible for all of us. We could hardly wait for morning!
I think it was 1959 when my mother made Christmas stockings for each of us six children. After cutting them from red felt – with pinking shears, of course – she decorated each stocking the same. Shapes of a Christmas tree, snowman, and star were carefully sewn to the front of the stocking and then further trimmed with sequins and beads. On a strip of white felt at the top of the stocking she wrote each of our names in glue and then sprinkled red glitter over that so that individual ownership was sparkling clear to Santa. The jingle bell sewn to the toe of the stocking was just the right finishing touch, and we sometimes imagined we heard those bells jingle when Santa was at work. . .
I have put out that same stocking every Christmas since then. The snowman no longer has a mouth, the hanging loop has been torn off, and the bell went missing years ago. The glitter is patchy, but the name is still readable – Santa still fills it every Christmas Eve.
In December of 1972 I was a freshman at BYU dating Don Butler and wondering what would be an appropriate Christmas gift for my new boyfriend. Deciding to go the “not too serious, but still casually personal route,” I made a red felt stocking, filled it with a variety of little gifts and treats, and then gave it to him somewhat nervously. That stocking was a success that year, and has been hung every Christmas during our 37 year marriage. His name, spelled out in bold blue letters (no glitter here), leaves no question about ownership. Like my 51 year old stocking, Don’s is also showing its age, but Santa makes sure that it is never neglected.
Even as an adult I find it difficult to sleep on Christmas Eve.
Yuletide excitement is a potent caffeine, no matter your age.
~Carrie Latet, poet