Columns

Baking with Mom

The lightweight aluminum pans aren’t beautiful. Scratched and slightly dented, they’re certainly nothing you would find at Williams Sonoma. They aren’t even nonstick.

Nevertheless, my freezer is filled with pumpkin bread, chocolate zucchini bread and beer-cheese bread, all turned out by these stalwart pans.

When my mother moved into a retirement community, it fell to me to sort out her kitchen – choosing what I wanted, what my siblings and their children might want, and what would be left for the estate sale.

Mom’s four kids are all long-married with established homes and kitchens, so most of her goods weren’t wanted or needed by any of us.

But the loaf pans that had churned out countless batches of banana bread – well, I knew I would use them, and I have.

I don’t have any cozy memories of Saturday baking with my mother. The kitchen was her domain, and I wasn’t invited to learn by her side. It could be that I wasn’t interested in spending my Saturdays mixing and measuring. Honestly, I don’t remember. But I must have learned something by osmosis because I’ve spent the past 35 years feeding copious amounts of family and friends.

Mom wasn’t stingy with her recipes. My cookbooks are filled with her handwritten notes for gingersnaps, pie crust, snickerdoodles and other tasty treats. It’s just that we never baked them together. In fact, when my sons were young, and I was working, it was my mother who baked weekly treats for them – a way to lure them to Grandma’s house for a visit and a hug.

She still misses baking. Still wakes up with a start thinking she’s left something in the oven too long.

Recently, I showed her a photo of the pans.

“Do you remember where you got these?” I asked. “I know you’ve had them since I was tiny.”

But her memories are clouded now. Dates and times blend and blur.

No matter.

On Thanksgiving, I’ll welcome her to my table set with her harvest gold cloth and the lovely Noritake china my father bought for her in Japan. I’ll lay out her silver flatware that I used to polish every holiday as a child. It seems some chores are yours for a lifetime.

I’ll roll out her pie crust recipe with her red-handled rolling pin and fill the crust with fragrant apples, cinnamon and cloves.

And perhaps after all these years, it will feel like I’m finally baking with Mom.

Columns

My #1 Fan Can’t Read

It’s flattering to have an ardently devoted fan.

One who follows your every move and watches everything you do with unabashed interest and adoration.

It’s also annoying when that fan is an adorable, but constantly underfoot tabby.

Sir Walter Scott, our rescue kitty, turned 2 this summer and I’m still his favorite person.

Supervising my social media updates is just one of Walter’s annoying habits.

However, my status was briefly in doubt when I took him to the vet for his annual checkup. It seems His Royal Cuteness can hold a grudge.

The day after his appointment, he didn’t jump into bed to cuddle after breakfast.

I shut the bathroom door when I showered and he wasn’t waiting for me with reproachful meows when I opened it.

He didn’t follow me downstairs to my desk or come running when the printer whirred to life.

I put on my walking shoes without fighting Walter for the laces. When I returned home, he didn’t run to greet me. Instead, he stared somberly at me from the top of the cat tree.

Just when I thought I’d permanently lost his devotion, he jumped into my lap while I did a crossword, and tried to grab my pencil. Walter is passionately fond of pencils. He also loves emery boards. He can hear me open the drawer that contains them from wherever he is and scurries to find me, so he can steal another emery board for his collection.

Walter adores me so much that at bedtime he can’t stand for anything to come between his face and mine. Therefore he loathes books, newspapers, my phone; and Derek often ends up in Walter’s bad graces. Sometimes when my husband goes in for a kiss, he ends up with fur on his lips. No, I haven’t grown a beard, but Walter is pretty good at blocking affectionate advances from my spouse, which is why he isn’t allowed to sleep in our room.

“Why you read when you could cuddle me?” Walter

In fact, he’s taken to hiding under the bed and waiting ‘til we fall asleep. When he thinks it’s safe, he jumps up–usually near my face. This gets him in my bad graces because I’m the one who has to wrestle him out of the room.

I’d hoped he’d outgrow his obsession with food in plastic bags, but if anything it’s intensified. Our bread is stored in the microwave, but we recently discovered Walter will scale great heights for a bag of corn chips.

We’d taken to storing chips on the top of our freezer. Since I have to stretch to reach them, I thought they’d be safe.

Wrong.

Our son Sam soon found a trail of tortilla chip pieces and a bag of previously unopened chips on the floor. It seems Walter jumps from shelf to shelf to freezer top.

Sam moved the unopened chips to the highest shelf in our pantry. A week later, I found a bag on the floor with Walter’s teeth marks all over it.

I moved the chips to shelves on the opposite side of the room and I’m hoping he can’t Parkour himself to reach them.

Right now, I have another problem. While writing this column, I took a break to gather dinner items. My feet crunched something on the carpet. I bent down and retrieved a piece of uncooked pasta–Walter had ripped open a bag of noodles.

He’s got this terrible two thing down, all right. I’d tell you more about it, but he’s curled up on my desk with one paw on my hand. He’s gazing up at me like I’m the best thing since canned tuna. I don’t think he’d be as adoring if he knew I’m documenting his crimes.

I’m just glad my No. 1 fan can’t read.

Always adorable when sleeping.

Columns

The Wild Rumpus Times Two

Things you forget when it’s been 20 years since you’ve had a toddler in the house: they like to climb into things.

Two weeks ago, we traveled to Ohio to visit our 23-month-old twin grandsons Adam and Nick. (Well, we visited their parents and big sister, too.)

As usual, we rented a small Airbnb home, so we could care for the twins each day and give their parents a break.

One afternoon, Adam was busily playing with a wooden dinosaur puzzle, but Nick was nowhere to be seen. I heard a sound in the kitchen and quietly sneaked into the room to see what he was up to–but I didn’t see him. Then I noticed the dryer door was ajar, and as I watched it slowly swung open.

“Nick!” I called.

Sure enough, he poked his head of the dryer and grinned. Thankfully, he was unable to secure the door.

Nick, freshly dried!

I texted our son a photo and said, “We’re bringing him home freshly dried.”

With their second birthday looming next month, the World’s Most Beautiful Boys are busier and faster than ever. They’re nonstop perpetual motion machines, just like their father was at this age.

On the first full day of our visit, the temps in Newark, Ohio, soared to 85 degrees. Our rental featured a lovely fenced backyard, so Derek bought the boys a T-ball set, and we spent lots of time playing outside.





Nick at bat, while Adam waits.

This brings me to something else I’d forgotten about toddlers: they put everything in their mouths–including handfuls of dirt. We found they’d drop the dirt when offered a more healthful option, like frozen fruit bars.

We enjoyed several firsts with the twins, including eating outdoors at the neighborhood Dairy Queen, and a visit to a park with baby swings and big kid slides. The boys enjoyed the swings and the smaller slides, but it didn’t take long until Adam was scampering up the ladder to the tallest slide.

Derek and I no longer scamper, so with their sister Farrah’s help, we rounded them up and headed for home before my hair turned any grayer.

They enjoyed their first visit to a pet store, pressing their noses against the fish tanks, and chattering back at the birds. Sadly, it was nap time for the kittens. It’s probably just as well that they were asleep, because I’m not allowed to have any more cats, and I don’t think unauthorized pet purchases would endear me to the twins’ parents.

Jumbo-size crayons and sketch pads proved a safer purchase, but one that still required vigilant supervision. (See toddlers put everything in their mouths note above.)

Despite their amazing energy and boundless curiosity, both boys still enjoy cuddling and being read to, which makes this Nana’s heart soar. It makes Papa Derek happy too because if one of the boys nods off while cuddling, Papa can nap right along.

We packed in all the adventure and affection we could because we won’t be able to visit again until spring. By then Adam and Nick will be well into the Terrific Twos (there is nothing terrible about my grandsons) and we can’t wait to see what excitement and escapades their second year will hold.

Because that’s one thing I haven’t forgotten about toddlers – they soak up love and return it effusively – provided you can catch them.

Papa gives Nick, left and Adam right, a push.

Columns

A love letter to teachers

We’ve all struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We’ve had to learn new ways to work while constantly adapting to ever-changing pandemic restrictions. But it often seems like educators bear the brunt of community ire, as they try to safely navigate the return of students to in-person school.

Perhaps that’s why the response to my recent column recalling an SFCC instructor who influenced my decision to pursue writing struck a chord. I wrote of my hopes that our son, Sam, now teaching English 101 at Eastern Washington University, might also be an encouraging influence on his students, and I asked readers to share memories of an educator who impacted them.

Here are some of the responses I received.

When Cheri Moore attended Northwest Christian College (now Bushnell University) in Eugene in 1979, she was married, pregnant and a full-time student.

She loved her 7 a.m. New Testament Exegesis class until morning sickness hit.

“After missing several classes in a row, I went to see the professor during his office hours and explained the situation,” Cheri wrote. “He told me to do the best I could and to find someone to get class notes and assignments from when I missed a class. The next time I missed a class the prof popped into the cafeteria during lunch, dropped his class notes, including the assignment for the next class, on the table in front of me, then leaned over and whispered in a stage whisper ‘Don’t tell Dr. Root, I hear he’s a stickler about note sharing.’ Every class I missed from then on found Dr, Root handing me his notes at lunchtime.”

• • •

Bill Reuter’s most influential educator was his fifth-grade teacher at Finch Elementary in Spokane during the 1949-1950 school year.

“She was hard on me, expecting better from me the entire year, no excuses accepted,” he recalled. “I still remember once being in tears after a very trying lesson. My report card grades were lower than in previous years, but I kept trying. I later realized how a teacher can set you on a career path to something that can be rewarding. After graduating from North Central High, I attended Eastern Washington College of Education and followed in her footsteps. I was then employed by Spokane schools as a teacher and principal for 33 years.”

His teacher? Emma Reuter, who also happened to be his mother.

• • •

Michael Groves recently visited the Seattle area to see his former Shorecrest High School history teacher, Bruce MacDougall, now 88. Groves graduated in 1976 but stayed in touch with his teacher. MacDougall’s love of travel rubbed off on his student in a big way.

“From 1980 through 2005, I was fortunate to make around three dozen trips abroad, strictly as a tourist,” wrote Groves.

He visited six of seven continents during that time with Antarctica being the only holdout.

“Because of his (MacDougall’s) influence on me, I’ve had a chance to go into Red China on that opening journey in 1980,” he wrote.

Other trips included: Christmas Eve and morning in Bethlehem’s Manger Square; his 30th birthday at the Taj Mahal; his 40th at the Vatican in Rome; riding a camel in the Gobi Desert on his 45th; and witnessing a new century unfold in Australia on New Year’s Eve 1999.

“I don’t think that any teacher, anywhere, had as much influence on a single student like he did in my case, both in my personal life, and my time away from my job in traveling the globe,” Groves said. “Thank you, teach!”

• • •

Judy Felgenhauer gave a special shoutout to her Susanville, California, fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Marguerite Crane.

“She gave me my first ‘C’ ever – in handwriting,” Felgenhauer recalled. “But she encouraged me to practice and provided much support. She also helped cement my love of reading. Each day she read to us from a children’s classic.”

They stayed in touch over the years and when she graduated from medical school, Mrs. Crane sent her former student a pair of earrings that Felgenhauer still treasures.

Felgenhauer is the pediatric divisional lead physician at Providence Medical Group and is medical director of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center and Children’s Hospital.

“Whenever someone tells me I can’t possibly be a doctor because they can read my handwriting, I credit Mrs. Crane,” she said.

So here’s to you, teachers, school board members, professors and support staff.

We see you. And most of us are profoundly thankful you keep showing up for our kids.

Columns

Still afloat on the pond of English 101

I am absolutely not going to tell you how many years ago I took English 101.

For one thing, I’m not good at math – something my college transcript verifies. For another thing, it was a really long time ago. How long ago? Well, let’s just say all of my essays were handwritten. In cursive. In pen. No, not with quill and ink.

Memories of that class were triggered when our youngest son headed out the door to Eastern Washington University last week. He’s not taking 101 – he’s teaching it.

Sam’s first day of teaching English 101/First day of kindergarten.

Sam is in the final year of his graduate degree and is a composition instructor in the English Graduate Student Assistantship Program. His 22nd birthday was Friday, but he’s already teaching a class of 24 students.

He’s relishing his new role, and I’m sure his students will benefit from his enthusiasm. For many of them, English 101 will be just another required class to get out of the way, but perhaps for some the class will trigger a desire to learn more about writing.

That’s exactly what happened to me at Spokane Falls Community College.

At 18, I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to be when I grew up. The career aptitude tests I took my senior year of high school pointed me toward fashion merchandising. I’m pretty sure that’s just a fancy way to say retail sales clerk, but I could be wrong.

Dad said college would be a better place to discover my aptitudes and paid for my first quarter at SFCC. I’d been the editor of our school newspaper and co-editor of the yearbook, so English classes didn’t scare me. I was far more terrified of classes involving math – a justified fear as evidenced in the above-mentioned transcripts.

I’m sorry to say, I don’t remember the name of my English 101 instructor. I do remember he was also the tennis coach and often wore his tennis whites to class. Maybe fashion merchandising should have been my thing, after all.

Yet, he’s the one who lit the spark of interest – who first made me wonder if perhaps writing was something I could actually be good at. To be sure, 101 is the most basic of college classes. Students typically learn the different stages of writing: gathering material, drafting ideas, revising drafts, editing and proofreading.

Sitting on my desk is one of the first essays I wrote for that class. The title? “From Duckling to Swan,” in which I related my middle school to high school transformation.

Honestly, reading it now is cringe-inducing, but I’ve saved it all these years because of the comment the instructor wrote in pencil on the title page.

“An essay like this can keep you afloat in the pond of 101.”

When that paper landed on my desk, after he first read it to the class, it was an a-ha moment for me. I thought, “This is it! This is what I want to do. I want to write and I want people to read what I’ve written.”

And here we are.

Now, it’s Sam’s turn to make a difference.

Who knows? Maybe someday a writer will sit down to pen a newspaper column or write a book, and remember an English 101 class at EWU, and the instructor who encouraged her to believe that she had a way with words. And perhaps that teacher’s name will be Sam Hval.

It wouldn’t surprise me a bit.

Columns

Losing Lance

As I write this, there have been 778 deaths due to COVID-19 in Spokane County residents. By the time you read this, there likely are more.

On Sept. 6, those numbers became deeply personal when a longtime family friend died of the coronavirus.

Lance Lehman and I were born the same year. We met him and his wife Jodi at church in 1992, and soon Lance joined my husband’s men’s group. Every Friday morning a small group of guys met for Bible study and prayer. Before long, those friendships grew to include their wives – most of us at-home moms with young children.

The friends you make when your children are young often become like extended family. Baby showers, birthdays, girls’ nights, guys’ outings, all that time shared weaves cords of connection.

When Lance and Jodi and their four kids moved to Colville in 2005, those connections loosened but didn’t break.

What broke were our hearts at the devastating news of his death. He was 55. He and Jodi looked forward to celebrating their 30th anniversary in November. His three grandchildren adored their “G-Pa.” The adoration was mutual.

Lance often said, “If I’d known being a G-Pa was so much fun, I would have done that first!”

Lance and Jodi Lehman, December 2019

Here’s what I remember about Lance Lehman.

I remember his years working at Costco (18) and how brave he was when he decided to go back to school and pursue a career in dental hygiene.

Playing trivia-type games with him and Jodi was hilarious because he was six years older than she, and got our ‘80s music/movies themes while poor Jodi was still grooving to the ‘90s vibe.

He ALWAYS wore shorts. Even in winter. Even though his legs were as white as snow!

I remember the camping trips, game nights, Fourth of July celebrations and countless potlucks our families shared.

Lance adored his two girls and did his best to figure out the whole hair situation.

He delighted in his two sons.

I remember his unwavering faithfulness to Derek’s men’s group and how he never missed a meeting. How after they moved to Colville he pondered coming to Spokane, just for their Friday morning gathering.

Lance loved to golf and planned and organized many outings for the guys. He was complicit in an epic prank at one of those. I was pregnant with Sam, and one of Derek’s friends pretended to get a call from his wife, saying I was trying to reach him because I was in labor. I wasn’t. But the guys enjoyed watching Derek panic, and throw his golf bag over his shoulder while scrambling to the parking lot.

I remember the very distinct, Lance-way he said my name.

can still see the beaming glow on his face when he walked his daughter, Lexi, down the aisle at her wedding.

On Friday morning amid funeral preparations, Jodi shared more memories with me.

“He loved to sing,” she said. “If he didn’t know the words, he made them up. Lance enjoyed going into the kid’s rooms in the morning to wake them up by singing ‘I Saw the Light.’ He thought it was hilarious. They did not.”

Lance loved camping, especially at Haag Cove Campground on the Columbia River near Kettle Falls. They’d recently purchased a new trailer and in July they took it up to the Cove. They had so many plans for that trailer.

They had so many plans.

His favorite food was Bonzai Burgers at Red Robin. Every time they came to Spokane, he had to have one.

His faith was vital to him, and he wanted to share it whenever he could.

“Lance’s heart was to reach the lost for Jesus,” said Jodi. “He’d offer to put his clients on his prayer list. His work became his ministry.”

She grieves for their three grandchildren, the oldest is only 4.

“I miss him on behalf of my grandbabies,” she said through tears. “They won’t remember him.”

She drew a shaking breath.

“Someday it will all make sense.”

While we wait for that day, I ask you to remember that those listed on the COVID-19 death tallies are more than sobering statistics. Each number represents an individual who left behind a grieving spouse, children, parents, siblings or friends.

To someone that number was a person like Lance, who meant everything to those who loved him.

Columns

Procrastination: it’s keeping me waiting

I would tell you how many times I started this column, but somewhere along the way, I lost count.

What no one warns you about working from home is that if you’re prone to procrastination, your house will give you ample opportunities for postponing pesky deadlines.

In more than 15 years in journalism, I’ve never missed a deadline, nor even been significantly late, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t cut it close to the wire.

Not long ago I wrote a column about anticipation, referencing the Carly Simon classic hit song “Anticipation.”

Guess what? That tune works fine if you substitute procrastination for anticipation. (You know you just tried it.)

I hummed that tune as I started a load of laundry after typing the header on this column. Since the washer is next to the freezer, I thought I might as well grab the roast I was planning to cook for dinner.

I set the frozen slab on my desk and typed my byline. Then I checked Facebook and time melted as I scrolled through a friend’s vacation photos. The roast also started melting, so I hustled it upstairs to the kitchen.

Opening a cupboard, I searched for the seasonings I’d need for the roast. Searched, because tall bottles of cooking wine, vinegars and oils had hidden the basil and oregano.

Then I eyed the cupboard with baking supplies. We’re in the middle of zucchini season, and every week I’m churning out breads, cookies and muffins. Why was the baking powder on a shelf so high I had to climb on a chair to reach it?

Obviously, the cabinets desperately needed organizing. I pulled everything out of each cupboard and wiped down the shelves, racks and lazy Susans.

Hysterical meowing broke my cleaning reverie as my cats, Thor and Walter, notified me lunchtime was past due. I filled their bowls and heard the timer on the dryer ringing. When you don’t iron, you can’t afford to let your clothes sit in the dryer.

My blinking monitor reminded me I’d barely started this column, so I sat down and wrote the first sentence. That’s when I noticed my email flag waving. After answering and categorizing a multitude of messages, I realized I’d left everything out on the kitchen counters.

Organizing puts me in an absolute Zen state of mind. The beauty of a well-stocked kitchen delights me. By the time I was done, all of the baking and cooking spices were within easy reach, and I’d rearranged the canned and box goods, too.

It was picture-perfect, so of course, I grabbed my phone and took some photos. I posted the pictures on Instagram and congratulated myself on work well done. Then I remembered my paying job. I’d only written about 50 words. Back to the basement I trudged.

As I finish this, it’s almost time to start dinner. Which has me thinking about my pots and pans. Why are the baking sheets so hard to reach? Wouldn’t the colanders and mixing bowls work better in a larger cupboard?

That’s when I started humming. Feel free to sing along.

Procrastination,

Procrastination

Is making me late

Is keeping me waiting

Columns

Hear this rebel yell

Two years.

That’s how long it’s been since we’ve enjoyed live music.

We couldn’t have known that the Aug. 24, 2019, Sammy Hagar concert at Northern Quest would mark the beginning of our live-performance desert, as a global pandemic wiped clean our event calendars.

Thursday night the first drop of musical rain fell for us as Billy Idol wowed a sold-out crowd at Northern Quest.

Sporting more leather jackets than a motorcycle club, Idol and his amazing band brought back my high school memories with a vengeance and reminded me just how much I’ve missed the joy of live music.

Black leather isn’t really my thing, but if I could rock it when I’m 65, the way Idol does, I might reconsider.

After glancing around the dancing crowd, Derek nixed that idea.

“I’m pretty sure Billy’s the only one who can squeeze his 60+ body into his ‘80s clothes and look OK.”

Cindy and Derek Hval at Billy Idol, August 2021

Actually, when Idol first broke into the music scene with Generation X, I was still in middle school wearing culottes with matching vests, handmade by my mother. So, yeah, I was definitely more One Hundred Dorks than “One Hundred Punks.”

By the time he launched his solo career, I was more than ready to give a “Rebel Yell.” Uh, as long as I kept the volume down, so my mom didn’t know I was listening to the “devil’s music.”

One afternoon I thought I was home alone and blasted “White Wedding” on MTV. Let’s just say Mom didn’t believe me when I told her the song was about every girl’s dream wedding.

“Why is he wearing more makeup than the bride?” she asked. “And why isn’t he wearing a shirt?”

Speaking of, evidently, Idol hasn’t added many shirts to his wardrobe since the 1980s. That delighted the Thursday night crowd when he showed off his still youthful abs and flexed his biceps to the accompaniment of the screams of his enthusiastic fans. Out of deference to my husband, I clapped politely and did my screaming on the inside.

His music probably doesn’t make sense to everyone. After all the lyrics to his version of Tommy James’ “Mony Mony” are still pretty incomprehensible.

“Cause you make me feel (like a pony)

So good (like a pony)

So good (like a pony)

So good (Mony Mony)”

Even so, it’s impossible not to dance a bit when that song plays on the oldies station. Yes, I’ve made peace with the fact my high school soundtrack has been relegated to the oldie channels, or worse played in supermarkets and on elevators.

By the way, Idol is a grandparent now, just like many of us who came of age during his prime.

That’s not to say his work is dated. At the concert, he sang his recently released “Bitter Taste.” Recorded during the pandemic, the song reflects on his near-fatal 1990 motorcycle accident.

“Hello, goodbye

There’s a million ways to die

Should’ve left me way back

Should’ve left me way back

By the roadside.”

The contemplative song gave way to more upbeat tunes like “Rebel Yell,” and he ended the show with “White Wedding.”

All in all, Idol’s concert was a fun return to all the things we’ve missed during the pandemic, and it sounded a hopeful note that better days are still to come.

Columns

Happiness Times Two

Absolute joy.

There’s just no other way to describe what it’s like to hold your grandsons in your arms. Though it’s only been three and a half months since our last visit, toddlers grow and change with lightning speed.

When Derek, our youngest son, Sam, and I arrived at the twins’ new home in Newark, Ohio, earlier this month, we wondered if the boys would remember us.

We didn’t wonder long. Sam captured their reactions in a photo. Nick reached for me and buried his head on my shoulder, and Adam gleefully bounded into Derek’s arms. It was so thoughtful of Alex and Brooke to have twins, so each of us gets a boy to hold. And at 20 months, they’re definitely more boys than babies.

Nick has hugs for Nana, while Adam plays with Papa.

In fact, it seems I took more videos than pictures of them this trip because they’re always on the move. One afternoon, as we explored their new town, we decided to let them stroll around the courthouse square. But, just like their father at this age, these guys prefer running to walking.

After all that exertion, we needed to cool down, so we stopped for ice cream. Holding a toddler with an ice cream cone is every bit as messy and as fun as I remembered.

The twins enjoyed exploring the Airbnb home we rented and the wooden blocks we bought were a huge hit. They spent lots of time building block towers and had fun dumping the blocks out of the bucket and putting them back in again.

Speaking of cleaning up, Nick has a passion for sweeping. Every day, he grabbed the broom and made a circuit. Then he went back for the Swiffer. And then the mop. Those wood floors gleamed by the time he was done!

In the evenings we returned to our son’s home for dinner. The house sits on almost an acre and features an in-ground pool. Plenty of room for boys to roam when they get older, but on this visit, the grown-ups cooled off in the big pool while the little ones splashed in their kiddie pool on the gated deck under their mom’s watchful eye.

The days flew by, filled with play, Popsicles and naps, followed by evenings with barbecues and lots of laughter.

I was so delighted that though the twins are busy, active boys, they both enjoy cuddling. They also adored their Uncle Sam. It seems every time he sat down, a twin would run over and climb up on his lap.

Best of all, that snuggling made for perfect story times. As I mentioned in my previous column, I took a stack of board books for the boys with me. Derek gamely packed them in his bag, so I didn’t have to wear the same outfit the entire trip.

Story time with Nana and Adam

We plan one more visit this year before winter and before the twins’ second birthday. I’m already counting down the days – and picking out the books.

Columns

To all the books I’ve loved before…

In my previous column, I wondered if a love of literacy was hardwired in our family DNA. All four of my sons are book lovers like me. I invited readers to share their bookish memories, and it seems that many of you also caught the reading bug young and have no desire to be cured.

Christy Himmelright of the Tri-Cities wrote “I have all the Little Golden Books that my parents bought and read to me. My very favorite was ‘All Aboard!’ about a train trip from home to see Grandma. The protagonist was a girl, and that was almost impossible to find in any adventure story. Also, it appeared that she was an only child (as I am), so identifying with her happened on a very personal level.”

Like me, Himmelright eagerly anticipated trips to the library.

“The best time was summer vacation when I could go to our little town library and check out the maximum number of books that I could read in two weeks. It seems that I was trudging back there often before the two weeks were up and loading up again with the next selection. I also participated in the summer reading contests, and clearly remember the ‘trail’ that wound through the Reading Forest. It started at the checkout desk and meandered along the top of the walls that showed above the box shelves. To go each time I went into the library and find my marker as it moved along the trail was a thrill that I still feel in my long-ago child’s heart.”

Her lifelong love of the written word endures.

“To this day, I have at least two or three books at my living room chair-side, and one on my nightstand for bedtime relaxation,” she wrote. “I cannot imagine life without books, especially the real ones of paper and binding and covers.”

Patricia Garvin of Spokane recalled the magical moment when words came alive for her.

“In 1948, I was in the first grade. We students had a workbook in which there was a story; we were to remove the pages, which folded on dotted lines, into a small booklet. I vividly recall sitting next to my mother and reading the story to her. I still see the line drawings and remember reading to her, ‘…and down the hill came Wee Woman.’ She was as delighted as I!”

Beverly Gibb of Spokane still has a copy of the first book she remembers her mother reading to her.

“My first reading experience was Mom reading me ‘Winnie the Pooh.’ We both loved Piglet the best,” she wrote. “My favorite books were ‘Anne of Green Gables.’ I’m guessing your boys didn’t read those!”

She guessed correctly. My sons didn’t embrace Anne, but on Christmas morning a couple of years ago, my oldest gave me the complete “Anne of Green Gables” collection. He knows how to delight his mama.

Sometimes literature love leads to book-custody issues. That’s what happened to Bernadette Powers of Helena.

She recalled parents joining the Weekly Readers Book Club, which delivered books directly to their door.

“I was in hog heaven getting books in the mail. I still have most of them including my all-time favorite, ‘Half Magic’ by Edward Eager,” she wrote. “The story is delightful and the illustrations are amazing. It also became a favorite of my son, Gannon. He appropriated it when he went off to college. When I went to visit him I appropriated it back. We’ve been stealing it back and forth ever since. He moved from Seattle to California a few years ago. There’s a small part of me that suspects he made the move so it would be harder for me to steal my book.”

Joan Becker, who grew up in Spokane, wrote of her eagerness to start first grade, so she could learn to read. Her best friend was a year older and would read comics to her as long as they were getting along, but if they disagreed? No more comics for Joan.

When she could decipher words by herself, the material the school provided proved disappointing.

“Dick and Jane stories comprised the love and hate relationship of others selecting my reading agenda,” she wrote. “After Dick and Jane made their debut, their interactions were way too repetitive to be captivating. I couldn’t wait to purchase my own comic books and go to the library.”

All who responded still retain their passion for the written word.

“As my 90th birthday approaches, I remember as a 9- or 10- year- old growing up in Capitol Hill in Seattle, going on the bus by myself downtown to the library. In those days there were no branch libraries, and it also seemed OK for a little girl to go alone on the bus,” wrote Muriel Rubens. “My parents read to me as I was growing up, as did my two older brothers and sister. I learned to read at an early age, and I loved it and haven’t stopped since,”

As I write, my suitcase sits open beside me. I’m packing for a trip to Ohio to see my twin grandsons, aka “The World’s Most Beautiful Boys.”

My husband glanced at the mound of stuff I intend to pack. Board books for the boys and a paperback for their big sister lay scattered among clothes. My own stack of reading material teetered nearby.

“You’re never going to fit all that in your suitcase,” he said.

He may be right.

However, one thing is certain, even if I have to wear the same outfit every day for a week; the books are coming with me.