Elizabeth Anne VanderPutten - My Cousin Laurie

Hello and Merry Christmas 2007 to everyone!

As I was putting together my perfect Christmas tree, one already pre-lit thank goodness, (save me from untangling the copious string of lights) I noticed something amiss. My perfect tree has a bad spot! A spot I had to hide from public view! How can a perfect, fake tree fail me? Wasn’t that the whole point to save me from that embarrassment? Somehow, somewhere a light, a single bulb possibly, went out on a string of lights! Or even worse maybe a fuse almost impossible to get to at this point. I was looking at a dark unlit spot snaking itself down my tree. This could not be, these trees are supposed to be perfect, infallible and yet there it was brilliant in its darkness. I would have to do what all good Christmas woodsmen do when faced with this dilemma; turn the tree to hide the ‘bad spot.’ 

When we were little, ok, young picking out the Christmas tree was always an adventure. A trip up into the hills to the tree farm to chop down the perfect tree. Now this is not as easy as it sounds. Dad with 3 girls and little Bob in tow, saw in hand, and would traipse down the hill off into the woods (ok, the rows.) Mom on the other hand, the director, would stand at the top near the fire (hmmm) and point to ‘the’ tree. Though it seemed it was never the one we were standing near! “Not that one move over two, no back a row, now to your right, no my right, hmmmm, go left, no my left” Of course this is being shouted across the mountain tops (ok, rows) and I often wondered if there were other people running from tree to tree at the directions from this disembodied voice from on high. Some how we always came home with the perfect tree, though it might have needed some ‘touching up’ from dad and maybe it needed to be turned just the right way so the more perfect side was facing out, but it was definitely the perfect tree! 

Paul and I carried that tradition forward to our girls one year. They were little but old enough to have the fun of the experience. After the 6 hour round trip to the farm, the cold (yes it gets cold here) and the outrageous cost of the perfect tree, the tradition now lives on in our hearts and minds to be passed on to future generations. 

In the news- 

Paul- Still at Lockheed 24 years now and working on the JSF program. There is a kayak waiting in the garage with his name on it what can that mean? 

Me- I am still working at TCU with all my ‘kids’. You shouldn’t be allowed to have this much fun at work! I still work out almost daily looking forward to the day you don’t have to do it anymore… (what?) 

Stephanie- Still works at Central Market. She is now doing catering, you would be talking to her if you want to set up an event and order all your food. She does everything from start to even help deliver! She has been quite the world traveler this year! She has zip-lined the rain forest of Honduras, took her best friend to New York to show her the big city, and of course the little trips to neighboring states. She says hi. 

Andrea- Andrea is settling into life in Virginia. After a number of months of pounding the pavement and a job that was ill suited and thank goodness only interim, she landed a job in social work! She now is a case worker at the Barry Robinson Center. www.barryrobinson.org. I could go into more detail, but we are not here for a novel. Enough to say that she is thrilled and so are they.

Paul and I took a trip to see Andrea and Tony in Virginia in October. It was a lot of fun; we met Tony’s parents, Richard and Kathy, wonderful people. Andrea had quite the itinerary planned for us but seeing her after so long was all we really needed. We did have a wonderful cruise to Hawaii (see last letter) some flight issues because it’s on the other side of the earth and the major snow storm taking place in Colorado at that time. Paul is quite smitten with the islands to say the least, which I rarely do. Now every trip is, ‘let’s go to Hawaii!’ (save me). Then there was the fabulous trip to Key West and Camp Cypress House to see the family. The counselors there (Gary, Jan, Tom and Joan and let’s not forget Dave!) are tough but fun.

In addition: 

Martha and Jeff have moved to (do not laugh) Pflugerville, Texas. Jeff took a transfer to an area just outside Austin, Texas and Pflugerville is where they put down stakes. Martha was just hired on at the new hospital and things are all green eggs and ham down there Sam I am. 

Barbara Marie and Scott- Barbara is still in Germany and Scott is still in Iraq. He still has a few months left on his 18 so next Christmas they can spend together. 

Mom and dad are doing great, never seem to stop moving. Dad celebrated his 80th birthday in February and we all went to NM to witness the event. 

Of course this was the year that we had to say good-bye to Andrea. We don’t do good-byes well in this family. We are a close family though it seems we are being spread out a bit now. I could say we shed a tear or two, but let’s face it, the neighbors must have thought they were transported to the Wailing Wall! Needless to say Tony kept a low profile.

Every year I give my daughters a Christmas ornament for the tree. In January Andrea packed hers up for her own perfect tree and her own traditions some that have been passed on through the family. 

Martha and Jeff must now pick out the perfect tree in, well, you know and start a new set of traditions while keeping the old.

Everybody has their own idea of the perfect tree. For some it comes in a box with pre-strung lights, for some you go and cut it down with your family around you--with a little help from the ‘voices’. For others it might even be an aluminum tree with a red, blue and green rotating light (please don’t ask me why). For my cats it has to be within reach, and edible enough to vomit up on the carpet later as a little green Christmas present for me. They are very festive cats, always ready to celebrate the season! So with them and the rest of my family we wish you the merriest of Christmas’ and the best wishes for the New Year

“The perfect Christmas tree? All Christmas trees are perfect!"
~ Charles N. Barnard, American author, travel writer

Laurie Loken
December 18, 2007