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Best wishes for an intriguing 2015

30 Dec



Mary and Bruce at Mt. Rainier National Park

By Bruce Summers, Personal Historian, Summoose Tales,

I was a bit delayed getting out my holiday season message — 2014 was a busy and event filled year.

Holiday Photo at Phipps Conservatory by Bryce Summers 2014

2014 Holiday photo by Bryce Summers

The first half of 2014 was filled with expectations as my youngest child waited for college acceptance letters – yea or nay, with mostly yeas from good schools. I think I suffered more from the parent version of “senioritus” than she did from the high school senior version.


Marching band trophies

My focus was on the last “this” – last District Band Concert, the last “that” – my last high school volunteering gig – helping out at her All Night Grad party, and the last time I had to wake up at 6 am to get one of my children up for school:)

As a Personal Historian and as a father I focused on capturing photos of her senior year – putting over a hundred photos together featuring many highlights of the year in a PowerPoint with captions. Perhaps one day this will be a photo book that she can share with her grandchildren.

The middle of the year focused on Graduation, my kids transitioning home, and then they were off again to work on the other side of the country or on an overseas service trip. We spent enjoyable days at Bethany Beach, DE, with my ever-present digital voice recorder capturing a few more family stories from my parents. I never tire of re-hearing fresh versions of old stories and I love hearing newly remembered stories they have not talked about for decades or perhaps ever.

I introduced adult “Show and Tell” at my Family Reunion with great results. Lots of family members brought objects or pictures to show and of course lots of family lore to tell.

My mother talked about her grandfather carving walking sticks and making fans. She and her cousins talked about the quilts their grandmother made for each of them. My first cousins all reacted with a “no way!” when told that their mother had been a baton twirler in high school. We learned that one of my aunts stole her cousin’s boy-friend during a sleigh ride. We heard that my great-aunt met her future husband because he threw a penny, with a note wrapped around it, out of a train window on his way to ship overseas for service in World War I.

20140713_182737 Richard Chichester handcrafted caneShow and Tell for Family Reunion

My great-grandfather Chichester carved walking sticks and made wooden fans

This was just the tip of the family story iceberg; 90-year-old photo albums came out which we cross-referenced. We figured out who great-great uncle William was, the one who aunt Margaret (as a child) saw laid out on the pool table during her visit to her grandmother. He had died, cutting her visit short. We pondered why my grandmother was born at a summer camp, and then we saw pictures of the annual New York Life Insurance summer camp for families, hmm… may that is the connection.

20140712_192424 Palisades Intestate Park

Was my grandmother born during New York Life Insurance summer camp at this park?

Later in the summer we had a great family trip to Mexico and explored the ancient Mayan city of Coba where we climbed pyramids and explored the gaming courts. If this city was fully recovered from the surrounding jungle it would be the second largest city in the world (geographically). This all was very exciting since I dreamed of being an archaeologist in my youth.


We climbed the Nohoch Mul pyramid at the Mayan ruins in Coba

Then my wife and I celebrated a wonderful 25th Wedding Anniversary to Washington State with my brother and sister-in-law. We had a great time hiking and exploring “Paradise” at Mount Rainier National Park and then toured Washington Wine Country in the Yakima and Columbia River Valleys. This brought back great memories of our own Summers family agribusiness that lasted for over 100 years.


Sunrise at Mount Rainier was spectacular

During the Fall we had great trips to visit our children at college whilst seeing plays and watching marching bands perform. We visited Fallingwater and Monticello.

IMG_20141005_125957678_HDR IMG_20141005_130025375_HDR

Frank Lloyd’s Wright’s “Fallingwater” is spectacular

At Thanksgiving we all participated in Thanksgiving Show and Tell again by showing objects and photos and sharing family stories and laughs.

To wrap up the year as the kids returned from college we did several activities. There was the extended family viewing of the third part of the Hobbit. We went on excursions to the Mall and other stores in order to buy, return, window shop, exchange and return gifts. There were trips to and from Union Station and the airport to pick up or drop off our children. We attended and hosted holiday celebrations. We visited my hometown to spend Christmas with my parents.

It has been busy and bustling year with just enough time for my son to successfully assemble the new Christmas deer that lights up our front lawn and for us to watch It’s a Wonderful Life and other memorable movies. We also spent time organizing and supporting a service and outreach project at our church where we assembled over 700 snack-packs for local charities.

It has been a good year to be a personal historian. I was elected to serve on the international board of directors for the Association of Personal Historians where I will be focusing on Regional Operations. I completed interviews and transcripts for one client. I continue to work on two books for another client. I have the forty digital voice recordings from Show and Tell at the Family Reunion, a few dozen more recordings of my parent’s and other family members’ stories and I am starting interviews to capture early stories for the 60th Anniversary of my church.

I hope you and your family are having a joyous holiday season. I hope you take some time to snap a few personal and family photos, schedule time to do a family show and tell or to record a few stories. If you need help contact me or one of my colleagues in the Association of Personal Historians.

I wish you an intriguing and memorable 2015.


May you life be inspired by sunrises and sunsets


Spring Break – my son danced at the wedding

29 Mar

College can be busy, busy, busy especially during the “Spring” semester, which is really the winter semester when you have lots of sub-zero temperatures and more than a dozen snows, and your college does not really believe in closing for snow days or cold days, it’s a busy grind.

So I am guessing Spring Break came at a good time, arguably. The timing was also just right for me and for my son to take a road trip to Dayton, Ohio for my cousin’s wedding.

20140314_153803 Stran, Bryce, Peggy, Mike, and David

This would be my youngest cousin on my Mom’s side one of ten children. His oldest brother and sister are over 20 years older. He has two cousins that are about the same age.

The good news is that all eight of his surviving brothers and sisters, my three brothers and I, and his Aunt and Uncle (my parents) were all able to attend the wedding.

20140314_164906 9 Bells and Kelly

This is perhaps the first time in one or more decades that all 13 first cousins were able to gather in the same state much less the same place at the same time.

We are scattered up and down the East Coast, in Ohio, and Mississippi, busy with work, children, grandchildren, one is retired, some like my daughter are dealing with “Senioritus”, others have children coming and going from college, study abroad, sports, music and the myriad events of busy lives.

So my son and I drove up the day of the wedding. It was a Friday afternoon, lots of time to chat on the way from Virginia to Ohio. He asked me about the groom, his bride to be, he knew he had a lot of Aunts and Uncles (second cousins) but he could not really picture most of them. Family events and reunions help some, but there are so many of them.

He asked, will any of my cousins (his generation) be there? I shared I did not know though my brothers and parents were all coming.

So we pulled up to the hotel, well almost to the hotel, and there was my mom and my youngest brother walking up the drive with a bag of sandwiches, they wanted to get a quick bite before the afternoon wedding.

We had not even gotten out of the car when I started pointing out a couple of his uncles (my cousins). We walked in the door, and immediately saw more uncles and aunts and their spouses and cousins (his generation this time).

Some were dressed up in Tuxes ready to head over to the wedding, some were still in “street” clothes about to head upstairs to change. All were buzzing…


Lots of hugs and kisses and they started greeting my son by name. Perhaps he wondered, how do they know my name, but they of course (as all cousins do) know all about the next generation, since each one is unique, and besides, they knew he was coming and he was standing next to me and perhaps he does look a bit like I did 35 years ago when we were all young.

So we get to the wedding and we start to gather at the back – two, four, eight, twelve cousins (my generation) and surprising quite a few of his cousins (my son’s third cousins they figured out while getting to know each other). Then we started to slow slip in and “invade” the grooms side, row after row of cousins and spouses, my Mom and Dad, then the next three generations.

While we waited, we felt compelled to snap hundreds of photos of each other, a joyous gathering.

20140314_153840 Frank, Sue, Emily and Terry Bell 20140314_155721

It was a beautiful wedding, then there was the Groom’s side photos, the nine cousins, then with my Mom and Dad, then with me and my three brothers all proud to be there for the happy day.

Finally we all got in various cars and drove to the reception – the photo booth – tons of snapshots, some funny poses, some with costume props.

After a filling meal, then there was dancing. It was not too long before my son hit the dance floor with this aunt or that aunt, two aunts, three aunts or four aunts, many cousins. I think he talked with every aunt, every uncle, most cousins, and several non-cousins who were also there for the wedding.


20140314_210755 Bells and Summers 31414

I have to admit, his dancing was infectious and many of us joined in and before I knew it I was also dancing with cousins and nieces, celebrating my cousin’s wedding and the reunion of so many family members. It was a grand time.

20140314_202056  20140314_181601 Jane and Tom Summers

Afterwards most of us gathered together again in the hotel foyer/and a side room to continue to share stories and catch up on the extended family news and even though none of us were hungry we somehow finished off 77 out of 80 White Castle cheeseburgers.

The next morning – round three with more stories from my cousins as we shared breakfast, then hugs and kisses as we started to prepare to head back to college, to our homes, and are separate yet connected lives.

My son seemed to enjoy dancing at the wedding as did I, one of my cousins told me 40 years ago, “Just you wait!” Perhaps she was predicting that there would be times for dancing, for weddings, for remembering family stories, and renewing family ties across the generations. Spring Break was over, I dropped my son at college and headed home where my daughter and I are experiencing Senioritus.



Senioritis – My daughter turned 18

29 Mar

Good news and bad news, my daughter turned 18. The good news is she is still at home, she’s a high school senior so we have her with us for a few more months. More good news she got into five colleges including her first two choices.


Today it is raining and overcast but the snow is likely over until next Fall at the earliest. My daughter is on a band trip in Orlando, hopefully having a great time at Disney World, they performed in one of the Theme Parks today.

The bad news, my daughter turned 18. Since she’s our youngest, what does that mean? Does that make me old, well certainly a bit older and a tad grayer than when she was born? So far it seems ok, yet she is no longer a child, though I can still remember holding her on my shoulder in church while I balanced a hymnal and sang joyfully.

She will have to choose between some pretty good colleges, we are of course very proud of her, she has worked really hard.

The rain means, though my daughter is away and I don’t have to take her to play soccer or in an Ultimate tournament or…, that I also can’t take some of my “found” time to get my spring vegetables planted, or do a bit of trimming of the shrubs that need pruning.

More good news – I can see and sit on my sofa. It seems like it has been covered for a couple of years, well at least partially by daughter’s school books and assorted papers or her laptop, or English assignments, then there are the Spanish articles, the annotated notes, first draft, second draft, band schedules, and of course my daughter spends several hours a day sitting in the corner with her laptop and mobile phone reviewing, writing, researching.


The bad news is it gets a bit quiet when our busy high school senior is away even when it is only for four days. We miss our sofa, but I think we will miss our daughter even more.

Related see – Senioritis Checklist – Parent Version – Updated 2.17.14

Senioritis Checklist – Parent Version – Updated 2.17.14

17 Feb

Yes, I think it is catching.  It’s just February and I think I am coming down with the parent version of high school senioritis. Below is a review of my checklist of symptoms.  I think I may have a mild case, but there is still a lot of senior year to go.

  • Yes – College Applications done, early action results back, ok she’s going to college
    • Yes – No longer checking the mail box each day for college promotional mail
    • But she is still waiting until late March or April to hear back from the other four.
    • Good news/bad news just six more weeks of waiting and pondering.
  • Yes – Trip to Barnes and Nobel to buy AP Study Guides
  • Financing the second child through college –
    • (In process – )Gathering and processing Tax records,
    • Yes – Completed CSS Profile X two,
    • Yes – Completed FAFSA X two,
    • What about scholarships, grants, and loans?
  • Band Concerts –
    • Yes – Last Marching Band Performance
    • Yes – Last District Band concert,
    • Yes – Last Winter Concerts
    • Run through for the State Assessment Concert.
    • Spring Band Trip
    • Last Spring Concerts
  • Who’s accepted offers from which colleges?
    • Yes – Great to get the news about her friends
    • Many are still waiting to hear
  • Getting up at 6 am every school day morning.
    • Yes – (? there are a few more weeks of winter) – Check if School is closed due to snow, extreme cold, is there a 2 hour delay…
    • Make sure my daughter is up, gets breakfast, pack lunch, then off to school.
    • Yes – Pondering what happens when I do not have to get up at 6 am to get a child off to school for the first time in 8 years, hmmm……….???
  • Graduation in June
    • Yes it is too early to send out announcement
    • Let’s get through AP tests first
    • Probably can wait a bit  to Put out the “Graduate” yard sign since no one will see it in the snow drifts
    • Sign up to volunteer for All-Night Grad Party
    • Yes – Reflect with spouse re: remember when she was little and…


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