Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

16 November 2004


My dad sent me the first draft of his annual Christmas letter.

The big news of the year is Camp La Verne moved. After about seven years at Baseline 91750, we determined it was time to downsize. Since Aaron and Mike have both left the nest, it was time to eliminate the vast caverns of empty rooms. So in a matter of days, we bought the Hanawalt Villa. It is located at 2740 Hanawalt Street, La Verne in case the Christmas card you sent us came back already. The house has fewer rooms, but the floor plan has space for a business office for Chris & Kim and a creative office for Deborah adjacent or included in her bedroom, depending on the use of the retractable divider. So Aaron took the couch, Mike got some useless stuff out of the attic, and the rest went to the thrift store or is in a small storage unit. Downsizing can be exhausting. All the vital paraphernalia we did manage to squeeze in somehow. Everyone needs to keep their 3-foot singing snowman for the holidays! So we are back in business, better than ever, at Hanawalt, snowman and all.

KIM is moving with the speed of a tornado on multiple fronts. Her guidance counseling has received rave reviews from parents, students, and board members at the school. With no Vice Principal, she was able to contribute ideas to student scheduling and class accreditation. She also helped organize graduation and the Academic Awards Night. This was the most well attended awards ceremony in anyone's memory. Over 500 awards were given out, in a lovely semi-formal atmosphere. One parent was brought to tears by the invitations alone. Keeping track of the Hanawalt cash flow, paperwork and schedules at home is also on the agenda. Even with all this on the plate, she still manages to support others and her sons from afar, who seem to manage to coerce her into a free haircut whenever needed.
AARON is ecstatic about starting a new job. After working for one accounting firm since the summer of '95, he left the minimum wage treatment for Avjet. This is an executive jet leasing firm, so we are hoping that a few years there and he will accrue "family flight hours". Although he misses his comrade in arms for many years, Nancy, he enjoys both the new challenge and the time and a half pay for overtime. He has continued directing, putting together a summer version of Taming of the Shrew. Set at the beach, the bikini-clad actors made for a fun evening at Cal State Long Beach. Aaron also had a terrific interview for the Master's program at UCLA that lead him to the decision to apply for a Doctorate Program. Hence, he expended time studying for the GRE with fine results, and is selecting school possibilities. He also took the election season to heart and determined to be a cabinet member of his condominium association. Voting on what type of landscaping for the building is important for long range financial responsibility. He seems to thoroughly enjoy his location in Pasadena, but occasionally regrets the length of drive to his base of directing operations at Cal-Poly. He had a successful fall program, a mad-cap comedy about a salesman making a trip to Valparaiso, Indiana who is diverted to Valparaiso, Florida and then Valparaiso, South America. The salesman begins the talk-show circuit, which has a tragic end on a Jerry Springer-like revelation show. Aaron also worked as dialect coach for Cal-Poly on their winter production. This is all progress toward a full-time life in academia. Cheers.
MICHAEL continues to expand the universe of property ownership, attempting to earn the moniker of Trump Jr. He has purchased property in Alabama, Texas and Ohio. He keeps vacillating between owning ½ of greater Dallas-Fortworth and owning a property in all 50 states. Either goal is admirable even if only partially fulfilled. He continues to use his sales savvy in California real estate, as he urges others to invest in the high-flying market. "Remember I don't just sell houses, I turn your dreams into reality!" As his portfolio expands he has managed to tighten the deficit spending on other items, limiting his purchases to a small plasma T.V. and furniture for the house. He had to make some home improvements since he did not change houses, yet. He is happy Aaron is working for Avjet so that some one will keep a close eye on his Lear Jet, once he has enough money to buy one. He has two roommates, recruited by Deborah, so that at least now there is decent food in the house. He has cut most other activities, except for the gym… the slacker.
DEBORAH has switched schools and is now enrolled at Mt. Sierra College. She is entered into the bachelor's degree program, majoring in multi-media design. This was a big change from Cal-Poly, but the fast pace and intensity of the work is much more to her liking. This was evidenced by her promptly making the Dean's Honor Roll. Pretty good for someone who has never had an art class. She sometimes struggles with the raw drawing, but the computer generated skills required give her an advantage. She put this to good use pulling together some creative power-point presentations that were used at the Academic Awards… "You're welcome, Mom." She has improved at appearing interested when her dad goes off on his political tangents. She has learned to nod and smile with an occasional, "That totally makes sense," as she exits the room. She did a fabulous job selecting the flowers for the landscaping, choosing the patio tile and furniture and assembling cabinets and installing a ceiling fan. She also overruled Rick the painter in selecting the paint for the house and it resulted in an awesome combination. So the eye-for-design is already paying home dividends. Next is the bathroom, faux gray with sponge paint where?
CHRIS was blind-sided by work, and assumed the role of Chief Compliance Officer. Since this is a mandatory position, under the scrutiny of the federal regulators, he either does the job right or joins Martha Stewart in a low security penitentiary for securities violations. If you see the Thomas name on the cover of the Wall Street Journal it could be a bad sign, and you may receive a request to bake a cake with a file in it. (Pineapple upside down is one of my favorites.) So with that occupying most of his mental energy he has not devoted as much time to educational or writing pursuits. He still continues to research the wisdom of Proverbs in an attempt to convert it to a Christian business manuscript. Time will tell. Retirement is in the dream-reality phase and seems possible each time Mike looks at a property, Aaron directs a potential Broadway play, or Deborah designs the next Swoosh…I am an optimist! Still the pot of gold remains at the end of the daily rainbow that leads him to his Sweetheart. Oh, Hart to Hart is on again!
Meet the Miniatures: Hannah and Mia Streeter are two adorable girls that Deborah baby-sits while Sheila (their Mom) is working. The Streeter family was the previous Hanawalt residents, Mike's clients, and Sheila works for the Thomas's financial advisor…are you confused by all the connections? The "miniatures" is the title our 8 year old niece, Emily, gave them when she could not remember their names. We still refer to them collectively that way. Hannah is already 4, feisty and with blonde hair she is reminiscent of a certain feisty 19 year old princess. With Deborah as her mentor, who needs cloning? Mia is the "terrible two" who has such a cute grin it is hard to scold her. Mr. Chris seems to enjoy tossing them into the air or swiffering the floor with them, but I think his favorite thing is building the Hannahpire State Building out of Legos. Sheila must be wondering what she got herself into. "Spinning in the computer chair like the Disneyland Teacups is only allowed at Hanawalt."

Originally, we thought that we would stay in the house for two years (not that taxes had anything to do with it) and move for profit again. But after only 6 months, we are starting to feel very comfortable and may stay for good. Since we only bounced about 2 miles, we still kept access to all of our old stomping grounds and just gained access to some new ones. That's strange, I never noticed that Chinese furniture store next to the seven eleven before we moved. That will be helpful in the event I find a need for Chinese furniture. Yes, moving can open your eyes to new things. The size or location of where you live should never the limit the space in your heart. Our Christmas hope is that you open your heart to the love of family and friends wherever you live, and that your vision will be sharpened to the memories you are yet to make. May the PEACE, JOY and LOVE of the season carry you into 2005 with the HOPE of even greater tomorrows.

The letter is notable for a couple of reasons: 1) My dad does not see the need for hyphens with his noun-modifiers; 2) he makes the whole fam sound like we're in constant communication... he was always good at that; and most shockingly 3) the name "Jesus" is not mentioned once.

The phrase "reason for the season," hugely overused during the holidays, is also welcomely absent. My dad is far too inventive for clichés like that. I like this year's letter. There have been years when I have hated it. It even says "Cheers" this year. Good times.