29 Aug 1983
Mon Afternoon

Dear Mom & Dad,

Glad to hear you survived the family reunion. Sounds like we missed a real showdown this year. It must be the summer heat that makes people so stubborn & cranky. I think Michael wrote you his opinion about the name of the Sullins-Hankins Cemetery, didn't he? He has to get his two cents in.

By the time you get this letter we will be in or will have been to Florence. We've got reservations through the USO at a hotel called Soggiorno Nazionale at Via Nazionale, 22, near most of the interesting places. This "mini vacation" should prove interesting with the kids. They probably won't get too excited about art galleries, museums and old buildings and churches. We'll leave here Friday night and spend the night somewhere around Rome on the Autostrada (main toll road) and then drive on into Florence Saturday. We'll spend Saturday and Sunday night there [3 & 4 September] and then drive about 7 hours Monday to come home.

This last Saturday we went to Cuma which is about 15 miles from our house. Cuma is the oldest Greek ruins in all of Italy. There are a couple of old temple ruins, amphitheater and a lot of tunnels there. The people lived under the hill in caves and tunnels they had dug out. It dates back to about 800 B.C., I think. It was kind of eerie to think of those people living like that.

We spent about an hour there and then we went to the beach. We couldn't go in the water 'cause they said it was too polluted that day. They check it daily, I think. We played in the sand and ate a picnic lunch. The kids enjoyed it even though we didn't get to swim.

Saturday night Michael and I went out to eat with Vic & Sandy Sharp. Vic is an Internal Medicine doctor here. They are about our age and have an almost 3-year-old daughter named Rachel and a 15-month-old son named Zachary. We left the kids with the Sharp's regular babysitter, Saraya, who is Iranian. She's married to an American and left Iran when all the trouble started there. She seems very competent, but I don't think either one of my kids liked the strange people and strange house. Steven took up with Saraya's husband, Don. He still prefers men.

Sunday after church the American congregation had a joint picnic with the Italian congregation at Carney Park. That was interesting. What in the world do you take to a picnic to share with people who cook all day long? I ended up taking 2 gallons of Koolaid for the kids, 5 pounds of baked beans in my crock pot and a strawberry cake. I don't think the Italians touched my baked beans. They probably didn't know what they were. They were very good -- the Americans ate them. The Italians "pigged out" on my strawberry cake. They like pretty foods, especially if they are sweet. I just barely got a piece. It went quickly. There was so much pasta there in every shape & form. Michael & I didn't even bother with supper that night. The kids snacked on cheese & crackers. I'm still not hungry.

We had a storm the other night. Strong winds and rain - not much lightning - just a lot of wind. The window in the downstairs bathroom was not secured and it blew open and broke the glass in it. I showed it to our landlord today. I'm sure he'll have someone come out and replace it soon. We probably ought to pay for it since we neglected to close it. (It swings open like a door.)

We do have thunder and lightning storms occasionally, but not anything like in Arkansas, so far. It all seems to be up higher in the sky. They just don't seem as threatening here. They may get worse this winter when it rains so much, though.

Our neighbor is from Washington state where they seldom get electrical storms. She says she has to muster up a lot of courage to keep from crawling under the bed during these electrical storms here. I told her she better not live in Arkansas then. Her husband is a ship repairman, so there's probably not much chance of them moving to Arkansas.

Besides from that one hot week in July, we've had a rather mild summer. I don't think it's been above the 80's F except for that one long week in July. It is rather muggy here so close to the sea, but it's always comfortable in the house since there usually is a breeze.

Have you gotten the tape & pictures yet? They should be there soon if you haven't.

I got the impression from Diane's letter that they had made a videotape of the Pace party at your house. Is that right? And all our family was there except Rex & Barbara? (and us of course)

Diane is gonna send us some Sesame Street tapes and some of Laura's favorite tapes.

Angelique has been watching the "Wizard of Oz" (twice). It kind of scares her some. She buries her head in a pillow and says she's "gonna take a little nap" any time the wicked witch comes on. But she can't stand not to watch it, so she's right back up within a few seconds.

Steven likes the lion, winged monkeys and the dog on the movie. He was watching it last night and started telling us about his "keeta bite" (mosquito bite). He'll watch some of the cartoon tapes we have borrowed, but always prefers to watch Sesame Street tapes.

I'm glad Brandon's potty training is going well. We haven't officially started Steven's training. We've "caught" him a few times just as he's beginning to dirty his diaper and put him on the potty chair. He knows what it's for, but we're not pushing him yet. If I trained him now, I'd have to go with him 7 or 8 times a day to the bathroom to help him pull his pants down and up - especially with fall and winter coming up soon and long heavy pants. It's much easier to just change his diaper 4 or 5 times a day now - usually at my convenience.

It looks like I'm gonna have to get up and kill several flies. They're trying to carry me off, I think.

Michael is on beeper call tonight, so this may be an interesting evening - or boring.



P.S. The kids enjoy their letters.

29 Aug
Monday Night

Well! Michael came home with the video tape of the reunion in hand. It got here pretty quick, huh? It was great! I've never seen so many shy, giggly people. The kids were fascinated to see people they know on TV. We kept watching for Papaw. When he finally got there Steven said, "There's Papaw!" and kept saying it every time Papaw came on. Angelique remembered all the family, but there were a lot of strange faces to her also. I think Steven knew Papaw, Granny Lee, Diane, Laura, & probably Kem, Brenda & Bill. I'm not sure about Lanney, Cheryl & Brandon.

Now I know why everyone here comments on our Southern accent. I couldn't believe everyone's accent on the tape! It's been so long since I've heard anyone else's Arkansas accent that it really sounded strange to me. I guess that's the way I sound to everyone here. It kind of "sticks out" from all the other accents around here.

Ann Cummings, our neighbor, dropped by while the tape was running. She couldn't believe how "normal" and "orderly" everything looked in the States. Here nothing is normal looking -- including clothes -- and no Italian would know how to wait in line to get his food. At our church picnic we Americans went in line to get our food while the Italians just sort of "swarmed" to get their food.

Everyone looked good on the tape. Does Laura like her new hairdo? Has she picked up some extra pounds? She looked heavier than I remember her. Maybe it was just the clothes she had on. Cheryl looked real good. Brandon still looks big, but not as chunky as I remember. Brenda was funny in her segment with Kem. We appreciate Kem's Harding update.

The tape preempted Sesame Street when Michael got home. It's midnight now. Michael & I just watched it again after we watched "Fire Fox" - the movie that Bill recorded on the same tape. He also put some children's programs on the very end of the tape. Maybe the kids will get to watch that tomorrow. I'm sure they will want to watch the reunion portion over again - several times probably.

Steven got one of our blank cassette tapes out earlier today and brought it to me saying, "Granny Lee tape." He wanted to make another tape to send to you.

Mother - next time don't turn your back to the camera or avoid it or whatever. I think we saw less of you than anyone else.

Get your passports. I know they are expensive, but it will be worth it. Believe me. I think Michael's parents are planning to come in March. Actually, April, May, June or September or October will be the best months to come. It will still be cold in March, but I think it's probably cheaper.

I've got to get to bed. Write soon.



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