7 Dec 1983
Wed Afternoon

Dear Mom & Dad,

Surprise! Here's our phone number -

If I understand correctly, this is the number for you to call direct to our house. 011 is for all European numbers. 39 is for Italy. 81 is for Naples (area code, I suppose) and 867-7747 is our exchange and number. Again let me stress, it is much cheaper for you to call us than for us to call you. Therefore, we will not be calling regularly. You, however, are welcome to call, but remember we are 7 hours ahead of you. 6:30 AM there is 1:30 PM here. Noon in Searcy is 7:00 PM here, etc. If you call after 5:00 PM your time, we will be fast asleep here. We would appreciate a call whenever you all get together for Christmas.

We appreciate the Thanksgiving video. Tell me more about your lot and house plans. How would you feel if we bought an adjoining lot? We may not ever build on it, but we have this money just sitting in the bank. If the value of this property is going to go up, it may be a good investment for us. Who knows, you may decide you want a couple more acres some day and want to buy ours. Do you have an opinion as to which adjoining lot is the best one?

11 Dec
Sunday Morning

I've been rather occupied the last few days. I've got the latest virus going around. I've been sneezing, little sore throat, aches and pains and diminished appetite. This started Friday. Michael was off yesterday, so he helped me some then by watching the kids and fixing meals with some assistance. He's on call at the hospital all day and night today, so I've got to tend kids and myself today. They are playing with their toys right now. I'm sure they will wander back in later wanting to watch cartoons.

Angelique had a touch of it Thursday night. She got up and vomited and went back to bed. Friday morning she seemed to be fine so I went ahead and took her to school. They were having their first field trip on Friday and she thought she just couldn't miss it. She was fine. They rode on a big plush bus to downtown Naples to the San Martino Museum. I think the bus ride was just as exciting to them as the museum. She said she saw lots and lots of statues, coaches, and big precepios. That's Italian for nativity scenes.

Nativity scenes are an Italian tradition and they get very elaborate with them. They are beginning to use Christmas trees more and more. We bought one last Sunday on the Italian economy. We paid $25 for a 10-foot tree. We had to cut it off just a little bit to get our angel on top. It is some kind of pine, but I'm not sure what the name of the tree is. We had seen them for sale in the States, but have never bought this kind. They get them from Northern Italy up in the Alps somewhere. It is a very "open" tree, that is with lots of spaces between the branches, so it takes a lot of ornaments to decorate it from top to bottom and inside to out.. But it's really pretty.

I had picked up some wooden Pinocchios for the tree early this Fall. The kids like those. Steven has taken it upon himself to pick up any icicles that fall off and put them back on the tree. Angelique is so excited about Christmas, and Steven is picking up on that. He's learning to sing a few Christmas carols. The other day I glanced at him over by the tree. I said, "Steven, what are you doing?" He said, "I'm not touching it. I'm just looking at it."

[scribbling of a 2-year-old, not reproduced here]

Well, now you have a sample of Steven's art work. Somewhere in all that is an airplane he said. Yes, I helped him write his name. He can spell his name aloud, but not write it yet.

Angelique's school had an open house the other night. I talked with Angelique's teacher. She said Angelique is a good student and well behaved. Not perfect - but good. She thought I ought to have Angelique tested at our grade school here to see at what level she is reading. I have mixed feelings about it. I guess I need to talk to our new neighbor, Dr. Jim Corey, about it. He's the psychologist at the elementary school here. He'll probably have an opinion about it. I don't want her feeling superior or weird because of her reading. Yet her teacher felt we ought to be aware of what level she was at in order to have appropriate material available -- not too easy so as to bore her and not too hard so as to frustrate her.

By this Spring, we've got to decide whether to put Angelique in public kindergarten at Pinetamare where there are 30 in a class and a daily bus ride or keep her in Paddington where they have about 8 in their kindergarten class. It will cost to send her to Paddington, but she'll get much more attention there. Plus Steven will probably go 2 days a week there next year, so it would be very convenient to have them both in the same place. I'm not sure what we'll do. The way they have the kindergarten set up at Pinetamare, the kids go in the morning for half of the year and then switch and go in the afternoon for the other half of the year. They don't have room to run 4 kindergarten classes, so they run 2 sections twice a day. Angelique still takes a nap in the afternoons so I'm not sure how she would adjust to that. I guess I need to talk to the first grade teachers and get their opinion on which kindergarten seems to be best. The Paddington teachers say that the first grade teachers say that Paddington students do better than the Pinetamare public students do.

Oh well, surely all that can wait until after Christmas. We've got enough to do between now and then. We have several parties we are supposed to attend. We may skip a few of them. The hospital is having one for the kids next Sunday afternoon. The kids will like that.

Have your passports come in yet? Have you talked to a travel agent lately? What's going on? We're still holding May open for you.

Sunday Night

Well I survived the day, but I'm tired and need to get to bed. I am feeling some better, but still ache all over. Surely I'll be over this in a few days.

The enclosed sealed envelope contains an explanation of the Christmas gifts to be read after the gifts are opened.

Buon Natale (Merry Christmas)

Buying gifts to ship back home was more difficult than I thought -- something that would pack easy, rather small, not break, serve a purpose, etc. It is especially hard to buy for men here. After racking our brains for 3 months, I finally gave up and got Italian silk ties for everyone. Sorry about that. I wanted to send something special, but Italians are too practical to make neat things for men at a reasonable price.

It is a different story for women. They make everything under the sun to appeal to women. We picked these trays up in Florence. They are supposedly hand painted. If we were here for 20 years (oh, goodness!) I could continually find neat and unusual things to send back to you girls. The leather bookmarkers are also from Florence.

American toys are much superior quality than European toys -- unless you can find the good wooden toys that come from up around Germany. I got Brandon and Christian's toys at a nice shop on the NATO base that sells these better toys. I hope they are into pencils already. "Baby Johns" (Kem & Brenda's) little clown jump toy came from there also. They are supposed to be non-toxic. Cheryl, I'm sorry we didn't find out about your pregnant condition until after we had mailed these presents.

Laura's mandolin came from Sorrento. We have one hanging on our bedroom wall, but I think it's fairly sturdy for a young lady to play with.

Allan's puppet knight came from Sicily. No, we haven't been to Sicily, yet, but a Sicilian company had a weekend booth on the Naval Base a few months ago and that's where I got it. It looks rather fragile and hard to handle, but maybe a 10-year-old can figure it out.

Mother, the chicken pitcher also came from Sorrento. It looks so cute with liquid pouring out of it's beak. We got us one, too. Steven loves to drink juice from our chicken. He asks for "more chicken juice." The pin is Capodimonte, made here in Naples. The normal Capodimonte are big ceramic floral arrangements. I was delighted to find these delicate little pins. Capodimonte is shipped all over the world.

The clackers came from Sorrento and are said to be of olive wood.

Guys, I'll have a whole year to find something better for you next year. I'm open to suggestions. I hope nothing was damaged in the shipment, but after watching our postmen here on the base tossing packages around the other day, I'm not going to be surprised if several things are damaged. Feel free to exchange ties or trays as the need may be.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and give each other a hug and kiss from us.




P.S. [from Michael]
Please pick out a lot adjoining yours. Tell us the price and how we need to get it. My dad has a power of attorney and can sign any papers for us. We want to pay full price (no loan). We are serious. I hope it isn't too late.

How far (and how long) is this property from the hospital? Is it inside the city limits? Are there restrictions on what you can put on the land? We understand the lot will be 2 acres. Is that right? We will want you to use our lot in any way you want until we sell it or live on it.

Merry Christmas,


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