Christmas, 1998

Text by Michael Broschat, with Melissa Meier

Seems odd to be writing a Christmas letter a couple days after a funeral, but here we are. Melissa’s dad died after a long, long period of incapacitance, and the family buried him this last weekend. A nice gathering of the clan, only unfortunate because of the reason.

This year saw another death in Melissa’s family (her aunt), so our introduction to life on the East Coast has had its low points. But, in general, we’ve had a remarkable year, and we’re here to tell you a bit about it. We won’t repeat too much of the travel journal entries we’ve made available through email, but it’s a good time to look back on the experience as a whole.

We just paid our anniversary rent, so we know it’s been exactly a year that we’ve been in this “house.” I hesitate a bit with that word, both because of the small size of our place and its close proximity to other dwellings (even in the same building). In other words, we West Coasters would tend to view our place as an apartment. But, it is certainly considered a house by the neighborhood. A part of adjusting to where you live, I guess.

I got serious about learning my new profession, as the year started. Or, I thought a lot about getting serious about my new profession. I think it was really spring before I set to work diligently working through the lessons in my home study COBOL course. Looking back on our schedule for the early part of the year, we see that we immersed ourselves in cultural events in and around our new city. Too many to mention, but let’s just say that there’s no end to things to do around here.

Quite a bit of unplanned travel began in May with the serious turn Melissa’s aunt’s health took then. One part of her family originates in the Altoona, Pennsylvania area. It’s a well-known railroad town, and there are still ample traces of same. I saw a great deal more of Altoona than I would ever have imagined. An emergency move to a Pittsburgh hospital took the dynamic duo (aunt and Melissa) further west, and gave us both a chance to renew acquaintance with an old Air Force buddy—Tom Clark. We stayed several times with him, each time seeing a bit of another city I never thought I’d ever see.

One further Pennsylvania trip deserves mention. I had been corresponding via the Internet with an Uruguayan woman concerning a topic of literary interest to both of us. When she told us she’d be in the US for a few days, at a place called Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, we jumped at the chance to see yet another part of Pennsylvania, so off we went. A delightful experience, and we’re proud to say we have a good friend in Montevideo, Uruguay.

Other trips included a couple visits to Williamsburg, Virginia, the restored colonial village near the more famous Jamestown, Virginia. And, I made my first trip to New York City, another delightful experience. We’d hoped to get up there once more (this past week), for a Met performance by Melissa’s friend Wendy White, but I finally got a job, and all fun ceased about a month ago. Actually, work is fun, too, but it’s a different world from traveling and thinking about working. I’ll recommend the latter over the real.

Our last big trip of the year was a trip to South Carolina for a translators conference. We keep some touch with the profession we both have dabbled in over the years. Melissa directed our travel to South Carolina via some lovely mountains with fall color, so we saw much more of North and South Carolina than we’d ever have by going major highways.

I started work some three weeks ago on a job that involves Web publishing. That means making data available to people using Web browsers. The client is a government organization, and the job is classified (secure), so I won’t say more about it here. Suffice it to say that I’m fully engaged both in the database work that I’d hoped to find, and also in Web (Internet) work. Hadn’t expected the latter, but I can’t complain about the relevance of the experience.

Our life this coming year is likely to be much more normal than the remarkably “free” year 1998 has proven. Still, we’ll take advantage of whatever time we have to further explore this fascinating part of our country. We hope you’re enjoying your own area, and will drop us a line about that when you get a chance. As Gary tells us: “Be well; do good work; and keep in touch…”