Merry Christmas!

The unspeakable horror of September 11 cast a pall over everything that--as they say--will change the way we look at things forever. No, not forever; but for as many years as it takes for the memories of those terrible images to dim & fade away. And, I guess, for those of us of a certain age, well, that is forever.

I grew up on a 128-acre farm in southwest Iowa. We had a front yard to the west that bordered on the road. Behind the house to the north was an open space and then a row of Chinese elms as a windbreak with a small pasture behind it that curved a little south on the east end and backed up to the chicken house. To the south of the house was a garden on the west side (probably 100 by 50 feet) with a cornfield south of that that extended eastward. On the east side of the house was the aforementioned chickenhouse, & south of that, the old barn & the new barn--plus the cattle yard & a couple of corncribs and granaries. East of all the buildings was another much larger pasture. If you walked from the house or barn southeast to the corner of that pasture (about 5 minutes or a little more, I guess), you came to a gate that connected to the three 40-acre plots that made up the rest of our farm.

The reason I mention all this (& my sister Jane & a couple cousins are probably the only ones who can really relate) is that this 8-acre plot is just half the size of the 16-acre devastation that is now ground zero at the World Trade Towers! It kind of puts it in perspective for me.

OK, enuf of that. Leon! Leon!!

Our big news is our first grandson--born on July 27 in Tiberias, Israel, at 7 pounds & a little more & named SarEl ben David--which means "Prince of God, son of David"--(which, come to think of it, is a pretty tough name for the little fellow to live up to!). He joins his sisters: 3-year-old Noah and 2-year-old (next February) Maggie.

License plates of note: LDEE BUG, ROSEBUG & HUNYBUG (all VW beetles); LVCRAB; HATRICK; FIRN ICE & 8VETTEO (both Corvettes); AZZZURE (a blue BMW Z3 convert); PAR TEER; AME LESS; SUITS U; IAMDOWN; I AM UP; CRE8ADIF.

GOT IT; LV ALONE; XPAT TXN; TEX4VER; A THANG (bright orange jeep-like vehicle); 1GOD NME; ICH SKI; SCULPTR; DUH TUBA; OC PONY (bright yellow mustang); 2A MTN; REIN BO; HRTNMI; TWSTD MR (red Camaro).

OLE SHOE; ILUMN8; APRXIM8; O2BNMTS; BUTRFLI; GLORIBE; GR8FL DD; COWGERL; FUL MNTY; RLL TIDE; SRINITY; TIME 4ME; IB BLOND; 2B CRUSN (a PT Cruiser); & LV COWS.

As you may recall from last year's letter, we had just returned from India, where we had discovered Mary had a benign brain tumor. She was operated on December 28 and is getting along just fine.

No trips this year, except for a couple of day excursions to Atlantic City, Solomons and a boat trip on the Rappahannock River. We got out to see Steve in Columbus (still R&D engineering with Honda) in October & he's been back this way on a couple of occasions.

I continue to serve as League Director for Springfield's under-19 girls (we took top honors in All-Star competition in both the spring and fall). Also keep busy with a garden plot & doing Web & PR work for the U.S. Animal Health Association (www.usaha.org). Mary does some volunteer work for ECHO (Ecumenical Community Helping Others), which distributes stuff to needy folks.

Just remember: Man does not live by pork alone; every once in a while he needs a big juicy steak!

Once more, patio work has stagnated.

If you have e-mail, please drop a line to ldmark@erols.com so we can keep in touch during the year. And, you can check my website (www.erols.com/ldmark) for developments with the Mark family (and color versions of the pictures--just click on "Christmas Letter").

So, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah (or Chanukah or Hanukah--I've seen it in The Post all three ways) & Leon, again! (By the way, that's Noel spelled backwards.)

                  -- Mary & Larry

Guess who holds all the boobahs (dolls)
in the family?!?
One week old!


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