December 28, 2011

2011 brought blessings

SUSAN TOBIAS, Pinch of Time

— How did we get to the end of another year so fast? When I was a kid, it took forever from one year to another, especially my birthday and Christmas.

As I've grown older, I make it a habit of taking a look back at the end of each year, and 2011 sure was busy.

We had grandchildren graduate from high-school, college and law school; our daughter and son-in-law's 25th wedding anniversary and their daughter's wedding; our Colorado family home for a summer visit; trips to Pennsylvania, Maine, Colorado; and two trips to Georgia.

Especially nice was the thrill of reconnecting with some of the "kids" who were playmates and friends with my children when they were young.

During the summer, I was sitting on the deck when a woman ran by, dressed in running clothes. Suddenly, she stopped, waved and said, "Hi, it's been a long time!" It was Heidi Trombley, one of our daughter Carrie's best friends all through elementary school.

She sat on the deck with my husband and me, catching up on 30 years of news. We reminisced about Friday night sleepovers, when she'd fall asleep on the couch by 8 p.m., I'd carry her into bed, and the rest of the kids stayed up late. She was also up by 6 a.m., watching cartoons.

Heidi remembers drinking Orange Crush soda at our house every Friday night, eating popcorn and bowling the next day. She's married to her college sweetheart, has a son and daughter, lives in Florida and teaches kindergarten. She's still happy and bubbly, just like when she was young.

I have pictures of Heidi, Carrie and two Angelas (Angela Reid and Angela Towle) dressed up for Halloween — all princesses, of course. There was also Tina Farr, Audra Dufour, Tammy and Mandy Calloway and many others whose names I've forgotten (sorry!). I have re-connected with some on Facebook.

On nights when several girls would sleep over, a 10-bedroom house would have been great to separate them — giggle, giggle, all night — but all in all, they were good kids.

Then there were my daughter Tracey's friends, Sandy McMillan and Jody Fessette; my son, Todd's, friends, Mark Eldridge, Marcel Bibeau, Lindsey Ashline and Brad Eaton; and my stepdaughter's best friend, Annette Reed. All have become husbands, wives, parents and productive adults. What a blessing.

I was one of those mothers who didn't mind how many friends the kids brought home. At least I knew they were all safe. We might eat tomato soup and grilled cheese for supper, but they were fed and happy.

When they were teenagers, I have to admit, I pulled my hair out with the loud music, hours in front of the mirror doing their hair, gross KISS posters all over Todd's bedroom wall (that I used to tear down and throw away), cars breaking down and ignored curfews.

I think Toby bought at least 14 used cars for our six kids. Some caught on fire (right, Todd?), some went off-road when they weren't supposed to (right, Todd?). Others were in "gentle" wrecks or the engines blew up. I can't count the number of times we towed old cars home.

All those trials seem tame to what some parents face today. If only we could be sure that every child or teenager grows up in a happy, safe home environment.

So, yes, I am very melancholy this time of year. Nothing wrong with that, in my book. I feel I am blessed to have had the privilege of spending time, energy, money and love on those few kids who allowed me to be part of their lives, and to meet up with them again. My New Year's wish is to re-connect with more.

To all our readers, thank you for sharing your "kindred spirit" experiences with me when you read my columns, and thank you for your kind compliments. Toby and I wish one and all a happy and blessed New Year.

One last thought, as always, please be kind to each other. The world needs more kindness.

Susan Tobias lives in Plattsburgh with her husband, Toby. She has been a Press-Republican newsroom employee since 1977. The Tobiases have six children, 18 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. They enjoy traveling to Maine and Colorado, and in her spare time, Susan loves to research local history and genealogy. Reach her by email at