I made it home from the Middle East last January and the Bulldogs I served with all came home safe, too. Flew Close Air Support, did some reconnaissance. It was a great honor to be squadron commander in a combat zone. I ate white chocolate macadamia nut cookies at the chow hall. I call them war cookies.
We played outside in the wintertime. Did some ice fishing for the first time at the cabin and we all went up to the Gunflint Trail to do some skiing. The kids liked seeing the deer peeking in the windows of the Gunflint Lodge cabins. Later, the people of New England thought they were being chased by a Macy’s parade balloon carrying a rifle. It was just me wearing Lycra at the National Guard Biathlon Championships in Vermont. The Minnesota team won the overall.
We went crazy and bought an old boat for the cabin. Later in the summer, we installed a boat lift to hold it. Sam spent most days at 30 miles per hour in the tube. He never stopped voluntarily and now his hair is permanently swept back like he lives in a wind-tunnel. Grace tried it once. She bounced around so much that she spent the rest of the day in bed with an upset stomach. Never went again. Like my buddy Z says, “When playing with kids and a boat, it’s a fine line between entertaining them and killing them.” BOAT stands for “break out another thousand.” If you’d rather rent than own, bring me some beer and you’re welcome to tow Sam around the lake.
My folks visited from Maine for the 4th of July. We had an ice cream social with homemade ice cream at the cabin. My buddy Cooter came down with his float plane and gave rides from the dock. He gave Dad a ride, so that was pretty cool.
We managed to run out to California to wish Shelley’s folks a happy 50th anniversary. While out there, we made the pilgrimage to Legoland. Our purchases over the years have paid the mortgage for many Lego executives. The kids and their cousin went to Sea World and Sam got picked out of the crowd to be eaten by, I mean, feed the killer whale.
I missed seeing Sam survive that because I ran back to Duluth for the Raytheon Trophy celebration. It’s an award that looks like the Stanley Cup given out for the best fighter squadron…wait for it…IN THE WORLD. Shmo…best in the world…Shmo…best in the world. I wonder if there’s a connection. Later in the summer we kicked butt on an Operational Readiness Inspection. If we didn’t do well on that, they wouldn’t let us go to war. Oh wait, we’ve been to war three times! The next big Air Force thing was that we went to my 20-year reunion from the Air Force Academy. I heard a lot of people saying, “How’d that doofus hook up with that hot chick?” It was great to see old friends and we brought the kids so they got to see some of the Colorado mountains. Shelley retires from the Air Force Reserves in the spring. Whew!
Grace is 6 and Sam is 9. They are becoming more amusing. Sam is still an empathetic peacemaker; his mother’s son. Grace is still crabby when she wakes up and an instigator; her father’s daughter. Sam is building Legos, playing Suzuki piano, cross-country skiing at KidSki, and now he’s started karate. Grace is playing piano also, started soccer this fall, skiing at KidSki, and trying karate also. She had her first day of school this year, so both kids are in “the system.” This probably means Shelley will tear down and rebuild the whole house with the extra energy.
Kid Quote of the Year. Sam: Heaven is where you go if you get in a car crash. Grace: I’d want to go to a hospital.
I was driving around town with the whole family, fetching a Christmas tree and doing errands. In other words, I was agitated. Suddenly, I saw a small banner in the window of a house. It had a solid blue star, signifying there was a mom living there who has a child serving overseas. I suddenly regained perspective: I get to be at home this holiday season. Almost a hundred other members of my wing are overseas for the winter. Keep them and the thousands like them in your thoughts in the coming year.
Shelley, Eric, Sam, and Grace Chandler
2816 Greysolon Rd
Duluth, MN 55812
(218) 728-4410 firstname.lastname@example.org