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A Million Little Pieces Of My Mind

Christmas 1991

By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 3/3/2024
Occurred: 12/25/1991
Page Views: 4986
Topics: #YearinReview #Autobiography
An early Christmas letter.
Merry Christmas


As you might recall from last year's letter, January found me job-hunting, just after having moved to Melbourne, Florida. As rough as that was on me, you can imagine how unsettled that left the rest of the family, wondering what state they were going to live in next.


After a couple of weeks of enforced vacation—which I needed, after all, but couldn't really enjoy—I was offered a contract in Manchester, New Hampshire, with AIG, an insurance company. Since we weren't sure how long it was going to last—after all, the previous three contracts had all turned out to be shorter-termed than expected—we decided that Mary and the kids would stay in Melbourne, at least until John was out of school in June. John was finishing up eighth grade and it did seem a shame to pull him out in the middle of the year.

I traveled north with an associate who was also going to work at AIG. On the way we spotted a UFO (especially exciting to me since I had just finished my UFO novel). The thing flew right over us. It was dark except for some running lights; I wasn't sure it wasn't just a plane with peculiar lights until it was directly overhead, and the glow of the city reflected on its mirrored bottom revealed it to be a gigantic disk. The sighting itself was relatively uneventful, as these things go, but when we arrived in Manchester we found that most of our forks and spoons had become inexplicably bent sideways, at the neck.


Jennifer set out with friends to see the country and wound up on a farm in California. Farm life certainly seemed to suit her; she told me on the phone that she loved being able to run for a mile in her bare feet, which had grown tough as cat's paws.


I turned forty. It doesn't seem possible; I don't feel a day over thirty-nine.


Nothing happened in May.


In June John graduated from Melbourne's Stone Junior High, the last of our bunch to do so. By all accounts, this was supposed to make Mary and me feel ancient, but we were too busy being delighted. And, Mary was busy packing for the move to Manchester.

I only had a weekend to make the move, so we had to choreograph it as carefully as a Rockettes routine. Mary hired a couple of beefy guys to load the rental truck, and arranged for a friend to pick me up at the airport. I arrived at the Melbourne apartment just in time to watch the back of the truck being locked. Mary, John and I left in the truck and drove straight through to Reston, Virginia, where we dropped John off to spend a month with his friend Thomas. This was also a convenience for us, since Mary and I would be sharing my Manchester apartment with James, my co-worker at AIG. I had not yet found a place big enough for the whole family.


In July, John, Dorothy, and Karen joined us—still in the two-bedroom apartment. The house-hunting began in earnest, but we never could find a place that was just right for us. Well, that isn't quite true; we did find one place—but the owners decided to rent it to a couple who had seen it just before us.

So we ended up renting another apartment across the hall, in addition to the one we already had. Karen and John stay there, while Dottie has the extra bedroom in the first apartment. (My roommate had long since fled.) Karen's boyfriend from Reston, D.J., is going to school in Manchester, so he moved in with us, too.


Dottie made us all proud by passing her GED examination with excellent marks. Of course we had all been disappointed when she left high school, but the diploma is the point of it all, after all; and now she's got that. Almost immediately she signed up for nurse's aide training with the New Hampshire Technical College and seems to have taken right to it.

Also, my Mom came up for an extended visit. Did she keep us busy! We were out almost every weekend; we visited most of the New England tourist attractions: the Flume, Cannon Mountain, even Bar Harbor in Maine. And, of course, we visited her childhood home in Pawlet, Vermont, and mine, in Victory.

Meanwhile, in California, Jenny was bit by a rattlesnake while running barefoot across the farm. It was scary; she spent the night in the hospital, but came out of it none the worse for wear…except that she now agrees wearing shoes might not be that bad an idea, after all.


Following in Dottie's footsteps, Karen got her own GED and enrolled in the University of New Hampshire. She has not yet decided on a major, but is taking a psychology course to get the "feel" of it.

John, meanwhile, started as a freshman in West High School where, as usual, he immediately made himself right at home.

Not to be outdone in the education department, Mary and I signed up for a sign language course. I signed up because my next novel (if I get up the nerve to write it) will be about a deaf lawyer. Mary signed up to give me someone to practice with. Also, before she started, I was the only man in a class of thirteen, and I don't think she wanted me to be in a classroom with an unlucky number of people.


We sent Mom back to her Florida home, exhausted. She wasn't exhausted…we were.

But my biggest October news was that, finally, after years of trying, I sold a magazine article, to PC Techniques magazine. We expect it to appear in the December/January issue, although scheduling could delay it. I was able to sell two more articles to the same market, as well. The articles are on technical subjects, so I can't really recommend them for general reading. Still, if anyone wants to buy acopy merely for my autograph, I'll be happy to oblige…

Also, Karen, Dottie and D.J. all got jobs at a Pizza Hut a few miles from here. This is like a dream come true for John; his life would be perfect if he could just have pizza for every meal from now until he dies.


Jenny, who had spent most of the year with friends in California, came to visit in November. She plans to remain with us until early January. That meant we were able to spend Thanksgiving with our whole mob, including Karen's boyfriend and two cats.


Since I'm writing this in early December, I can't really say anything more than what we expect to happen: a quiet, pleasant Christmas with all the kids with us. I've been asked to renew my contract at AIG for another year, so it looks like we'll be able to stay put for at least a little while longer. I'm still trying to find a publisher for my novel, but at least I'm now a "published author" and that's a major hurdle to have overcome. It also seems as if the older kids are "finding themselves" and that's a relief.

So, all in all, this has been a pretty good year and we look forward to even better things in 1992.