For those critics who whine that The Putnam pit never publishes good news, we reluctantly offer . . .

Larry's Latest Letter
In his annual message to those who aren't still mad at him about their grades, Professor Lorenz reports the shoe-color crisis is over and all is well in post-Hurricane Georges New Orleans
His Larriness

Professor of journalism at Loyola University, New Orleans
Special to The Putnam Pit
NEW ORLEANS -- Christmas Eve has been damp and chill and gray in New Orleans,
just as Christmas Eve ought to be, just as it was when I was a boy in the midwest,
except that then Christmas Eve always ended in a sprinkling of snow (at
least in memory). There will be no snow here tonight, although the reports
are that much of the rest of the country lies under it.

The weather was just right for bundling up and getting out and about to do
Christmas Eve chores. My wife, Kathy, sent me off to pick up some gifts
she had ordered for the children. While I was at that, I found myself at
one point peering into the show window of a toy store. Nostalgia nearly
lured me inside, but I resisted. I was after books and CDs and monogrammed
stationery. For her part, Kathy was out looking for the VCR and TV set and
Walkman that had appeared on various of the children's lists -- none of
them, sadly, addressed to Santa Claus. Now, in late afternoon, Kathy is
still out. Her tradition of many, many Christmases past is to stay in the
stores until closing time.

I returned in early afternoon to wrap the items that needed my attention
and handed the others off to Bobby and Mary. They help us with the
wrapping now, and that is one of the compensations for their growing
older. But what are Kathy and I to do at 2 o'clock on the morning of
Christmas, I wonder, since she won't have to tiptoe through the house
gathering treasures from her secret hiding places (some so secret presents
have turned up in mid-summer) and I won't have to puzzle over
hand-drawn schematics for a Barbie penthouse or assemble a bicycle from
instructions in Taiwanese English and try to fish tiny washers out of my
egg nog?

But enough of that. While I have the time, before she gets back, I will
follow my tradition of writing you on Christmas Eve about our year--this
one, The Year of The Arrangements.

Last Christmas Eve I wrote that Abby had come home at Thanksgiving wearing
an engagement ring. The glint from her diamond has been the star we've
followed all year. Even when we fled to Texas for two days in September to
escape Hurricane Georges we quickly established communications so that
planning could proceed.

We've gone about our normal living, to be sure. Kathy has been working two
part-time medical transcription jobs and managing to keep the home running
smoothly. She's become an enthusiastic and accomplished gardener, and when
the weather's nice she's out with her roses and salvia and humus. I'm
healthy, for which I thank God daily, and teaching a full load of courses
each semester, doing research and writing  and, this school year,
participating in an NEH-funded faculty seminar on photography and how to
make use of it in courses. If I may edge the basket off my candle, I was
named United Way's communications volunteer of the year. I was also
elected to the board of an organization that helps non-profit groups
improve their management skills.

The children, too, have been busy with other things. Katie graduated from
college and came back home to save some money. She's working as a
bartender and planning to go to Chicago in the spring to begin a career in
broadcast production. Patrick took her place in the apartment and started
his junior year at Loyola. He's still majoring in visual arts, with a
strong interest in film.  Bobby began his freshman year at Loyola,and like
the others before him, he's living in a dormitory. He's been unsure
whether to major in history or English. Now his philosophy teacher has
complicated matters by asking if he has considered philosophy as a major.
He's still thinking, therefore he's undecided. Mary entered her junior
year in high school by being elected to the student council and the
National Honor Society.

Overshadowing all, however, has been The Wedding. The Mother of the Bride
and the Maid of Honor have been at the center of making arrangements with
church secretaries, limo drivers, reception hall managers and florists,
and insuring that everything meets with the approval of The Bride. Katie
has proved especially adept as a negotiator. She stepped into a stalemate
between Abby, who was determined to have the rehearsal dinner on the eve
of the wedding at a neighborhood New Orleans-y restaurant, and the owner,
who failed to appreciate the significance of The Wedding and refused to
sacrifice any of his Friday night SRO business for it. Katie stepped in
and persuaded Abby to have the rehearsal and the dinner on Thursday and
the owner, who had had quite enough of The Bride, to accept the party.

Most everything else has gone smoothly, I'm told, though there have been
other, minor, glitches. Katie and Mary spent hours being fitted for their
bridesmaids' dresses and had shoes dyed to match the fabric. When they got
the dresses, however, they decided the shoe color wasn't quite right. I
wish I could tell you how that was resolved, but some things the Father of
the Bride doesn't need to know. Patrick, Bobby and I spent much of a
Saturday getting fitted for tuxedoes. While I'm confident our basic black
outfits and accessories will be perfectly coordinated, I am fearful the
suits may fit improperly. The boys are slaves to the fashion of wearing
their everyday trousers just above the apogee of their rumps, and I can
only pray the fitter took that into account in measuring them.

For the most part, I've managed to follow the good counsel of my friend
and colleague Fr. David Boileau, who is going to officiate: "Shut up, show
up and pay up." I did offer some Fatherly Advice when Abby complained that
Neil's father was being unreasonable in a disagreement he and Neil were
having. Drawing on the thimbleful of wisdom I've accumulated over the past
28 years, I admonished her: "Never, ever, take a side in any squabble your
spouse and a member of his family might have." Since I've been sparing
with such advice, except on the most important of matters, I'm hoping she
will accept it. Of course, she may follow my example and leap into the
fray anyway.

We'll miss Abby's presence around the tree tomorrow, but we're looking
forward to having her here in just few days. She's flying in on the 29th
for what's sure to be a cyclonic finish to The Year of the Arrangements.
And then, just two weeks and two days from now, she and Neil will be at
the altar.

That's for next year's Christmas Eve letter, though. For now, I toast you
with an egg nog (with no fear of choking on a tiny washer) with the wish
that you had a Merry Christmas and will enjoy a Happy New Year.



Larry Lorenz - Professor of journalism - Loyola University, New Orleans

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