Letters from Me, Day 27: Tom Beckwith, Essex Junction, VT

Dear Tom,

My dear uncle, we've had a lot of great times over the past 31 years. I'm sure you remember way more than I do, considering for many of those years, I was just a kid and not taking photographs of everything I do and everyone I see, as I have been for the past 10 years or so.

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I was peeking at the photos I've taken of you since you joined Facebook, and it brought back a lot of great memories.

Picnics with the family where we tossed water balloons or eggs to win glory and victory. Where you and the guys threw horseshoes to prove who the manliest man was. Or frisbees or beanbags to pass the time between bites of burgers and cupcakes.

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Christmas parties and catching up on each other's lives - new jobs and houses, Tyler's hockey career, puppies and cats. Swapping books and finding the perfect present in the card game. Snacking and snapping photos, even though the kids don't really like to smile.

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Trips to Burlington, where we go bowling, scoring strikes and celebrating gutter balls, or go to brunch to load up on the buffet and talk about the Red Sox.

Weddings, like the one we went to a few weeks ago, where we show off our killer dance moves, sip coffee, eat Krispee Kremes and chat all the way through dinner.

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And even a visit to Philly, when we were so excited to meet you guys for dinner at El Vez, one of our favorite local restaurants, and stop off at Capogiro for a sweet treat. It was so great to see your family on our turf. I hope you know you are welcome to visit anytime. We will always have new things to show you and great food to eat!

Thank you for all of the time we've spent together over the years, for being a great uncle to Josh and I and all of the cousins, for being an awesome brother to my mom and the rest of the Beckwith clan, for being such a cool dad to Carisa and Tyler (some of my favorite cousins), for bringing Mary Ellen into our lives (because she is the sweetest), for all of the fabulous Christmas presents (I adore our ceramic TV dinner trays) and for just being you. A smart and savvy, witty and wry, kind and caring guy, the best kind of uncle out there. 

A still from our sumo match video at the summer picnic, 2009.

A still from our sumo match video at the summer picnic, 2009.

Looking forward to the next get together (perhaps a Luau picnic?) and all the fun to come.

Love,

Amanda

Letters from Me, Day 16: Jeff Beckwith, Enumclaw, WA

Dear Jeff,

Or should I say Uncle Jeff?

Is there a point in your adult life when you stop calling uncles Uncle (proper noun)? I'm not sure about that. But I do know that as long as I've been calling you Uncle Jeff, you've been filling those uncle shoes (be they sneakers, farm boots or hiking shoes) and making me feel like a beloved niece, all the way across the country.

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I hesitate to say my first memory of you is your wedding, because it's less a memory and more snapshots in my mind (more recently, also video from Aunt Eileen's archives) and stories I've been told about tearing around in a tiny dress and pitching fits about not being able to jump in the pool. It's so great to look back on those pictures, when you and Aunt Sue were younger than I am now, and imagining all of the Beckwiths gathering in the sunshine for the big occasion. 

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My more recent (and fully cohered) memories with you include your trips to Vermont and Queensbury when I was young. We explored Saratoga State Park, the Great Escape and the backyard at Grandma and Gail's. We dipped our feet in the creek and ate hotdogs from the grill. I remember looking forward to a visit from the Washington Beckwiths with great anticipation. We always made sure to make the most of these visits, no matter what the agenda.

As I grew older, I came to appreciate another tradition from Uncle Jeff and Aunt Sue - the very punctual, very hilarious, very personalized (and eventually potentially lucrative) birthday card with Washington State lottery ticket. I strive to be as on the ball as you guys with your birthday wishes. I see my dad is trying to up his game these days, and this letter writing campaign has me on my toes, but I've got a ways to go. 

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Not only have you made our birthdays a special one every year, you guys have always done a fun, over the top, interactive and highly entertaining Christmas extravaganza at the family Christmas party - from 3000 miles away. One of my favorites was the social media quotes from family members trivia game. We learned so much about each other that day, and won some amazing (and perhaps also over the top) prizes in the process.

You and Aunt Sue are definitely masters of the celebration game, the creativity game and as we learned this past summer - the cooking and camping games. Dylan and I jumped in our rented Ford Focus and embarked on a week-long journey to Enumclaw for our very first visit to the Beckwith Farm, downtown Seattle and the Washington coast. 

It was a magical few days, when I realized that my family members are some of the coolest people I know (including some very favorite aunts who were along for the ride.) I loved getting to know Jess and Jake better on their turf - around their city - and getting to just sit, eat, drink and relax with you guys. 

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You have a beautiful house, and we were so lucky to get to spend a few nights soaking in the gorgeous landscape and hospitality that ran the gamut from a house guide (including the names of the pigs and steers) to a plethora of home cooked meals with farm fresh ingredients. The thought kept going through my head (and probably out of my mouth more than once) -

THEY MADE THIS FOOD WITH THE EARTH AND THE ANIMALS.

I am still in awe. 

We loved touring Seattle with you guys - a city I'd visit again in a heartbeat. And we got another day of adventure on the coast, staying in our very first yurt. Talk about doing it right. When we were packing the cars for our trip further west, I was so impressed at your Boy Scout level of preparation and sheer lifetime acquisition of gear. 

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And when we sat around the fire that night, swapping stories, playing games and sipping stout, I was overcome with the joy that my family on the West Coast was just how I’d remembered them - fun, hip, generous and pretty much ready for any adventure life has in store.

I've tried not to get too sappy here. But I will just sum up all of these observations and memories and declarations with this. Despite the distance, I've always felt close to you. You make everyone laugh. You make us feel special. I know we all appreciate the interest you take in our lives and what we're up to. I am so beyond happy that you got to meet Dylan, and I will always look forward to our next adventure. Forever in admiration, and awaiting your next visit,

Love,

Amanda