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Letter the Eighth (1999 for

May, 1999
   “Bucky,” said Loie, “you have to write this year’s Lovebunnies’ story!”
   Bucky nodded morosely.
   “I know, but my heart isn’t in it this year. There’s been so much going on lately, I just can’t seem to get started,” he said.
   “Well,” said Loie, “what if you had some help?”
   “Okay, you make some notes for me, and I’ll see what I can do,” he said.
   But time went on, and still Bucky couldn’t write the story. Loie started to get really worried, and then she remembered something important. The Lovebunnies had always helped each other when one of them was in trouble. So, she went to work. And this is what she wrote.

   The winter of 1998 was held at bay with a Tropical Paradise supper extravaganza for Valentine’s Day. Everyone has come to understand that Bucky’s favorite meals involve lying on the floor and eating with fingers. Chefs Bucky and Hilary performed their culinary magic, and when it was all spread out on the dining room floor “beach,” with Elvis crooning “Blue Hawaii” in the background, the Lovebunnies and Hilary and Mark and their friends Amy and Charles ate to their hearts’ content. Hilary wasn’t feeling very well, but she soldiered on, and a few weeks later, Loie and Bucky learned the reason for her discomfort—she was going to have a baby!
   Winter began to give way to spring, and it was time once again to take nephew Brian and a friend out on the town for supper and a play at Center Stage. Brian’s student acting is fun for everyone, and Loie and Bucky have a good time encouraging it.
   At the end of March, Loie’s stint as interim director of Frederick County Public Libraries came to an end with the arrival of her new boss, from Las Vegas. She consoled herself about handing over the burdens of managing a library system by looking forward to three weeks at the Outer Banks beach house in September.
   “OK,” said Bucky. “Now you can put away the winter clothes, because it’s my birthday.”
   This is Bucky’s rule of spring—that in Maryland, at least, the chance of cold wintry weather isn’t really over, and spring isn’t really come, until after his birthday on the fourth of May. And sure enough, they really knew that spring had arrived when a few days later they were graced with the beautiful sight of two male Orioles in the front yard. And if that wasn’t a sufficient gift, bluebirds started a nest in the Williamsburg pottery bird nest which they had affixed to their house just outside the front door. Alas, their anniversary party later that month proved to be too much for shy bluebirds, and they vacated the nest.
   “I hope they’ve found a better home,” said Loie.
   “Oh, birds are pretty smart at that kind of stuff,” said Bucky. “They’ll be fine. They just didn’t know we were going to have such a big party.”
   And that wasn’t the last of the exciting bird sightings. In mid-May, Loie was driving the curves along Saw Mill Road on her way to work, when something moving at the side of the road caught her eye. She could hardly believe what she saw—an emu flopping ungracefully along, and in a panic. Loie hoped it had just escaped, and that it would be safely returned to its home. She didn’t think she could get so big a bird in her car, and even if she did, she was sure it wouldn’t go willingly for a drive to the Humane Society.
   Later in the month, the Lovebunnies were pleased to watch nephew Brian playing himself in his high school play, “Two By Two,” based on the story of Noah and the Ark. If you haven’t guessed already, Brian played the part of Noah’s son Ham! And he did it so well, being naturally made for the part, as well as the character’s name.
   In early June, Loie and Bucky were strolling through the artists’ displays at Art in the Park, which is where they first found paintings by Laura Loe, whose work they admire. Loie always trusts Bucky’s judgment in artistic matters, so she really was hoping he would like the painting she had found. While she rarely admits to doing anything silly, she suspected that this painting might give her an undeserved reputation. She was happily relieved when Bucky loved Ervin Miller’s “Blue Hare.” The very blue bunny’s googly bright yellow eyeballs make them giggle every time they look at the picture.
   It was the very next weekend when all the calendar trouble began. The Lovebunnies hosted another drawing session with friend and model Joan Jenkins. Several artist pals came, as well as non-artistic spouses, who mainly get up to monkey business. After the drawing session, and before dinner, the Lovebunnies received a vociferous complaint from Barbara Weber, who claimed to also be speaking for her long-suffering and silently enduring husband, Thomas Sterner. Thomas is a working artist, and, as will become apparent, Barbara is one of the spouses.

   In a pathetic attempt the previous year to get into the Lovebunnies newsletter, Babs had twisted the arm of an old friend to help her write and perform a rap song at a party at the Lovebunnies’ house. For some unknown reason, the performance was not mentioned in the next year’s Letter.
   “What,” she demanded indignantly, “do you have to do to get included? I thought the rap song was a sure bet!”
   The Lovebunnies laughed this off, knowing what a silly girl Babs is. But, as the days rolled on, they began to notice that strange and mysterious messages had been written on their kitchen calendar; things they didn’t even know people did, and things they certainly wouldn’t do, like “Corn Bingo Night,” and “Queen Slug for a Butt for President Convention,” and—yuck!—“nasal hair removal appointment.”
   Bucky called Hilary and asked, “Did Barbara write all those goofy things on our calendar?”
   Hilary laughed and said that she had, partly in retaliation, and partly in another bid for immortalization in the Letter. Now the Lovebunnies have learned to what ends a desperate woman will go.
   In July, the Lovebunnies and their friends Mark and Hilary combined some vacation time to take a trip to New England. The four friends stayed with Hilary’s stepmother Lee for a couple of nights, and the Lovebunnies felt they had made a fine new friend.
   Hilary took them to see an old burial ground. They all laughed at the way the graves in the plot of the town’s richest family had been arranged in a circle, facing inward. The snobbish family wanted to be absolutely sure that when Judgment Day came and they all rose up, they would be facing each other, not strangers!
   Then Bucky and Loie struck out on their own, in search of Mystery Hill, also known as America’s Stonehenge, a strange and mysterious complex of stonework. After they had spent the day exploring the site, Bucky said, “Well, I don’t know. I’m no expert, but I’ve seen plenty of old New England stone walls, and none of’em looked like this.”
   “But of course we don’t really know when all this was built,” said Loie.
   “Nope,” said Bucky. “Guess that’s why it’s called Mystery Hill.”
   They then traveled on to Acadia National Park, and spent several days in Bar Harbor, Maine, hiking beautiful Mt. Desert Island, and enjoying being outside, which is something they don’t get to do often enough. On one of their hikes, they spent a half hour or so leaning out over a sheer cliff, peering into the clear green water below watching guillemots diving and swimming. “That’s the first new bird we’ve had in ages,” said Bucky.
   As they sat at the summit of a mountain looking out over the bays and pine-topped cliffs and brilliant blue sky, Loie said, “This is the most beautiful place we’ve ever been.” Bucky laughed and agreed, but said, “We say that everywhere we go.” Loie laughed too. The Lovebunnies were disappointed, though, that they had not found a Local Craft to take home as a memento of their trip to Acadia.
   “I knew it wouldn’t work to make a craft my Want,” said Bucky as they were driving home. Loie shook her head in rueful agreement.
   But later that month she was surprised to receive a phone call at work from a disgruntled Bucky, who said, “Well, it was a good try. Almost worked.” He went on to explain that he had searched on the Web, and found a place to mail-order wild Maine blueberries, but that when the twelve pints of blueberries arrived, they had spilled out of their boxes. When Loie got home that evening, Bucky was in a better mood. He had managed to salvage almost all of the berries, losing only about a pint or so. And the very next day, Loie received another call from Bucky. This time, his mood was one of hilarity, as he told her that due to his calling the blueberry people, and complaining about the poor packaging, they had sent him another dozen pints of berries! “Lordy,” said Bucky, “We’ll never eat all these things!”
   His plan had been to ask friends to come over for a Blueberry Festival, to enjoy the Lovebunnies’ Local Craft from Maine. But unfortunately, everyone was busy that weekend. So Yo agreed to host the First Annual Wild Maine Blueberry Festival, attended by Loie and Bucky, at her house. They all agreed that the muffins and waffles were delicious, and that perhaps a new tradition had been inaugurated.
   In September, it was vacation time again, and this time for the Lovebunnies’ favorite type of vacation for relaxing—going to the beach. They had moms and dads and good friends and dogs and Mr. G., their cat, to keep them company. One day the ocean water was warm and clear and bottle green. Bucky and Loie were swimming, when Bucky shouted, “What was that?” He scooped something from the water, and it was a tiny, perfect live seahorse! The warm water had swept up from the southern ocean, bringing the seahorse along with it.
   On October 19, much to everyone’s surprise, except for Bucky, who had kept silent with his prediction until the very end, Nathaniel Blake Hatfield was born. Everyone had been sure the baby was going to be little Emma! Nathaniel is a wonderful baby, and now the Lovebunnies can’t imagine life without him.

   The Lovebunnies couldn’t let the year end without squeezing in one more trip, and the perfect opportunity came with a letter from Loie’s old friend Gudrun, who lives in Rostock, Germany with her husband Joachim and their little boy Fabian. Loie began corresponding with Gudrun over twenty years ago, and though their correspondence has grown sparser, it has remained constant. So, when Gudrun wrote to say her husband would be in Boston with a group of his high school students, and would they like to meet him for a visit, of course Loie and Bucky said yes.
   They flew up to Boston for a weekend, and met Joachim for the first time, and spent time with him and his students. The students had been to Montana, living with American students and attending American high school, and they had camped and hiked in Yellowstone National Park. Bucky and Loie were impressed by the maturity and sophistication of the students, and were happy to get to know Joachim. Now the Lovebunnies are wondering what a visit to Rostock would be like.
   The year began to draw to a close, as it had begun, with a party! Not content just to have any old party, Bucky must name his parties, and so in mid-November, the Lovebunnies hosted the “First Annual Art Cookie Bake-Off and Fall Harvest Festival.” Everyone agreed that Thomas’ cookies were the most artful.
   “Well,” said Bucky, “He’s a sculptor. You’d expect him to make the best cookies.” And it was true.
   In early December, Loie had a short travel essay published in the Baltimore Sunday Sun. She was very excited to see her name in print, and to read her own words in the newspaper!
   When Loie and Bucky and Father and his boarder and Brother Pete went out on the annual Christmas Tree Cutting Expotition, they had an exiting adventure. Brother Pete wanted to try a new tree farm, so they drove up into Pennsylvania to find it. On the way, they passed by a carved stone next to the road, and Bucky saw an historical marker sign near it. When they stopped to read the sign, they found that they were at an original Mason and Dixon survey stone. So that made the trip to a new tree farm well worth taking.
   For the first time in many years, to the Lovebunnies’ great delight, there was a gentle, light snow falling on Christmas Eve—not enough to stop holiday travels, but enough to give us all a sparkling white Christmas, the first they could remember in ever so long. And then it was time for the annual New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day parties. The Lovebunnies’ live Christmas Tree was added to the windbreak. And Loie began to conceive a magnificent plan for celebrating the millenial New Year’s Eve.
   “Oh great,” said Bucky. “Now we’re planning parties for the year after next!”
   “Of course,” said Loie, “Parties are important.”
   “So,” said Loie, “What do you think? I know it’s a bit shorter than usual.”
   “Oh,” said Bucky, “It’s a great letter.”
   “And now since it’s so short, maybe Audra will read it all the way to the end.”
   “OK good,” said Bucky.


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