Although the object of our Great East Coast Tour was seeing my grandmother–and we were so blessed to see so many aunts, uncles, and cousins into the bargain–we are Mortensens. We couldn’t stop at visiting six households of relatives. We had to throw in another eight households of friends too! We never stayed a single night in a hotel, we were so rich in hospitable friends.
We also called the trip “The Tour of Four Godchildren.” John and I saw four of our godchildren, and three of our children saw their godparents.
We started the trip by staying with some new friends in Milwaukee, the Twettens. We had met Dave Twetten, a philosophy professor at Marquette, during the summer, but his wife had been away at the time. For this visit, Cindy Twetten had changed her travel plans in order to host us. She is a Latin teacher and a fellow student of Fr. Reginald Foster. Their kids, Notre Dame graduates, came to dinner and the conversation lasted until late in the night.
We stayed the next night with Kyle and Erin Washut in Pittsburgh. Grace Washut is our god-daughter, and Kyle and Erin are Tino’s “parents.” We had actually seen the Washuts just recently when they stayed with us on their way to their new home in Pittsburgh. Kyle is attending Byzantine seminary and hoping to be ordained a Byzantine priest in the future. The last time we had seen them they had been on their way to a new life with only what belongings could fit in their car, along with four children. They hadn’t seen the home they were moving to. It’s beautiful! It’s a huge, gorgeously appointed rectory full of lovely antiques. We were so happy to find them so beautifully settled.
In New Jersey we snuck off to a park one evening to see the Coccias. Aileen and Mario Coccia, then with four children, became our next door neighbors in Austria in 2003. Just a few months after we moved to Wyoming, John suggested Mario for the position of admissions director at WCC. However, we had not seen them since they moved back to New Jersey in 2010. In that time Aileen has obtained a Masters in Great Books from St. John’s College, their two daughters have graduated from TAC, and Aileen single-handedly started a classical high school, Sedes Sapientiae. I knew that starting a school takes 300% of a person’s time, so I wasn’t sure we’d get to see them in the middle of a school term. But Mario, Aileen, and GianCarlo met us at a park, and after the kids had played for two hours we went for some (awesome) pizza. Many happy memories.
On the morning of Magdalena’s birthday, October 19, we left New Jersey and headed to New Hampshire where we were staying with our dear friends the Thompsons. We had seen them four years before at James and Augusta Thompson’s wedding in California. But nothing beats seeing friends in their home habitat. Ruth and Jay are our Joseph’s godparents, and Peter Thompson is our godson. We dressed them alike so that we could always spot our respective spiritual progeny.
The Thompsons were not only generous enough to host our (now much larger) family, and have a birthday party for Magdalena, but Ruth even invited over all the other dear friends I had hoped to see while in the area.
Magdalena got to meet her faithful pen-pal, Christina St. Pierre, whose birthday was the day after Magdalena’s. Mags and Christina have written each other just about once a week since Christina’s older sister, Teresa (“Teaspoon”) graduated from Wyoming Catholic College.
We didn’t see Marietta for four days as she reconnected with her very first best friend, Regina Thompson. I found myself grateful for technology for almost the first time, because it has allowed these girls to stay in touch and maintain a truly lovely friendship. Here Marietta is enjoying baked beans and brown bread–a great favorite of hers, which we couldn’t leave New England without sampling.
But we were on our way to an even greater appointment. We got to see Tom and Lovelace Howard. Although it had been more than 10 years since we had seen each other, Lovelace emails me faithfully after every Christmas letter and baby announcement. Another reason to be grateful for technology. I told our friends that it seemed very incongruous to meet the Howards in the food court of a mall–but it was a stroke of genius. It was a rainy day, and the food court had a small play place where the boys could romp. The girls got smoothies and the parents got to catch up.
On our way out of New England, Paul and Clare Metilly invited us to brunch at their beautiful home in Massachusetts. In seventeen years, the Metilly style of gracious entertaining had hardly changed at all. There were now just so many more Metillys to enjoy it with.
The last stop on our trip was Cleveland, where we stayed with Fr. Mike and Debbie Lee and family. Another stately and spacious Byzantine rectory. More intellectual conversation with peers for Marietta and Mags. Some very memorable video games for Joseph, Thomas and Zeke. And Debbie, Fr. Michael, and John and I just talked and talked. Debbie teaches at Lyceum classical high school, which is run by our old friend Luke Macik, and which Aileen Coccia’s school is modeled after. We attended Fr. Michael’s Byzantine liturgy in the morning (Joseph’s opinion is that Byzantine is the best liturgy) and then swung by Lyceum to greet Luke and see the amazing things he’s doing. Marietta got to hug her old friend from first grade, Sasha Macik, after watching her do a Euclid prop.
Then we drove back to Wisconsin. It was great to sleep in our own beds, but what a gift to see so many dear friends after so long! We’ve enjoyed such a great life–and it just keeps going!