Eddy’s Blessing for Kate’s Bat Mitzvah

Ta venue au monde a rempli ma vie de joie dès le premier instant. Tes premiers mots, alors que tu n’étais encore qu’un bébé, m’ont rendu si fière de voir comme tu étais déjà si intelligente.

Bien sûr nous avons découvert très tôt, ta mère et moi, que tu étais une enfant précocement très bavarde, ce qui a provoqué beaucoup de fou rire et de gaieté dans notre vie. Quand plus tard tu as commencé à lire énormément des livres, j’ai été très fière de voir à quel point tu étais très intelligente. Ta joie de vivre et ta facilité de parler aux gens m’ont souvent fait beaucoup rire. J’ai des souvenirs vraiment drôles quand tu racontais ta vie déjà toute petite a n’importe qui tu pouvais rencontrer.

Notre vie en France était évidemment très spéciale, et tu ne t’es jamais caché avec fierté que ton papa était français et ta maman américaine, et que tu parlais les 2 langues sans aucune difficulté. Quand nous avons déménagé pour Seattle j’avoue n’avoir eu aucune inquiétude concernant ton adaptation à ta nouvelle vie.

J’ai toujours adoré ton rire quand je faisais l’idiot ou des blagues, et ta manière de tomber dans mes bras en me faisant plein de bisous m’ont toujours fait fondre. Eh oui, désolé, mais même en grandissant tu seras toujours ma petite fille.

En étant musicien, ton gout pour la musique m’a toujours rendu heureux, et plus tard j’ai été agréablement surpris de t’entendre chanter avec une si belle voix. Bon, c’est vrai que tu chantes beaucoup, le matin, l’après-midi, sous la douche, et même quelquefois j’ai été obligé pendant la nuit de te demander de dormir parce que tu chantais dans ton lit.

Quand tu as décidé de participer aux Arts Nights de l’école, j’ai tout de suite voulu participer avec toi, le premier à View Ridge était adorable, celui a Eckstein a été phénoménal. J’avoue avoir été un peu inquiet quand tu as choisi « Shallow » de Lady Gaga, et que tu ne voulais pas beaucoup répéter. Mais quand nous avons passé l’audition, ta voix m’a donné des frissons et mon inquiétude a disparu. Le soir de l’évènement j’ai tellement était fière de ta prestation qu’il n’était pas facile de cacher les larmes me monter aux yeux sous l’applaudissement de la foule.

Tu deviens une très jolie jeune fille maintenant, très intelligentes sensibles, avec bien sur beaucoup de caractère. Un peu têtu peut être. Pour finir, je voulais encore te dire à quel point je suis très fière de toi, et oui désole, même si tu grandis, tu resteras toujours ma petite fille et je t’aime très, très fort.

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Interview with Owen

Owen had to interview someone for his language arts class, and I actually liked the answers that we came up with enough to want to save it for posterity. He already knew a lot about me, but I still think he learned some things!

Owen: Name, birthday, were you named after anyone, significant
Kelly: I was born November, 18, 1974. I wasn’t named after anyone special. My parents went to Sears department store to buy a crib the day before I was born. They hadn’t chosen my name yet and they thought I was going to be a boy. They saw the name Kelly on a rack of bicycle license plates and thought it would be good for a boy or a girl.

Owen: Places lived?
Kelly: I have lived in Los Angeles, Northern California, Seattle and France. In Los Angeles, I lived in the city and in the Valley. In Northern California I lived in San Rafael and in Oakland, then I moved to Seattle. I moved to France in 2000 and lived in three different apartments in the same city, then I moved back to Seattle, with you.

Owen: Jobs worked
Kelly: My first job was as a swimming teacher and lifeguard at the YMCA. I did that for about four years, and then I worked with developmentally disabled teenagers and adults. Then I was a nanny for a while. When I went to France, I worked as a waitress and an English teacher, then I started by own job as a blogger. That helped me start working in digital marketing which is what I do now.

Owen: Passions/hobbies
Kelly: I like to read, a lot. I don’t really play solitaire anymore, because I took it off of my phone because I was spending too much time on it. I do like to play word games. I like to garden.

Owen: Family life? who do you spend time with? How did your family come to live here?
Kelly: We spend a lot of time together as a family, except it makes me sad when you spend too much time in your room. That is why I like to have dinner together with you and your brother and sister, because then I can spend time with you. We also spend time with Grandma of course. We came to Seattle because Grandma lived here and because I was sick of France. Grandma lived here because she had moved here with Uncle Paul’s father when Uncle Paul was little.

Owen: what was school like for you?
Kelly: School was easy for me, but I hated it, especially high school, which is why I dropped out of school in 11th grade. I missed having my friends with me, because my mother put me in a school that I did not want to go to. I thought the people in that school were not very smart, so I wanted to go to junior college instead. Then I dropped out of high school and took the GED and went to Valley Community College.

Owen: What were significant historical events that have shaped your life?
Kelly: Not the moon landing, because I was born in 1974. However, I do remember the Challenger exploding, when I was in elementary school. Kids all around the country were watching that when it happened. (Side note: we took a minute to watch a video of the live broadcast, and I teared up like the first time I watched it.) I remember Princess Diana dying. I remember 9/11 happening—that was right after I had moved to France and it was really frightening because I couldn’t really speak the language yet, and I wasn’t sure what was going on. I remember trying to explain the 2004 elections to my class of English students in France. I remember the 2008 elections when Obama won, and we taught Kate to say Obama!

Owen: How is the world different today than when you were younger? Did you have roads?
Kelly: Stop being snotty. There were roads when I was little too. However, we did not have phones, or computers—we had to look up directions before we drove anywhere, which is why I think I have a good sense of direction. But, we still hung out with our friends a lot and I did a lot of the same things that you do. I did a lot of swimming as a kid, and hung out with Crystal and Nancy a lot. I didn’t really spend a lot of time with my parents either.

Owen: What were you like when you were my age?
Kelly: What do you think I was like?
Owen: Kind of like Kate, but better.
Kelly: I was pretty shy, and I read a lot of books, but I was good at talking to grownups, because I spent a lot of time with them. I was really determined to do things the way that I wanted to do them, which is why I dropped out of high school, for example. I had a close group of friends that I spent a lot of time with, but I wasn’t really popular, I don’t think.

Owen: What are your values you’ve had that have changed over time?
Kelly: Nothing really. I still think it is important to do your best, and work really hard. Being smart is important to me, which is why I want you to get a good education and work your brain, because you are very smart. Being Jewish has always been important to me, but I guess that the one thing that has changed is that I didn’t used to really go to temple. Having animals is really important to me, and so is voting. So, I guess things really haven’t changed that much.

Owen: what are some of your proudest moments? Getting the new job at Microsoft and at Concur?
Kelly: Yes, getting the job at Microsoft was a very validating moment—I felt so proud to be recognized as that good in my job that someone wanted to hire me. I was also really proud to graduate college and graduate school, and I am really proud of you and your brother and your sister at so many moments. I am so proud of who you are and the person that I can see you becoming. You have worked really hard and I see how smart and funny and kind you are and I am proud of you. Now you are making me cry. Ok, now what?

Owen: How do you want people to remember you?
Kelly: I read a quote once, or a story, that said that someone wanted to have inscribed on their gravestone “They think of me and laugh” but that sounds like they are laughing at them. I want people to think of me with laughter, but I think I am too serious for that to happen. I really want you to be able to tell stories about me to your children and grandchildren. I don’t know what I want those stories to be, but I want to be remembered by the people that are important to me and the people that are important to them. I just want to make a difference in your life, and maybe be thought of as a good boss and a good friend by the people who I work with and my friends.
Owen: now you are making me cry.

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Remembering MRT

Written for the memorial of Michael Rolly Thompson, held 8/25/18 at the Clark Library in Los Angeles.

Hello, and thank you all for coming.

My father loved coming to the Clark Library, as many of you know, and he would be happy to see you gathered here. He’d probably bluster and pretend that he’d rather us not talk about him, but secretly, he would have loved being the center of attention. He liked holding court, not necessarily to talk about himself, mind you, but instead to talk about various topics like books, music, books, art, books and… the book trade.

I never knew my father to be anything other than a bookseller. Some of my earliest memories are of playing behind the book cases at the very back of the store on Melrose Ave. Those memories are quickly followed by recollections of wandering through various book fairs, convincing dealers, some of you who are in this room, that your glass cases were dirty and needed to be cleaned for the very reasonable rate of a dollar.  Or two, if they were especially dirty.

I spent many a weekend at book fairs, and many more at Michael R Thompson Rare Books in each of its various locations: on Melrose, on Fairfax, on 3rd. I’d bemoan the lack of children’s books (which I could never understand why he didn’t sell), draw pictures on legal pads, rearrange the banker’s boxes into planes or trains and read books from the only section that appealed to me—the celebrity biography. I’m not sure that 8-year-olds are supposed to know that much about Rock Hudson or Lana Turner, but it was educational and entertaining at the time.

As I grew older, I resisted the idea of working in the store in the same way that I resisted working for my mother in her letterpress printing studio, maybe with less messy results. After all, it’s a lot harder to mis-shelve books than it is to dump a composing stick full of type willy-nilly into the type drawer. For a period of time though, I had two friends who did work with him, and he, Carol, and Kathleen continued to ask about “The M’s”, as they called them, for years.

For as much time as I spent at the store or at fairs, I had a very limited understanding of the important role my father played in the antiquarian book world. I was used to hearing his stories from the perspective of being his child, preferably when they centered around or concerned me: when were we going to go home, was he talking about someone I knew, was it a book that had pretty pictures in it. It has been so moving for me to hear the stories and remembrances from other people who worked with him, who learned from him, who loved him. He considered you to be family.

Family was important to my father. He was the oldest of seven brothers, although he only grew up in the same household as four of them. Several of his younger brothers had children before I was born, all boys, and the joke around the family was that they didn’t have girls, they married them. My father loved his brothers very much, and while they didn’t always see eye to eye on everything (who does?), he relished his relationship with them and their children, many of whom were able to be with us today.

And although I never lived with him in the same city once I was married and had children, meaning that he didn’t often have the opportunity for hands-on spoiling, he loved my children, his grandchildren very much. He was so proud of them: he printed out every picture I shared of them and I recently discovered, in going through his affairs, multiple envelopes of children’s drawings that I had sent to Grandpa’s Art Archival service. I think I sent them to him as a guilt free way to get them out of my own house without throwing them away, but of course he hung on to each scribbled line drawing and messy finger painting. He delighted in hearing stories about Jonah, Owen and Kate, and spending time with them and wished only that it could have been more. For many years we lived in France, and, while he would have preferred that I had married an English man, he loved coming to visit us and getting to see France from an insider’s perspective.

Of course, France could never compare to England, in his eyes, and London was one of his favorite places to visit. He was an anglophile through and through and I know that, had he ever won the lottery, he would have moved to the UK in a heartbeat. London might have been one of his favorite far flung places to go to, but he loved to travel in North America too: Toronto, New York, Boston, Salt Lake City, Seattle, whether for work or pleasure, or both. He sent many postcards to me from some of these exotic locations (did I mention Pocatello, Idaho?) and once he started adopting email as a newfangled means of correspondence, he kept in touch with people worldwide on a regular basis. He couldn’t completely separate himself from paper, however, and in going through things at the office, I discovered that he had printed out many of his email exchanges. Reading these emails has been a delight and again, has helped me discover and rediscover his life.

Sadly, my father’s health had been declining over the past few years. The pictures that people have been sharing on Facebook and email have highlighted what it was sometimes hard to fully recognize in person. Given his many ailments over the year, and the loss of his parents and two of his brothers relatively young, I think that he, especially, was surprised to reach the ripe old age of 78.

One of the sad blessings of a long illness is that it gives people more of a chance to say goodbye. Although he had an indomitable will and knack for pulling through each new crisis, I was certainly aware that each goodbye could be the last. My husband, kids and I had the chance to spend several days with him in March, and although he was mostly unconscious the last few days of his life, he was aware of mine, his brother Steve and Steve’s wife Elaine’s, and, of course, Carol’s visits to him.

I know that he was making plans for and dreaming of just one last trip, or rather several of them: to Seattle for the October fair, to Salt Lake City, for one last library visit, to Idaho, to put flowers on the graves. He will be taking that last trip with us sometime next Spring, once the snow melts in Pocatello, to rejoin Kathleen, who we buried last May, his parents and his brothers Steve Pat and Danny, and too many of his relatives to count (the Mormons being a fruitful people).

I learned so much from my father: my love of animals (he always had at least one cat or dog at home), an appreciation for London as one of the finest places on earth (with apologies to my French husband), the conviction that museums and bookstores are a necessary and worthy place for children to spend time (as I drag my own children to one every chance I get), that we answer “finished”, not “done” when we are asked if we have completed our meal, that Latin is a fine and worthy language…for other people to speak.

Perhaps more than anything though, I knew that my father loved me, and that family and community were important to him. I want to thank you all for being here for us, for each other, and for him.

Thank you.

Other tributes

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