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"Seeing little birds grow up and leave the nest is difficult for parents, but seeing them leave for a home half-a-world away is agony. Even with telephone, e-mail and regular mail the distance from Whidbey Island to New Zealand is similar to the distance between the earth and Mars.Difficult as it is, we must get used to it.Doug, our youngest, who has spent the past 10 years in Christchurch, New Zealand, keeps in touch with us, and when he is too busy his wife Kathleen takes over the letter writing to keep us up on what is going on in that far corner of the world. His son Thomas is now 12 years old and will enter high school in February. High school is a five year stint down-under. Kathleen teaches at the university in Christchurch, and Doug, the sculptor in the family, is working hard with his New Zealand limestone.New Zealand’s South Island has much in common with Whidbey Island. Discovered by Dutch sea captains, the island has a goodly number of Hollanders. There is also a colony of Irish, another of Scots. Doug says one can hear the bagpipes playing day or night on the campus of the university. When we visited there a few years ago, the Dutch community was readying for a visit from the queen mother of Holland. There are also the Maoris, the native people of the islands whose history is similar to the Native Americans. New Zealand is a beautiful country. In the southern hemisphere it is winter now, going in to spring. Just the opposite of Whidbey Island where autumn is approaching. The native tongue over the years has become known as “kiwi” — just a bit different from the English tongue, so that our Thomas says “Peepsy” instead of “Pepsi,” just different enough to make us listen carefully to learn what is being said.Doug’s Oak Harbor High School Class of 1964 reunion took place this month along with other 1960s classes, and he was unable to make the trip home. Winter is a busy time of year. But when they meet again in five years (hopefully) he will be able to return to meet his old classmates and relive the days of yore.Thirty-six years ia a long time to remember the good times and friends of high school years, but time moves on. Someone has said, “Life can be beautiful, why ain’t it?” Perhaps that refers to parents left in the nest when the young birds fly away?New Zealand is a beautiful country as we have said. Bright blue skies, bright green waters, rivers, lakes and sheep. Farms and happy people.Some of the happiest days of our life was when our three children were in high school (at two different times), when the old house on the hill was the rendezvous of the teen crowd, before the advent of rings-in-the-nose and other fashions of today. There was always an extra bed for a friend, be it the davenport or the floor, but we had good results when they all left for the junior prom or some other excitement and we admonished them, “Remember, the last one in sleeps on the porch.” It was cold out there.Our older son, Jim, has only recently let us in on some of the goings-on of his high school days. He was the worker with a job before school, another at noon, and one in the evening. He recalled how Lanche Crow, high school principal, declared him to be a winner, the one who was tardy 101 times in so many days due to his many jobs outside of school.When those Oak Harbor High School classmates who couldn’t make the celebration this year see their old friends in picture, we’re sure they will mark their five-year calendars to remind them that another celebration will take place in 2005, and plan to be there.Weather note: Looking to holly berry growth this year, the coming winter is to be a long, cold one! Great bunches of berries are on our trees, more than ever before. Grandfather would nod and suggest we get ready for a whiz-banger.---------------------Dorothy Neil has gathered and recorded Whidbey Island history for more than 50 years. She is the author of 10 books, including “By Canoe and Sailing Ship They Came,” which chronicle Whidbey life and times. "

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