Originally from West Virginia, Ann came to California in 1978, by way of Houston, Texas. She met her husband, Alec Peters, when they were undergraduates at Stanford. They have been married since 1985 and have three grown children and two grandchildren.
Ann and Alec published the Kenwood Press newspaper from 1995 until selling the business and retiring at the end of 2020. Ann honed her skill as an essayist under the pressure of newspaper deadlines. For many years now she also has been writing what she calls a memoir with food – a series of essays using a recipe, a memorable meal, or a favorite food as a jumping off point to parts unknown. Working title: “Dishes and Reminisces”.
To know or not to know, that is the question
October 22, 2020
Tonight I’m NOT watching the second presidential debate [between Trump and Biden.]
Lately Alec and I have stopped watching the news, at least the evening news before dinner – including the PBS News Hour, the most informative and least sensational of the national broadcasts. Instead, we’ve been playing Yahtzee with Mom and watching the World Series or football. Yahtzee involves no skill and very little strategy, which makes it perfect for when you’re having a drink before dinner. Mom and I are a team against Alec. The sportscast reads like this.
“In an Oct. 19 pre-dinner matchup, Alec rolled TWO Yahtzees – unheard of! – both with sixes – unheard of! – giving him a 150-point lead. But Ann and Jean were doing very well in all categories when Jean rolled a Yahtzee for team AJ, this time with twos. The final score was an eye-popping 313-313 tie. The following night Alec rolled another Yahtzee of sixes – what’s with all the sixes!? – and this time won the game. But Jean and Ann won both games on Oct. 21, cementing their lead in the quest for the Yahtzee Cocktail Championship.”
Each player has his/her own style. Alec covers the dice cup with his fingers spread too wide, and one or more die will usually come flying out out before he broadcasts the rest onto the table. Once a die landed in his wine glass, giving new meaning to the term “loaded dice.” Mom barely shakes the cup, sets the rim on the table, and lets them trickle out. My style is between the two extremes. Alec never vocalizes. Mom talks to the die, putting the cup up to her ear and saying, “Come on fours, I know you’re in there.” I don’t give them too much encouragement, but when we get a good roll, I’m the one throwing up my arms and screaming, “That’s what I’m talking about!”
What I’ve noticed is that when we play Yahtzee instead of watching the news, Mom eats more dinner, and we have better conversation around the table. Clearly, engaging one another instead of being engaged by a steady diet of bad news is a good thing.
Really, how much of what you hear on any given day is something you need to know? I venture to guess none, unless you’re under threat of wildfire, in which case it’s good to know what’s happening on the ground. But even then, unless you’re figuring out which way to run, what does it matter, because you have no control? Obviously the same is true with our current political situation. It’s all about control, or lack thereof. We cast the die. We cast our vote. We hope for the best.
Alec and I have been going through our files at the office. We have two months left before retiring and turning over the reins of the Kenwood Press to Melissa and Paul. I started by going through old advertisers’ paper file folders, throwing out about 95 percent, and the five percent I kept I could probably just as easily have tossed. We cleaned out my mom’s house in St. Louis before selling it, and after Alec’s mom died, we went through so many drawers, boxes, file cabinets and closets, and threw away so much stuff that after a while you start to think, “I could just throw all these things away without even looking at them.” Really, if you’ve lived without something for 40+ years, and it gets thrown out, can you ever really miss it? If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it…?
I’ve been thinking about that a lot during this year’s fire season. While I can never put myself in the shoes of someone who has lost all their worldly possessions, I wonder what it would feel like to just throw away every container that hasn’t been opened in over three or four years, without ever looking to see what’s inside. Sure, every now and then you come across something you’re glad you found. Just the other day I found my long-lost critter cam. I had brought it inside to reset it, ever since it started taking about 1,000 pictures an hour, and obviously misplaced the box. I had periodically searched for it since then, whenever I thought about it, which wasn’t often. It’s something I really wanted to find. But if I had never found it, I would have just bought a new one at some point.
The reason for this particular search, though, was to find picture frames for my Dia de los Muertos altar. In the process I unearthed boxes of photos and mementos, none of which I took the time to look at. What I was after was a way to honor my dead relatives – Dad, my mother-in-law Betty, Alec’s father Evan, my sister-in-law Liz, my Aunt Sara, who died in June at the age of 93. I don’t need their photos to remember them, although it’s lovely to have them. And I did find just the right frames, after taking out whatever was in them that was not as important.
Is there more to that old joke, “How can I miss you if you won’t go away?” Do we miss things because they’re gone, or do we miss them because we loved them? And do we love them any more than what we have right now in front of us, like a table full of good food and good conversation, or a silly dice game with people we love?