Some of you say, "Joy is greater than sorrow," and others say,
"Nay, sorrow is the greater."
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board,
Remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.
Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver,
Needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.
-- from The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran
There are many tales of this remarkable woman—one of the very first was on an early spring day in the Great Smoky Mountains of eastern Tennessee. On that day, Chris' mother and father, Helen and Mac, her sister Katy, and Caroline and myself went for a picnic and walked along a mountain stream, commenting on the early green buds and savoring the burgeoning of new growth. Helen hefted her heavy belly and I remember the twinkle in her eye as she reminded us of the possible need for a quick return to Knoxville. After our outing, we returned home, Knoxville, Tennessee. Early the next morning her father called us and said that the walk in the mountains had done the trick. Christine had arrived in the wee hours with a minimum of fuss.
But a minimum of fuss was the exception rather than the rule with Christine. She was a charming sprite, loving ribbons and dolls, sugar in a spoon. As a youngster, she lived in Ithaca, New York, near her grandparents Katy and Temple Burling. As a teenager living in Alexandria Virginia, Chris picked up a Rubik's Cube and set it to rights in record time. That was at the age of 14 and it earned her early fame with a picture in the Washington Post. A lanky long-legged and long-haired gal with a viola and a quizzical almost-smile are in my memory.
With a year to go in High School, she came to live in Seattle with Caroline and Sam and finished up at a nearby junior college, earning dual credits. These gave her a head start at the University of Washington which she finished in three years. My memory is of sitting at opposite sides of the table carrying on a conversation with this young woman while she worked over papers. Before the conversation was over she had finished her math homework—but I didn't think she was even looking at it.
After graduation, Chris was soon off to other adventures—as a Forest Service fire ranger and smoke jumper dispatcher— (one practice jump from a tower led to a busted knee, one of several other scars). She married Joel Freudenthal, a wildlife biologist; they lived in a pastoral cabin in Sand Point, Idaho. But academic ambition and who knows what other events spelled the end of that period. Chris and Joel parted ways. Chris' parents moved to Port Townsend WA; there Chris met Bob Chung, Tessie's father. Chris found herself at the University of Oregon, in Eugene where she studied Landscape Architecture and Historic Preservation.
During this time arrived a small bundle of joy named Alexis Theresa (a.k.a. Tessie and 'Texas')! And, in short order, Chris earned a dual Master's Degree in Landscape Architecture and Historic Preservation. She was one proud and beautiful woman as the Dean handed her two diplomas.
First job out of Eugene was with the Presidio Trust in San Francisco, as a Planner for its restoration as a National Treasure. Just as with her homework years earlier, she seemed to turn out complex work products, plans, diagrams and narrative almost as a by-product of her enjoyment of life.
She and Texas lived in one of the big former officers' residences, overlooking the Golden Gate bridge and sublet its many bedrooms to a succession of memorable roommates including her daughter's namesake, Therese Peffer. After a few years she and Texas came to live in Davis and, after some stints as a consultant, she moved up from taking contracts to letting them, with Caltrans.
I remember when she told me about Everything2, the writer's (and everything) website. This was where Christine chose her nickname—Grundoon. Grundoon is a diapered baby ground hog who only speaks gibberish...random consonants. Eventually Grundoon learns to say 2 things—Bye and Bye-bye.
Everyting2 would bring her a dashing cavalier from across the ocean, the right man for her life—Kevin Weedon. But deepest joy and deepest sorrow were to come almost simultaneously. We got a sobbing phone call one morning, "...a lump in my breast...." I, as always, was the skeptic initially, but it was to come to pass and a mixture of joy and sorrow filled her life for the next seven years. It was her final lot. And ours.
Written by Caroline and Sam Bledsoe for grundoon's memorial, 16th April 2012, published here with permission.
If anyone would like a printed copy, I have a limited number of them. Please /msg me with your requests and your real-life name and address. It may take me some time to get to this, so please, be patient.