Thursday, March 22, 2007


Thanks to the resourcefulness of my sister Tracy, the girls and I were able to fly to Sacramento to surprise my brother Chris, who was honored with a Silver Star for bravery by the Sacramento Sheriff's Department. Initially, I thought there was no way I could make the ceremony, as flying alone with two girls (and two car seats) seemed beyond my abilities. But Tracy, who was visiting friends on the east coast, arranged her flights to come through St. Louis and help me with the girls. Upon arriving at Chris and Tracy's house (Clara calls it "Sacramento House,") we walked through the door, surprised Chris, and immediately a grinning Clara was enveloped by her cousins, amongst whom she spent the rest of the visit, running around, kicking balls, blowing bubbles, whatever they could think of. Kate practiced her walking while trying not to get dizzy from all the activity around her.

The girls and I surprised my Mom at her school, where she showed us off to anyone and everyone. I got the idea that if the kids were taking their most important test of the year, she would have burst in to show off her granddaughters anyway.

Chris was given his Silver Star at a classy ceremony that managed to capture the appropriate tone of heroism while maintaining a humility necessary to those who risk their lives for the public good. The term "hero" was rarely used. Rather, "courage," "quick-thinking," and "sacrifice" were used to describe how each of the thirty or so officers earned awards ranking from Life Saving to Chris' Silver Star. I videotaped the opening of the ceremony then turned off the camera, as Chris was amongst the last group honored. But as the MC read how each officer earned his or her award, I was so moved by what they had done I had to turn the camera back on. I already knew Chris' story was extraordinary, but somehow it made me even more proud of him to be amongst such people. I'm sure the feeling was as strong or stronger in our mother or in Tracy, but I was so proud watching the Sheriff place the medal around Chris' neck that it was as if I was receiving the award myself.

Chris describes the incident in his blog: Sacramento Deputy Diaries

I took the girls to the Bay Area for a few days to meet the St. Ignatius crowd ("Bridge, City, Daddy's School!") Then we spent two wonderful days with Michelle and her boys Andrew and Justin. Michelle and I pretty much stood back and tried to contain the storm. Clara immediately took to Andrew, her new best friend. Kate and Justin toddled around like an old couple. Clara still hasn't stopped talking about Andrew and their visit to the toddler zoo. A highlight for me was a dinner with the Etters and Tom, Allison, and new baby Colleen Burns. Our get-togethers have changed since college. Check out posts on March 17 and 18 in Michelle's blog: Mountain View Mommy.

What? You don't have a blog?

On the last night in Sacramento we filled a restaurant with our laughter and silliness - all that was missing was Megan. Chris flew home with us and stayed the weekend. When we sit down at the dinner table now, Clara points to a chair and says, "That's where Uncle Chris sits."

Grandma, Kate, Great-Grandma


tracy bittle said...

Clara can have our house as her "Sacramento House" fully stocked with a Sacramento Kitty, puppy and several hamsters...oh yeah and a couple of cousins who adore her and Kate.

We missed Megan and I promise next time Megan can stay too :).

There is nothing in the world I would trade for the time we spent with the three of you. I'm so happy it all worked out that you were able to be here for Chris. I know how much it meant to have you here.

We love and miss all four of you!

Andrew Etter said...

Come back Clara - I miss you. I promise I will let you use the rake this time & sleep in my truck bed.

Justin Etter said...

Kat, Kat, blah blah miss you... Kat Kat

Michelle said...

Seriously, I need a drink & my parenting buddy. Come back Joel, American Idol is not the same without you. Next time bring Megan. Stay forever

Chris Bittle said...

I loved my surprise! Having my brother at the awards presentation made it so special. Thank you Joel and Tracy for making the extra effort to bring Clara and Kate out to visit for a week.

I miss Clara's beautiful smile each morning and her "squeezes". I miss Kate toddling around the house after the whirlwind cousins. I miss staying up late to play online video games with my best friend.

You guys are so special to us. You are welcome any time. You too Megan! We are so looking forward to coming out this summer.

Anonymous said...

Surprise? Try shock! We often have young parents walking across the playground with younger siblings. I noticed the young man with the two year old and toddeler in arms, but I seldom stare. I did however notice this man seemed to take a particular interest in me. That warented a second look. I can't tell you exactly when I figured out that these were people who were more dear to me than the air I breathe.
Joel, you commented that I just barged into classrooms. They would have done the same to me under the circumstances. One teacher said "Oh this little one started walking this weekend"(it was Tuesday).
Joel, I loved your surprise. Thank You.

Patricia said...
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Joel Bittle said...
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Joel Bittle said...

the above 2 posts have been moved to