Archive for September, 2011

September 29, 2011

Postcard from Ellie at Smith

Recent email from Ellie:

just had Quad Riot a little while
ago. Of course I missed everyone w/ all the water balloons I threw, but I got
nailed w/ a bucket of water,curdled milk, and what smelled like a combo of
 pickle juice and sour cream….evidently Morrow decided not to follow the no
compost/food rule…..bastards….Despite my smell and wounded pride I
proceeded to Carol Christ’s house w/ the rest of the quad to scream outside her
 house. We yelled for quite awhile until her husband finally came out and
informed us that Carol was out of town…coward! :p

Overall it was still a fun riot, as
 my fellow Comstockers began streaking the quad (we have a rep to updhold) I
instead decided to end the night by running up to the showers immediately 🙂

Let me add some context. Quad Riot didn’t exist in my day, but it is a giant food fight in the Quad. The Head Residents get together to pick the day and email the students. I guess the food part was supposed to become water balloons only, but apparently that didn’t happen. The Quad Riot is a precursor to massing in front of the President’s house and calling for Mountain Day. We did do that in my day. Carol Christ is a very nice rather soft-spoken lady. I feel for her poor spouse who has probably been left to defuse the post-riot before. Mountain Day is one of Smith’s best traditions. A surprise announced in the morning by the tolling of the bells in Helen Hills Hills Chapel, it is a day the President has chosen when classes are cancelled and everyone is to head outside and enjoy the fall. Weeks are spent wondering when Mountain Day will be and the tension mounts. The lore around when it may or may not occur is legendary. It can’t be a Monday or a Friday. It can’t be a rainy day. It has to happen before Fall Break, but not before the end of September. To this day I feel a special sense of nostalgia when it is Mountain Day and email my friends who are Smithies the news.

Needless to say, Ellie is a Smithie now. She is fully immersed in the place and its traditions.

September 28, 2011

San Francisco Fleet Week and Lance Corporal Frost

Exciting news from Camp Pendleton. Alex has been chosen to go to San Francisco Fleet Week. This is quite an event and he’ll be gone about two weeks in total. It is fantastic he was chosen and I think a positive reflection on how he is viewed by command. He won’t say that, but that is what his mother thinks.

He found out a couple of weeks ago and has had to spend a lot of time preparing. He had to get his uniforms in shape and there has been some confusion about how they are expected to dress both en route on board ship and when they have shore leave. I can’t keep all the uniform appellations straight, so I couldn’t quite follow the back and forth on uniforms but I believe they will be wearing the one’s called “Charlies” which look like the picture below.

Some of his uniforms haven’t been worn since he left boot camp and they needed tailoring since he had been starved down to 168 lbs at Parris Island and now weighs quite a bit more.

He will be traveling on the Bonhomme Richard. This is the third iteration of this ship. John Paul Jones lays claim to the first. The second was an aircraft carrier which saw service during WWII and the Korean War and was then de-commissioned. Alex’s edition was commissioned in 1992 and is an amphibious assault ship.

The Bonhomme Richard Amphious Assault Ship

Although Fleet Week isn’t for another week, they will be doing some other things first. They will be making squares in the Pacific to do some sort of un-disclosable maneuvers or something he couldn’t tell me about. Making squares is just what it sounds like. They head out of port, which is San Diego, sail in a square, return to port and switch out personnel. Alex will be on board for the several days they do this with light watch duties.

Port View from Deck

He just called from ship board. He says the ship is fairly spartan. They each have a rack with a secure locker below. You can’t sit up in your rack and they are piled like sardines. There is a vent with air for each rack. There is a common room to hang out in with a broken tv, a ship’s library and not that much else in the way of entertainment. There is no internet and cell phones only work if you stand at an open port-hole since the ship acts like a giant signal block.

Alex's Rack

This is going to be a dress rehearsal as it were for Alex’s deployment which is scheduled to last ten months, but doesn’t take place for a long time. He will be assigned to a ship in the Pacific and life will be very much like this. They will get one day a month in port, but will otherwise be on board. This is highly ironic since the reason Alex never looked at the Navy was he didn’t want to end up on a ship. We have all enjoyed pointing this irony out to him countless times.

The Deck

Once they finish their deployments in San Diego, they head up to Fleet Week. This will be terribly exciting. The Marines and Naval personnel get leave every day. There will be lots of activities and they will all be on show. Alex doesn’t know exactly what he’ll get to do, but it is sure to be a huge adventure. They have been warned a million times to behave on shore and I am sure there will be some good stories.

I always enjoyed Fleet Week in New York. Watching the sailors on leave enjoying the sights of the city was a thrill. I can’t believe that Alex will be doing that in San Francisco. What a fantastic experience for him. Will post updates as he sends them.

September 24, 2011

Peter sets the Pace

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Monday of Labor Day weekend was move in day for Peter at Pace University. It couldn’t have been a much more different experience than taking Ellie to Smith.

It was a bit of a gray day. Having nagged Peter to pack unsuccessfully for a period of weeks, he threw some things together in a couple hours and we loaded it into the car. I have no real idea what he packed. He had been given lists of things he should bring, but I doubt he consulted them. I think his goal was to just throw everything he owned into suitcases and call it quits.

Driving into the city always makes me nervous. But I was the only one nervous. Peter seemed calm and quietly eager to get to school. He had seen his apartment, met the kids he would be living with and he told us we didn’t need to hang around. Just drop him, get his stuff to his apartment and we were released. Wow, I was more nervous than he was.

Peter is living in a three-bedroom apartment about a block from the main campus with five other boys. The building is on Fulton Street. It is quite a sweet set up. They have a kitchen and two full bathrooms. Most people living in Manhattan and working don’t have such great digs. The new Gehry building rises in the block between Peter’s dorm and the main Pace building. The whole area will be transformed as that building opens.

They had a great system for dealing with the city streets and dropping kids at Fulton. There were cones out and a lane to park in. They had giant plastic bins on wheels and one pulled up to the front of the building, unloaded into bins and then wheeled the bins into the building. We pulled up, filled two bins, Jim went to park the car, Peter to sign in and I stayed with the stuff on the street. It is a busy city street and quite exciting. If Ellie is ensconced in pastoral Northampton, Peter is about two blocks from Ground Zero and in the heart of the Financial District.

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September 18, 2011

Ms. Elizabeth Goes to Smith

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August 31st Peter and I drove Ellie up to Smith. Ellie did a remarkable job packing herself and preparing for her new life at college. Over the summer we worked to clean out her room. She gathered lists of items which should be brought to college life in the dorm. She even did some planning for her decor shopping online for items which would make her room feel comfortable and look pretty.

We arrived at Smith and checked in at the amazing gym facility which they have. It made a great place to hold check in. There were stations for registering, picking up ids, getting campus maps and everything was quite well organized. Next we headed up to Comstock. Comstock is one of two houses which form the Little Quad. The good thing about being an alum is that I knew exactly where to go. Ironically, Ellie and I stayed in Comstock when I went to my 25th Reunion. We shared a single room overlooking Paradise Pond. Who knew that someday she would be living in that house? Or that my diabolical plot to somehow get her to want to be a Smithie would actually succeed?

A bevy of boisterous, happy Smithies met us at the entrance to Comstock. They gave us instructions, greetings and lent a hand carrying Ellie’s possessions up to her room. Ellie’s room is in the Maid’s Quarters, first window on the left. It is one of few doubles. It isn’t huge, but it seems very comfortable and there are two large walk in closets–so lots of storage. Ellie had skyped with her room mate, Bayla, and knew she was already in residence having arrived early to try out for the tennis team. Their meeting was enthusiastic and friendly. Ellie’s apprehension about her room mate faded quickly as they immediately began planning their room and exchanging information.

Peter was an invaluable help getting Ellie settled. He carried the refrigerator up to the room singlehandedly, helped me hoist the bookcase up on Ellie’s desk to open up floorspace and was gracious and engaged in the whole process. Once Ellie was fairly settled, Peter and I headed to our hotel and dinner. Ellie was meeting a group of first year students for dinner and ice cream at Harrell’s and had informed us we were no longer needed.

Peter and I were seated in the Noodle Shop when my phone rang and a tearful Ellie sobbed that she had missed hooking up with the dinner group and would never make friends at Smith. There were lots of other dire prognostications having to do with her utter failure and end of life. I suggested she come join us and she could catch everyone later for ice cream. We had dinner and dropped Ellie back at Comstock still gloomy and nervous. Peter asked her to get his sunglasses which he had left in her room and she headed up. When she returned she was laughing and introduced us to Caroline, her next door neighbor. The sun was shining again and she barely waved goodbye. It was a much better ending to the evening.

We met Ellie for breakfast in the morning and she was excited and told us we could stay to eat lunch at Smith but she was busy and wouldn’t be able to spend any more time with us. She had a group of women to meet for lunch at Cushing and lots of other things to do.

Peter and I headed out of Northampton after breakfast. Our work was done. There have been and will be many more upsets and tearful calls, but they are fewer and fewer and mostly Ellie is just very happy and excited. She has a favorite place to study in Neilsen Library which is right where my carrel was in the library some thirty years ago. She has lots of friends, seems to like her classes a lot and has gone on record that she is really glad to be at Smith where she can focus on her work during the week and go to parties at Amherst and UMass on the weekends.

For me, having Ellie at Smith is a fitting continuum. My girl hasn’t left me. She is in a place that I know and love. Her evening seminar is in a classroom in Seelye that I had classes in. She is walking the paths I walked. When she calls sitting on the hill by Paradise Pond, I know exactly where she is. Smith meant so much to me and gave me so much and I am thrilled that Smith is my legacy to Ellie and Ellie is my legacy to Smith. It is a deeply satisfying.

September 3, 2011

Peter’s 21st Birthday

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August 31st was Peter’s 21st birthday!! In a week of major events, this event could have gotten short shrift, but I think we were able to give the newly minted adult his due.

The celebration was held Tuesday, the 30th since we were taking Ellie to Smith on the 31st. There was the obligatory chocolate cake and you would not believe the size of the two slices Peter ate of it!! Alex was on hand long distance and that was appreciated by his younger brother.

One of Peter’s gift was some sort of Bacardi Rum which kind of made me wince, but, hey, he is 21 now. On Monday Peter heads off to Pace.

These are major benchmarks for someone who has faced some big challenges in his life. Peter is amazing in so many ways. He is so exceptionally intelligent and truly can figure out any mechanical or technical device. He is incredibly creative and excellent at problem solving. He is a very loving person and, if he sometimes has trouble with empathy because of his Aspergers, I watch him with his sister and think that there are very few such loving brothers on the earth. Peter’s passion for music is boundless and he loves so many genres–perhaps indiscriminately or it seems that way to me sometimes. He loves fan fiction on the internet and, of course, World of Warcraft. Peter has grown so tremendously over the past few years, he deserves tremendous credit for his achievements. As we celebrate this birthday and prepare to send him off to Pace, I wish and hope for so many good things for him. Mostly I wish him the courage to keep growing and expanding his horizons, the gift of judgement to help him balance his impulses and the promise of great friends and love as he grows into adulthood. At least we know he will come home to visit us as long as Xena and Zoe are living with us.

Happy Birthday, Peter Benjamin. You are truly one of a kind.

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