The end of reunion and the “after-party”

On Sunday morning, I went to breakfast early and was able to say good-bye to some of my classmates who were heading out before the official end of reunion to beat the Sunday afternoon traffic. Everyone was very appreciative of the events and very happy to have had time together. It is amazing how easily we relate to one another, even if we only see each other in person every five years, or even if we had not known each other well during our student days.

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Helen Hills Hills Chapel Smith College Northampton MA

At nine o’clock, several dozen alumnae gathered at Helen Hills Hills chapel for a service of remembrance. I arrived early and had a few moments to talk to the college organist about changes over the years. His role and the life at chapel are very different than in my years at Smith. When I was a student, there were Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish chaplains and weekly services at chapel for each tradition, along with a network of faculty and community advisors for other traditions. There were three choirs who periodically provided choral music for services, plus a student led gospel choir which sang for some of the ecumenical Christian services and other student volunteers who most often led music at Catholic Mass. (As a Catholic and an organist, I played often at Mass over my four years at Smith, as well as serving for two years as accompanist for one of the choirs and playing almost every organ piece I learned as a prelude or postlude for the Protestant services.)

Now, there are no chaplains and no regularly scheduled religious services on campus. There are advisors available in different spiritual traditions. The chapel still has space for prayer and meditation, but the main body of the chapel is now a multi-use space for concerts, lectures, classes, and the occasional service, such as the one we were gathering for that morning. The chapel was built in the New England Congregational style, but the pews on the main floor have been removed and the floor was changed to wood. It is jarring to me to walk into chapel. I do understand the need to make the space more versatile, but I think it could have been done in a way that was more in keeping with the architecture had the floor been New England hardwood and the chairs less clunky and modern in design. Even more, I lament the loss of service and leadership opportunities in their faith traditions for current students on campus. It was powerful to have services that were planned and attended almost exclusively by women; this basis has been a rock on which I have relied often in the storms that have followed in subsequent decades.

Sorry. End of rant. Back to our service of remembrance…

The prelude and postlude were Bach and we sang three hymns drawn from various traditions and a fellow ’82er sang a solo. There were readings from the Bible, the Qur’an, and from Rumi. Director of Religious and Spiritual Life Matilda Rose Cantwell prepared and led the service very gently and thoughtfully. The most moving part of the service was when Rev. Cantwell invited alumnae to come forward and give a remembrance of someone close to them. People from many different reunion classes spoke about classmates, professors, and family members. Two of my classmates who were from Northampton spoke movingly about their parents’ relationship with the town and the College. My college roommate, who served as one of the deacons of the Ecumencial Christian Church, spoke about two of her fellow deacons who died, Beth, during our senior year, and Amy, who died just weeks before reunion.

After the service, we visited Beth’s memorial tree beside the chapel.

Then, we continued on to our final official reunion activity, Sunday brunch. Our table did express our disappointment that our favorite sour cream coffee cake was not on the buffet.

We went back to our rooms to pack up and make sure that our headquarters was squared away before we left.

Several of us decided to stay in Northampton another night in order to process and decompress, particularly to support our two housemates who had chaired the reunion for our class. We decided to visit the Art Museum, which had a special exhibit on the villas of Oplontis near Pompeii. We then dispersed for hotel check-in and reconvened at Fitzwilly’s in downtown Northampton for dinner, joined by a housemate from the class of ’81 who lives locally. We then went back to one of the hotel rooms and proceeded to talk and talk and talk, with quite a bit of laughter mixed in!

We spent Monday morning doing what we needed to do, in my case, catching up on a bit of shopping, including buying some Massachusetts maple syrup to bring home for us and for Nana and Paco. We met for a final lunch together at Paul and Elizabeth’s, a restaurant at Thorne’s Market that was new when we were students. More eating, talking, and laughing and then a round of good-byes.

Before I left Northampton, I had one more visit to make. Another business that opened in Northampton when we were students is Steve Herrell’s Ice Cream. I always visit when I am in town. They have redecorated since my last visit, giving more area for seating. I splurged and ordered a sampler so I could have four flavors: black raspberry, malted vanilla, peppermint, and apple cider. Yum! I was happy to have the company of my in-town friend. We lingered for a long while, catching up on our lives and marveling at how Smith friends, even when they don’t see each other often, can immediately re-connect on a deep level.

Eventually, though, I had to head for home, although I could not help but feel that reunions are too short and too far apart.

 

 

Bolt!

As part of my Earth Day observance, let me introduce the newest addition to our eco-conscious family, our new bright blue all-electric Chevy Bolt!
Bolt

Bolt side view

While Bolts became available in some parts of the country late last year, they only arrived in upstate New York in March. Only one dealer in our area is authorized to sell them and I had been inquiring for months, so, when their first Bolt came in, we were among the first to find out. We arranged a test drive and, after waiting a few days for the long-anticipated New York State rebate program to get up and running, we took the Bolt home on March 30th.

We love it!

There is a lot to learn, though, and a lot of bells and whistles that other people take for granted, like backup cameras and collision avoidance systems, that have been available but weren’t a feature of any other car we have had.

It is nice to have a simple push button start and not to have to worry about keys at all. With no engine, it is very quiet. The seats, front and back, are comfortable for both B and me, despite ten inches of height difference, and the seats are heated, which is nice in the damp chill of early spring. I even tried out the heated steering wheel one particularly chilly morning! There is lots of glass so the visibility is good and we have external sensors that warn about vehicles and pedestrians that are alongside.

It is so much fun to drive! It’s like a game to learn about the regenerative braking and how to get the most miles per kilowatt-hour. It accelerates super fast, which is a help when I have to merge onto the highway near our home, where the speed limit is 65 mph (105 kmh) and the merge lane is short. The link near the beginning of the post tells about the torque, for those of you who know about such things. Our salesperson told us it has a much torque as a 6-cylinder Camaro, but, never having driven a sporty performance-type car, I have no basis for comparison. I just know that it is fun!

We intend to use the Bolt mostly around the county and for short trips until more rapid-charge stations come to our region. The listed range is 238 miles (383 km) on a full charge, although factors such as temperature and terrain affect this. We don’t put on a lot of miles every day and usually charge it once it get down sixty miles or so.

We have taken it further afield once so far. When E went to London, she had to fly out of Syracuse rather than Binghamton, so we took her in the Bolt. The roundtrip was about 180 miles and we had plenty of charge to get there and back, despite the temperature being colder than optimal for best battery range.

At the moment, we are recharging with just 110v household current, but we plan to install a charge station later this spring. That will allow us to do a full charge overnight, instead of two days using household current.

On Earth Day, we are proud to have shrunk our carbon footprint considerably. No burning of gasoline! No need for motor oil! And most of the electricity we use will be produced by our solar panels!

Our Bolt makes every day seems like Earth Day!

Beauty and the Beast

Having given up on the concept of chronology in blogposting, I thought today I’d post on going to see the new live-action Beauty and the Beast film with spouse B and daughter T last week while we were in Missouri to visit T.

I remember going to see the animated Disney film with daughter E, who would have been about five years old at the time, with T being too young for movies. I was impressed with the beauty of the animation in the opening sequence and knew that we would buy and watch the video many, many times. We later had the soundtrack of the Broadway version. I was very interested in how this new, live-action film would fit into the Disney history with these other versions.

I was impressed with the new film. What I most appreciated was the addition of depth of characterization and backstory. Maurice, Belle’s father, is portrayed in a much fuller and more poignant way, set up by a new song near the beginning of the movie. We also learn more about Belle’s mother and about the prince’s parents, which makes the plot flow more easily.

I appreciated the new songs, which brought more emotion to the story, and which gave us an opportunity to hear the glorious voice of Audra McDonald.  I thought that Emma Watson did a good job as Belle and that her singing served the characterization well. I also liked the richness of the orchestration and the chorus numbers.

All in all, I liked this version of the story because it is more human – which is the moral of the story.

Clinton

Yesterday, for the first time in years, I walked through a jetway at the Binghamton Airport. Not because I haven’t flown from there in years, but because we got to fly on a small Delta jet, rather than a turboprop. United and US Air/American, both of whom have abandoned BGM, had been flying turboprops which meant that passengers had to go out on the tarmac and enter via stairs.  It was nice to be flying with Delta, which gives you free snacks, even on short flights; they were on time, efficient, and friendly.

We flew to Detroit, then on to Kansas City, rented a car, and drove to Clinton, Missouri – and finally got to see daughter T who is working here for the Department of Conservation, as part of a study of the effects of fire on prairie plants.

It was great to see her and receive one of her fantastic hugs!

She had to work today, so B and I explored the town a bit.

Clinton
“Great People, By Nature”
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Just in time for Easter!

 

Anyone?

[sidles in, switches on the lights, and looks around]
Hello? Anyone still here?

Oh, good! A few of you are still checking in! My apologies for the dearth of posts lately, with just a scattering here and there.

Life has been busy and I wanted to do updates. The most important is regarding my mom, known here as Nana. She spent several days in the hospital last month with pneumonia/congestive heart failure and was sent home to the apartment she shares with my dad, Paco. She was very fatigued and weak, so we have enlisted help. She now has home care coming in several times a week for monitoring and physical therapy. There have been doctor visits, a new medication regimen, and some more tests ordered.

It’s great to have home care in, because it means having a nurse case-manager to oversee and co-ordinate the various health-care providers involved and to serve as the one-phone-call resource for questions and problems. This is especially important for us this week, as B and I leave tomorrow to visit daughter T in Missouri. It brings peace of mind to know that the home care team and the staff at their retirement community are both on duty to watch out for Nana and Paco while we are gone.

I’m hoping that I will have time while we are gone to do some catch-up posts. Music, poetry, travel, and transportation will be likely topics.

Stay tuned.

Mount Etna and more!

Check out spectacular geologic images from Steph at this link:  http://wordwomanpartialellipsisofthesun.blogspot.com/2017/03/smoking-smoke-rings-mount-etna-sicily.html  I especially appreciate the Mount Etna photos because I visited there when the Smith College Alumnae Chorus toured Sicily.  Be sure to check out the bonus images in the first comment from Steph, aka Word Woman.  Enjoy!

Valentines

Happy Valentine’s Day!

As I write this, I have a dessert treat in the oven for this evening and E and L are sharing a Valentine’s Day tea in London. We are happy that they have a chance to spend Valentine’s Day together in this year of being separated by an ocean most of the time.

It is also the birthday of one of my cousins. His mom, one of my dad’s sisters, always wanted a son born on Valentine’s Day and she got her wish.

Unfortunately, she couldn’t have another child because she was Rh negative and her son was Rh positive. Because she was now sensitized to Rh factors, her antibodies would have attacked the blood of another Rh positive child. If the baby survived, it would have needed an immediate total blood transfusion. Most couples in those circumstances chose not to risk a second pregnancy.

Like my aunt, I am Rh negative, but I was fortunate to be pregnant after the development of RhoGAM. I had one shot during pregnancy and a second after I gave birth to E, who is Rh positive, so that I would not develop antibodies to Rh factors. This enabled me to later have daughter T without risk to her blood.

Valentine’s Day is another day to be thankful for family and for good medical care.