College Acceptance Letter Season


My sister’s son got another acceptance letter this week. Like me, she has two children. Like me, it appears that both of her children will be traveling a distance away from their home to go to school. Other parents I know are also waiting to see what their own next year is going to look like. While some are eager for their kids to make the decision that will leave them close or still at home, others are nervous but excited for their kids to stake out new locales. I understand both sides, but I am definitely more in the camp cheering for going a distance away to college. That being said, I don’t think that moving away to go to school means forever. I just think that it means a different kind of opportunity to live, learn and grow.

While it has been 35 years since my own senior year of high school, my college choice and what it all meant is still very clear. Among the things that I knew back then, was that college would be my first step to get out of my small town. Once out of it, I wouldn’t move back. That turned out to be true, but there were many things that Ms. Know-it-all eighteen year old turned out to be wrong about.

The “where?” to go to college decision was much more limited than what my own kids went through. Unlike them, I did not have guidance counselors and advisors continually encouraging me to expand my world view. At some points in my decision-making,  I thought about applying to schools in Boston, Pennsylvania and Canada.  When I received a New York State Regents scholarship that was only good for a New York State school, however,  figured that it would be foolish for me to not take advantage of that windfall. It turned out that it wasn’t much of a windfall. If I recall correctly, it was $500 per year. For the school that I ended up going to, that did not make much of a difference. No one really explained those economics to me, and I didn’t spend much time with the bottom line.

But, a New York State school it was. My choice was about 6 hours away from my home. I don’t know if it was the perfect choice for me, but it met the geographical criteria. There was a time during my freshman year that I thought I might change schools. I wanted to be someplace bigger with more academic choices. That angst came after my plan to be a doctor hit the skids. I didn’t like the pre-med world. I didn’t want to tie myself to the intense lifestyle that I saw that medicine would be.

But things settled down. I decided what I wanted to do and how I could do it at the school I was at. I had my group of really close friends who became very much a family to me. I was in love and being with him made where I was a good choice. It wasn’t perfect, but it worked and I got through difficult times with the resources that I had. I had tons of amazingly fun times with the people around me. I learned how to learn and I grew up.

By the time I graduated, I was both going to school and working much more than part time.  I am naturally a hard worker, but I really do think that if I had been close to home and able to rely on my family more, I would not have learned as much, grown up as much, or even enjoyed as much as I did by being off on my own.

After I graduated, I moved half way across the country. I have lived in the Midwest ever since. I have missed my hometown at some times more than others. Now that my parents are both gone, there are few roots left there. If I had ever wanted to go back there, it would have been fine and my family would have welcomed it. It just never seemed like a good choice.

My own children made their own decisions to go away to school. They too ended up not coming back after they graduated. But they might at some point. We are all a series of choices.


Last Week’s Good Stuff


  1. Treme – Dan and I are a little more than half-way through watching Season 2 of Treme. Last night we watched the Carnival episode, and I was mesmerized. Season 2 seems to be focusing on the intersections of music, art, and history. I feel like I learn so much with each episode. That is good television.
  2. Mr. Asquith’s 84th Birthday – Art Asquith was my grade school gym teacher. Paul Cooley was a high school English teacher of mine. Last week, Mr. Cooley posted on Facebook that Mr. Asquith was turning 84 this week, and it would be great if his former students unexpectedly showered him with birthday greetings. I sent him a card to wish him happy birthday and shared one of my favorite gym class moments. Aside with this nice idea from Mr. Cooley, another gem that I got out of this was finding out that Mr. Asquith was once a contestant on the television game show, What’s My Line, and there is a YouTube clip of it.

asquith3. Sounds like Spring – There have been days this week that it has felt springlike. Crocuses and other green things are popping out of the ground. What I noticed this week, however, is that when I walk out of the house to get the paper in the very early hours, it sounds like spring.

they-might-be-giants-nanobots-idlewild4. They Might Be Giants: Nanobots – I have been a fan of They Might Be Giants from their first album. When he was little, they became a band that Sam also came to love. TMBG recently released a new album called Nanobots, and I spent some time listening to it this week. It has some hooky songs, some of their quirky few second clips, and seems tied closely to their records of old.

5. Trying out a new restaurant with friends – Friday night we had dinner with friends at Rye Restaurant which is the new restaurant created by the Bluestem couple, Colby and Megan Garrelts. Each of us had some delicious bites and sips, but the best element of the evening was having time to spend with a couple we haven’t had that time with in a long time.


An indulgence that I gave to myself a few years ago was a subscription to the Sunday New York Times. I rarely get it all read, and I have too many Book Reviews and Sunday magazines scattered around my house to realistically think that I will ever get them all caught up, but, whatever. When and what I do read is always a treat. A favorite for me is the Vows column where each week, a recent marriage is highlighted. I am not really sure how they are picked, but there is a great deal of diversity in them. These are not only the well-heeled society affairs that you might expect. There have been stories of ex-cons, ex-addicts, childhood sweethearts, late in life sweethearts, mixed religions, differing cultures … you name it, it may have been there. One of the ones that has stayed with me most recently was a young couple from Joplin, Missouri. The bride’s home was destroyed by the tornado that struck the town. Her wedding dress was found hanging in a nearby tree. Their marriage – with the memory of the devastation still fresh – brought joy to many. Every wedding has a story.

This weekend I went to the Outer Banks of North Carolina to celebrate the wedding of my niece and her fiance. Their story is that this was a location special to them because of the years of family vacations there. Two children of Kansas have the life memories of happy times on the beach with family. Their photo albums are filled with year after year of growing up there. When they decided to marry, this is what they wanted. The wedding was beautiful and the church and reception were filled with friends and family who love the couple and love the family. The bride and groom were lovely and gracious and joyous after having been given the opportunity to spend the days in preparation with special people in their lives. It was very much them, and very much their story.

I think back on my own wedding and it had a little bit of the flavor of the wedding this weekend. We married the week after we graduated from college. With that timing, we got to spend the last days at college celebrating with our friends – both our transition to the post-college era and our transition to being married. Many of our friends travelled to be with us to celebrate our marriage. It too was joyful and memorable. It was held at a ski resort on a June day in western New York. The building it was in was brought to the United States from Austria in 1964 to be part of the World’s Fair in Flushing, NY. After the fair, in 1966 it was moved to tiny, little Cherry Creek, NY. There, in 1982, it would host the wedding reception for a girl from Sinclairville, NY and a boy from St. Louis, Missouri. That is a good story.

Last year I went to the wedding of two of my best friends. For this wedding, Dan got to brew a special beer – including an even more special, limited brew for the wedding party. That beer was bottled and delightfully labelled. I got to make the brisket that was served at the rehearsal dinner. The wedding was held on the groom’s family farm – in the family for over 100 years. The bride emerged from around the house on the arm of her dad and walked across the yard to the area where her husband-to-be waited. They were married by a specially-ordained minister. The threatening skies overhead remained calm until the party was over. They had their story.

I rarely remember dresses or meals or toasts or flowers at any of the weddings that I have attended over the years (including my own). What I do remember are the ones where the bride and groom are so obviously happy and in love. There is a comfort and easiness in those celebrations that is infectious.  I saw that this weekend with my niece and new nephew. They made the happy story of the day theirs, and I know that it will follow them in the memories that they will continue to make.

My Olympic Memories

The summer of 1972 I was twelve years old and about to enter the seventh grade. That would be a big lifestyle change as it meant moving from the comfort of little Sinclairville Elementary to Cassadaga Valley High School. In a way, it was my last summer of childhood, before moving on to the grown up world of the high school building.

That summer, I discovered Olympic love. It was quite the year for that. I did not come by my Olympic love without precedent. Even though I have always been the chubby kid, I do love the sports. There are some that I cotton to better than others, but I can watch and enjoy most any of them.

ABC was the place to watch the Olympics back then. Jim McKay, with his yellow blazer, was the nice gentleman that introduced us to the games each night. I think from day 1 of the games, I was hooked. Looking at pictures, I have vague recollections of the opening ceremony. The American team entered to the tune of “When the Saints Come Marching In” with snappy red blazers and white skirts for the women (and a nice purse) and white blazers and red pants for the men. 7,113 athletes from 121 countries participated in 193 events in 23 sports.

The German’s chose “The Happy Games” as their slogan, hoping to build a whole new persona for the country that had last hosted the games during the Nazi regime in 1936.

The opening ceremony was on August 26 and closed on September 10. Each night I would watch the days offering, and each day I would read the recaps in the newspapers, cut out the articles and every picture, and paste them into a scrapbook. I think I got supplemental material from the Life magazine that came to our house.

The scrapbook came to hold some amazing stories. Of course there was that tremendously good looking Mark Spitz winning seven gold medals. No one thought that would ever happen again.

For me and millions of others, the other major star was Olga Korbut.  She was darling and strong. Her performance on the uneven parallel bars was a revelation – how could anyone possibly do the things that she could do?  As it turns out, her Korbut Flip where she kind of stands on the high bar and throws herself backward is illegal now. The big thing about Olga Korbut was how cute and smiley she was. This was a person from the Soviet Union getting all kinds of love, and making the Americans forget about our own cutie, Cathy Rigby. It was all sorts of melting the fear of the Soviets for a few days.

On September 5, the happy games came to a halt when terrorists took members of the Israeli team hostage. It lasted for 18 hours and in the end, all of the hostages were dead. It was horrible and shocking. There was discussion about what to do with the games after that. They ended up going on, but it was different. In a sense, making it through was a competition in itself.

When the Olympics ended, the scrapbook ended. My parents thought it was something. I was proud of it too. I don’t remember if it was my idea or not, but I sent my scrapbook to the United States Olympic Committee. A few weeks later, I received a letter in the mail. It was from the director of communications telling me that they had received my “most interesting scrapbook.” They were sending me a book commemorating the 1972 games and one of the athlete exchange pins. The letter ended with him letting me know that my scrapbook would be placed in the official archives of the US Olympic Committee “as a fine example of what young Olympian enthusiasts can do.” That was a great mail day for me. I still have that letter … in a scrapbook.

The Things We Sit On

Yesterday, a long overdue task was accomplished. Thanks to a Groupon, we got our living room furniture cleaned. For a reasonable fee, our couch and two chairs now look a whole hell of a lot better. Watching the guys vigorously brush them prior to the cleaning, however, was horrifying. Blech!

But this all got me thinking about the different furniture that we have had during our years of marriage. When we got married, we had just graduated from college. We spent the summer in Schenectady – still working our college jobs – before we headed to Missouri for Dan to start law school. When we left, I don’t remember that we brought anything from the college apartment other than clothes and books. Our bed had been a twin bed on a board elevated by four cinder blocks. The dresser was a thrift store throw away. That was all we had, and I think we left it all left behind.

On our way from Schenectady to Columbia, we stopped in Sinclairville. There we picked up the U-haul and our furnishings. We got the maple double bed that had been mine growing up, and which had been my father’s when he was a boy. The bed was a little quirky in its antiqueyness. It didn’t quite fit modern day boxsprings, so you had to have the boxsprings precariously balanced on the edge of the frame. If you got too rowdy, it would plop down into the slats and your mattress than would have a pretty significant slope. It didn’t matter. It was a huge step up from a twin on a board. Rounding up our haul was a four drawer dresser that was also a family piece. We got my growing up desk, which was something that I saved many allowances to purchase with my own money. We had four peach crates full of albums and books. Beyond our wedding presents and several more boxes of books, I think that was it.

Because Dan had come down with mono on our honeymoon, we recruited one of his high school friends to help us move into our new apartment. We walked into our new digs for the first time on the day we moved in. It was right across from the bus station – had gold shag carpet – and it became the first home of our own. Our furniture was just right. The bedroom was too small for our double bed, so the bed went in the living room and became the main sitting space. The kitchen was about a 4 foot by 16 foot galley, so our one piece of new furniture – a kitchen table with folding chairs, also was in our main room. Rounding out our space were the peach crate/tables that held the record player and a few pretties from our wedding. I can still see that place clearly.

Since that first space, we have acquired more space and more things. After law school, we moved to Kansas City and into a brand new apartment complex. It was then that we bought our first couch. It was a blue sturdy sofa bed. We also now had a rocking chair that would be useful to rock the new baby who would soon be joining us.

We bought our house in 1988. The blue couch came with us. We picked up some more chairs.

The furniture that we have now is third generation. In between the blue couch and this, there was a leather furniture period.

When we go to museums, Dan always balks at the “rooms with furniture” displays. I really like them. I think that one of the reasons is that it does bring me into the world of that time. It is the same thing I do when I think of a particular piece of furniture that was in my growing up home, the home of someone I know, or my own home. For my own home, I can picture rooms and the times. I can bring back holidays and just hanging out days. We may not pay much attention to them most of the time, but the things we sit on play their part well.