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Happy Waters
June 4, 2001


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May 16, 2001
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It seems I'm cursed to be an incidental Journaller these days. Well, I guess I can accept that, in the end. Perhaps it makes these entries more special -- less common and everyday.

Or perhaps I'm just high.


For eighteen straight years, so the legend has gone, Graduation has been held on a bright, sunny, beautiful day. Brewster Academy is well served by the sun, as the golden light kisses the sweet blue waves of Lake Winepausaukee. Generally there's a sailboat out, or perhaps a motorboat or two, plying the waves of the generally cold water. My first year here, when the Class of 2001 were still Freshmen, it was warm enough to swim (mostly), and girls in white one pieces and boys in dark jams wet themselves down and lay on the grassy hill beside the lake, and enjoyed being alive.

If anything, it was too hot as the sun beat down on graduation all those years. Hot enough to make people faint, so Kirby -- one of our maintenance men and a true gentleman in all ways -- wore a bowler cap to be seen in the crowd and kept the golf cart near, to spirit heatstroke victims away from the celebration quickly and discreetly. Against the sun and against the distant, seemingly impossible chance of bad weather, Headmaster Smith took to erecting a monumental, magnificent white tent -- large enough for the entire class, plus all the parents, plus all the faculty and those staff who come. Even that almost wasn't enough at the graduation of 2000, as several faculty members in their black caps and gowns (yes, we gown for commencement here) nearly needed Kirby's services.

They were ready for that, this year. Every chair the faculty and graduating seniors sat in had a full bottle of spring water, donated by a local bottler, ready to keep us hydrated and wet.

That may have been too much. This year, an absolute deluge fell upon Commencement. Buckets of water. Driving, hard rains that battered at the umbrellas the Faculty carried as they crept across the field. The air was cold, reminding us that June in New England was no guarantee that snow wouldn't fall, and the lake was shrouded in fog and rough water -- if there were boats out that day, there were sturdy hands at their helms, keeping them on course and heading in to port.

The tent had been up for days beforehand, but the storm was so soaking, so pervasive that the field soaked through, and even the very center of the tent was wet. Water soaked into the soles of our shoes, wetting our feet and bringing a chill up our legs as we stood, waiting for the Senior Class to process. When they finally did, we urged them to their seats mentally, not wanting to stand on ceremony and resenting that our best and brightest were on a raised platform, which meant most of their feet would dry out. As the Reverend gave the invocation and the Salutatorian gave his speech, the rain drummed on the canvas, swiftly becoming a rhythm... a percussion in the background, that led a certain additional ceremony to the rituals before us. Soon, our wet feet were pushed back in our mind, as we listened to the Valedictorian speak, and watched slightly tearful faculty members give out the endowed awards. They weren't usually tearful -- perhaps the rain inspired them.

It wasn't really the rain, in my case. I felt emotional for days before commencement, and rising to the dais I had to concentrate to not cry right then and there. The award I had to give was going to the first student I'd met, back in April of 1998, and that had me choked up. And alongside that student were three others -- the largest 'class' of Tech Office Senior Interns we had ever had -- and even deciding which one should get the award was hard. If I could, I'd have given it to all of them.

I didn't get to say everything I wanted to, to those four students. The pouring rain made it difficult to stand around after the ceremony, and the Esterbrook was so packed for lunch that incidental personnel -- like me -- didn't hang out any longer than necessary. So perhaps I'll take a moment and address this paragraph to (in Alphabetical Order) Jason, Josh, Reagan and Seth, our Interns. More than that, our friends and colleagues. I met most of you when you were fifteen years old, and I was thirty. Half my age, literally, but so bright, so excited. You made it fun to come in. And as the years passed and we both got older, I saw you grow into fine, passionate young men, with all the travails and all the joys that contained. When one of you might falter, we all worried about you, whispering to each other in the office. Oh, his grades are down -- how can we talk to him? He's been sick a long time -- how can he come back? In the end, you exceeded our fears and exceeded our hopes, all together.

In a way, I understand In Loco Parentis better now than I ever have. I was proud to see them receive their diplomas, and proud that I was a part of that. Several of them made time during the year to just sit and talk, and I like to think I had some positive effect on their lives, both this year and in years before. In the damp of the tent on a rainy graduation day, some dampness around the eyes is excusable, and I saw more than one of them cry too.

It is a point of pride that three of the four of them received Endowed Awards at Graduation. Our Interns are cut from a superior cloth.

The graduation speaker was one of the producers of Third Rock in the Sun, and she was an excellent speaker -- fun and hip and enjoyable. And in the traditional lineup of the faculty, I had more students stop and talk to me than ever before. In part, that came from dorm parenting these last couple of years. That too involves you in the life of the students, and they come to feel nostalgic about you, even if you weren't a major part of their lives. If indeed it can be said any of us aren't a major part of their lives. We are a part of the tapestry of the school they lived at, the home they learned in. We formed their infrastructure and their world. They rebelled against us and clung to us. And they leave a part of themselves here, and take a part of us with them.

They gave a Senior Gift, as always. It was a standing pool, with a fountain bubbling. Granite rings it, along with flowers. It is beautiful and wet and bubbling -- and catches the sunlight on a sunny day almost as well as the lake does. And on a rainy graduation day it filled to overflowing, like the tears we all felt. Happy waters.

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