Without much planning, I've ended up taking the day off from wandering about. I believe that today is thus the first full day I've passed in Cambridge without venturing out of the college. Partly, it's because there are all these small things to be done: an Autobiography to finish reading, a new keyboard (bringing my collection of ergonomics up to ... four? on two continents?) to install, new (college-owned) art to select and hang in the flat.
And birthday wishes to be doled out in greater dollops than I can handle on my own, which makes me glad that I'm not solely responsible for them.
About fourteen months ago, one of the students from my first summer group ended up stuck in my office during an awful storm. We had watched it rolling in from the west, but by the time we realized that leaving the office might be a good idea, it was too late to get out before the skies split. And so we sat around talking for another 45 minutes or so, until things calmed sufficiently for her to hurry off for dinner and for me to go make provisions for the class's evening session (in case the power came back on, which it did not). One thing this student told me during our long conversation was that her birthday is on September 20. "You're going to take me out for dinner on my birthday," she said. It wasn't a question; it was a declaration. And yet somehow it neither offended nor oppressed me. I assented. And on September 20, when she finished with her evening French class, we went out for dinner at a local steak place.
It's funny for me to think back on those early moments in a friendship that has only grown stronger over the ensuing year. One of the reasons I was so glad to get a job at Kenyon, back when I was on the market, was that I knew first-hand about the kinds of friendships the place fosters. When I was a student, the most important and lasting friendships I had were with my professors, whom I loved (and still love) like members of my family. But I didn't anticipate the depth of the joy I'd feel when I was on the other side of those professor/student friendships.
My Clevelander student has popped up in these writings from time to time this year: you know her as the person who masterminded my birthday surprise, then masterminded another surprise dinner in late August. She is a woman of formidable and ever-growing intensity and focus and generosity. She helped me move; she helped me deal with some unpleasant aftermaths; she went along when I sought out the disappeared cows; she saw me off to my seeing off to England. She is becoming quite an adept reader of poetry. She is devoted enough to Gerard Manley Hopkins that she has one of his lines tattooed on her left forearm. (I may well memorize another Hopkins poem, "Hurrahing in Harvest," in her honor this evening.)
And now she is nineteen, and all of us who know her are all the better for having her in our lives. Who knows where she'll start her next decade? Once she puts her mind to it, don't get in her way.