austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,
austin_dern
austin_dern

The afternoon is heavy on your shoulders

So a funny thing about the last days of my trip east: my mother was also going to be in the area. She's in her undergraduate college's alumni association, which has gone about four years now in a state of low-level administrative crisis as the top people keep quitting. The director and assistant director had just quit so she came up to help manage that chaos. Also, she spends a lot of time in the Baltimore-to-Boston corridor anyway for someone who just moved to Charleston, South Carolina, but she swears she's going to make many fewer trips once the cold sets in.

But this did mean I could see my mother for the first time since early January, a gap which is, I believe, the longest I've gone in my life without seeing her in person. Her alma mater is, with the inevitable logic of this, is pretty much in the backyard of the house they just sold, so it was another trip back to what had recently been home. We ate at a Mexican restaurant that's one of about two restaurants near the old place we ever ate, and then she invited me onto campus, where she was staying.

The school's a Catholic institute, I should say, and she was staying in one of the empty rooms in the ten-year-old convent because they've been surprisingly nun-depleted since the building was completed. And we walked around the grounds some; she pointed out stuff like the fence she and my father had helped build around one of the experimental gardens, and then one of the Japanese gardens that dates back to when the campus was the private estate of the son of a railroad baron. Most of these were places I hadn't seen before; while I'd been on campus a few times it was mostly to fill in for my mother when she was adjunct-teaching and thought my expertise in statistics would help. I knew more of the classrooms.

We ended up sitting in the convent's library, and I felt strangely disoriented and a little bit lost, while thinking over the weirdness that I was getting to better know this piece of my mother's history only after we'd both moved eight hundred miles from it, this after spending years two miles away from it. It's a deeply weird experience.

Trivia: The Wright Brothers' 1901 glider weighed 98 pounds empty. The 1902 glider weighed 116 1/2. Source: First Flight: The Wright Brothers and the Invention of the Airplane, T A Heppenheimer.

Currently Reading: New Jersey: A History of the Garden State, Editors Maxine N Lurie, Richard Veit.

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