TODAY BEGINS what is a very clear, special week in my life, for it is the first day of my last week in the city of Washington, my home town. I am 44 and except for the years away at college, and later, when husband Bob was in graduate school, I have lived here all my life.
I have many memories of my years here -- the old zoo we could almost always talk mother into driving through on our way downtown; the long walks from Chevy Chase to the F Street movie theaters with a close friend who was as willing as I to save the 10-cent bus fare each way and apply the savings toward another movie; the spring displays of azaleas and tulips put on by rival Massachusetts Avenue embassies, and I don't know how many parades.
I have seen Washington grow from a provincial and openly bigoted town, where horsedrawn carts were a not infrequent sight near the cab stands at Union Station, into a truly international city which has yet to lick the bigotry problem. It is hard to concentrate on all I have to do as the memories crowd in these last days. Since March 1980, I have been serving as headmistress of the Madeira School where I went as a student and have taught for 11 years. My final report to the board this week will include a summary of that 15-month stint, and a sort of compare-and-contrast study of the school I've know well throughout the 1970s.
Second child, son Mike, fresh from his Princeton commencement, leaves for a short trip to Maine to visit his grandmother. She is our children's only living grandparent, and I remember once again how glad I am Bob and I decided to come back home to Washington over 20 years ago so that children could know, as it turned out for only a short time, my parents too.
Mike is the one of our three who through the years most baffled me. Kind, compassionnate, determined, opinionated, he does not think at all like I do, and I lthink I now know why. In contemporary educational parlance, he is a right-brained person who tends to think in abstract terms, of whole shapes and concepts; he is creative and, not surprisingly, that degree he picked up last week is in architecture.
I am, literally, a linear descendent of Gutenberg, tend to the sequential, the parts, the logical, step-by-step, well-reasoned proof. Puzzling through the different kinds of intellectual makeups and interests of my hundreds of students over the years has been challenging to me, and it is a major reason I have chosen to continue in the field of education in my new job this fall.
A work day, at least in the morning. The final board meeting. Yesterday was taken up in various committee meetings, student life, finance and such, and there has been a lovely, low-key dinner. In late winter, I got wind of talk of a reception in my honor on this date, but upon learning that even the most gently laid-on plans of friends included such fanfare as "a few strolling guitar players," I begged off. I am glad to go on to any number of parties as long as they are not for me.
The board meeting ends well. Everyone has worked hard this year, and no one has put in more long hours than the people -- all volunteers except for myself and a few key administrators -- gathered here. Enrollment is strong and healthy, a mirror of the school. Annual giving, doubled in the last two years, now approaches half a million dollars. Faculty and students wh have worked hard too are now embarked on some serious attempts to play hard from all over the country and the world attest. I leave Madeira feeling good about the school and about myself.
I wake up in our "new" home on the shore of the Chesapeake Bay. We have spent many summers and occasional winter weekends here for a number of years. Now we will try casting off our mantle as "summer people" and live here year around. We had considered a small "pad" in Washington, both to keep our feet firmly planted in the city and to spare ourselves long commutes, but have decided to try getting back to living in one house.
During the three years we have lived on the Madeira campus since selling our Bethesda home, I have never been able to maintain a steady supply of bread, orange juice, paper towels or other basic commodities in both houses. From now on, I can offer no excuses.
The day we'd rather spend sailing on the Bay is spent indoors getting ready for the movers. Moving into an already-inhabited house can have its advantages: beds already made, refrigerator stocked, dishes, pots and pans at the ready. The worst part is imagining where to fit everything that will arrive with the movers. Older son Robin, now in an Arlington house on his own, has already made off with the grand piano and a large wooden bar we once fell heir to. We hope he will now line up for his share of the smaller pieces as well.
The dogs begin to show the strain. Accustomed to full run of the Madeira campus, they have dutifully gone to chapel at 8 a.m. every school day for years, slept in my office for the hard part of the working day and unsuccessfully pursued the scent of deer and rabbits in the woods by night. They have willingly, and, recently seemingly endlessly, climbed into cars for trips to Virginia to the Bay. But now there is chaos in both houses.
The countless piles of laundry Mike and his sister Jennifer brought home from college earlier this month have begun to dwindle as sweaters go into bags, and freshly washed sheets find their way back to linen closets shelves, but there is still a long way to go. I wonder if movers will refuse to enter a house that looks full.
The day lillies are out in profusion as I drive deliberately through Rock Creek Park on an indirect route to an errand. I can never see them there without remembering the magical excitement my brother-in-law offered me as we attended every twi-night double header we could at Griffith Stadium the summer of 1949. His wife, my sister, pregnant with their first child, happily declined to participate in our evenings on those hard wooden slatted seats, and I came to love those new parts of the city too. The smell of honeysuckle and the clumps of day littlies that shone in the moonlight in sharp contract to the dark pockets of the park remain inextricably linked in my mind with the Senators of old. They, of course, packed up and moved off long ago.
There is no putting it off any longer. The packers spent all day yesterday trying to assemble our furniture from two houses and one garage on campus, and hundreds of books from my office. People drift in to "say goodbye without saying goodbye." Maybe a one-shot farewell would hve been easier. A friend says, "You'll only be 50 miles away, that's just like Long Island."
"On Long Island," I reply, "You can still get The New York Times." For, in moving, I give up another part of Washington that is special to me, The Post and The Star. (For me that really means giving up four papers of my youth for I continue to enjoy the double legacy each paper has in the funnies that came from their mergers with The Times Herald and The News.) I have already made plans to get accustomed to an eminently respectable paper, The Baltimore Sun, and plan to treat it as any good parent treats a new child, or any teacher a new pupil: I will quickly adopt it as my own.
Late in the day, in the car on the way down, I acknowledge I will come back often to this city where we have so many ties and friends, but I will come as a visitor, albeit a native-born one.
I try to calm the dogs by practicing aloud the accents of my new home: Herrad Street, Bawmer, Murrlin, I recite, but they are already asleep.