View from Glen Hill: Thanksgiving
“In the spring of my junior year in college, I won the lifetime lottery.” Thus begins my biographical write-up requested for delivery by Nov. 30th to the chair of my Philadelphia high school class’s 50th reunion.
It was then that, in a bit of karma-like affirmation, Becky and I met in a college dining hall because we each were doing a favor for a friend. Her friend was the organizer on her campus, and my friend on my campus, of a political science-related student conference with many attendees and lots of good speakers — who nonetheless were of only limited interest to both Becky and me, neither of us having much engagement with political science.
Resigned to our respective supernumerary roles, we stood in the dining hall’s long lunch line, she in front of me. I saw her long blonde hair first and decided that I wanted to see if I could get to sit with her. (I was a sucker for blondes …) I did so, more boldly than was my usual practice, and we had a really engaging hour-long conversation. I wound up giving her the nice fresh flower that was in a vase on our table (though not mine to give away) and arranging that we would attend the rest of the conference together.
She was a freshman and had been warned about upper classmen like me, but my intentions were reasonably honorable and I knew I had met the person I wanted to marry. She had beauty inside and out and depth all over, and I couldn’t take my eyes off her. She, as a callow freshman, was far less sure of me — wise woman. But I knew things were progressing well when, on our first date in which she came down to visit on an endless, rain-soaked bus ride and I took her straight to the local diner that met the modest requirements of my dining-out budget, she ordered — in what, from my hopeful perspective, sounded like the best Freudian slip of all time — “fried kisses” instead of fried clams. I did my best to accommodate.
On that same trip down, as she told me a considerable time later, she struck up a conversation with the co-ed sitting next to her who was heading to a destination further down the line. As they talked about many things and Becky mentioned the purpose of her visit, her new-found friend said, “If he is still waiting for you [the bus at that point was three hours late on a two-hour trip], you will have a great weekend, and if he is smiling, you will marry him!” Becky pooh-poohed that immediately; but I was, and she did. My lottery winnings have grown over time with children who married wonderful spouses, and we are now reaping the great rewards of grandchildren!
As I reflected thus for my high school reunion, I remembered high school as a demanding time but in a naïve sort of way from the perspective of today’s youth. I see our own Wilton youth getting a wonderful education as well as talent- and character-building experiences in our schools, faith institutions, sports programs, and artistic pursuits, but I also recognize the enormous pressures they face — and not necessarily from parents alone or others in their immediate circle of adults. Those pressures seem orders of magnitude harsher in both scope and magnitude from mine in those high school days so long ago.
While we grew up with “duck-and-cover” exercises that crammed us under school desks (as though that would spare us from the effects of a nuclear holocaust), that threat seemed remote from day-to-day life. Youth today live with terrorism and both nuclear proliferation and the proliferation of social media. They also live with the knowledge brought home so starkly during the Great Recession of their need to find as stable a livelihood as possible in a tumultuous world where one’s competition may come from across the globe and the notion of long-term job security has gone the way of the dodo.
But as I contemplated all of this and what it means for teens I know at church and our grandchildren in the future, I also thought about the many things to be thankful for: a wonderful spouse and family, an uplifting faith community, a great town to live in where people genuinely care both for our town and for each other, and the huge privilege of living in America. We are indeed richly blessed.
Mr. Hudspeth lives on Glen Hill Road.