Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Three kids in transition - graduation highlights

This has been a season of graduations and transitions. Sabrina and her cousin Peter graduated from Tufts three weeks ago, and Sabrina got a job in a psychology lab the next day. (Peter already had a job). Sabrina's twin Owen graduated from Stanford Sunday. And Rhianon, our eldest, who graduated from Stanford two years ago, is leaving her job with a Stanford pediatrician (where she was working on research about maternal/child health in world areas of conflict) to move on to medical school at Johns Hopkins.

Here are some highlights of the last four days:

1. The Wacky Walk. Stanford graduations are held in the football stadium, and by tradition the undergraduates dress up in silly costumes and parade all around the stadium before they settle into their chairs and presumably their adult lives. Two years ago Rhianon and her friends, with a hundred colorful balloons, went as the movie Up. Owen and his friends dressed up as characters from Mario Kart. Other groups marched as a Rubik's Cube, iPhones, a giant squid, boxers in a moving ring, billiard balls, and many more. One carried a sign saying "My name is David. Hire me," with a phone number. We ran into him later and asked if he'd had any offers. "Nothing legal," he answered ruefully. But aside from him and a few others, the costumes had no deep inner meaning. They represent just one last chance to be childishly creative.

2. The Talisman concert. For all four years, Owen has sung in Talisman, a coeda capella group that sings multicultural songs, mostly from the African diaspora. They sing in Xhosa, Zulu, English, Swahili, and occasionally Korean, Chinese, or a a Native American language. Talisman sang at the baccalaureate service in the quad, and afterward they retired to the arcades in the next quad over. There they sang again, just for the families this time, though passersby gathered, including a tour group of young Asian kids who listened entranced. We stood very close to the performers in an atmosphere of joy and spontaneous celebration that made me feel what it must be like on their South Africa tours.

3. A visit to Jasper Ridge. Yesterday Owen took us up to see Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve. Over a hundred years ago, what is now Jasper Ridge was the site of the logging town of Searsville, until Leland Stanford moved the people out and dammed the San Francisquito Creek to make Searsville Lake to supply water for his new university. For the past two quarters, Owen has taken the docent course there, and he took us on a hike from oak meadow through riparian woodland and up into the chaparral. We passed the field where researchers are doing experiments on the effects of global atmospheric change. We passed the carcass of a deer killed by a mountain lion, and we looked down on the creek where Owen snorkeled to catalog fish species.. We walked across the dam where the Stanford women's diving team used to practice before they were allowed to use the pool with the men.

Owen will be back at Stanford next year getting his master's and serving as head TA in the freshman Earth Systems course. It was fun to see him in his element, outdoors, leading and explaining and telling stories.

This morning the three kids set out to drive Rhianon's car across the country. They have to hurry to get back to Boston so Sabrina can return to her job by Monday. I know they're going to have a great time. I just hope they drive carefully.

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