Thursday, August 28, 2008

"I Have Become a Question to Myself", St. Augustine

these are my last days w/ my sons out at northfield mount hermon before i head half way around the world on saturday morning while they settle in here in bucolic western massachusetts...

josh and i did a few hours of shopping in greenfield this afternoon. it gave us time to chat about some larger and more curious aspects of life, while josh got to pick up a bunch of food, vitamin drink and school supplies he wanted. as i have reminded him a few times over the past week, i'm just their personal chauffeur and atm machine. i think he finally appreciates the truth of the joke.

josh also spoke about the differences in his life here at nmh and why he wanted to come, why its been good for him, what he wants to achieve this year and, most interestingly for me: how he's more an american-nepali than a nepali-american as he's grown up uniquely as an american in nepal, not a nepali in america. quite a fascinating and insightful distinction for a 17 year old, no?

then, with a mixture of pride and envy, josh says that ezi and suraj find it so easy to talk to everyone at the school -- even the new girls -- because he paved the way last year on his own, so they better appreciate the hard times he went through on his own to pave the way for them...

in many ways he's right. so many people at nmh have great affection for josh from last year, so there's a natural cocoon of good feelings, friends, teachers and administrators who accept ezi and suraj immediately b/c of their relationship w/ joshua.

today, i barely bumped into ez and suraj in between their int'l student meetings and activities. they seemed totally at ease and 'chilled'. just time enough, in fact, to give ezi cash to shop this afternoon w/ his group at a nearby mall. i'll have more time w/ ezra tomorrow when we do the enrollment, then i'm taking he, josh and suraj for dinner either in greenfield or northampton.

an hour ago, i drove in along one of bruce springsteen's dark, lonely highways from northampton (35 minutes away on I-95). i had dinner w/ margret and arthur at their simple home near smith college. margaret's my friend from my amherst days when she was the radical librarian throwing barbs at the ivory tower from behind her stacks of books in robert frost library.

it's always grounding to see them as they are a bit of what dickens would call 'the salt of the earth'. margret with her ironic perspective on privileged amherst and america, while arthur is such a gentle and good-hearted person who was recently promoted to the superintendent of the smith technical-vocational school in northampton. behind his green, owlish eyeglasses, he's a very sweet, wise and grounded guy. in addition to their work and margret's italian translations, they walk the forests of western mass and spend the occasional week exploring 'la dolce vita' in their beloved rome.

once again, in america, i'm impressed how so many people continue to reinvent themselves in their 50s and 60s while continuing to contribute to the world around tehm while enjoying their lives along the way.

also, before connecting w/ my sons this morning, i drove straight to greenfield from bruce's to have lunch w/ lee, janet and their son, cory. it was really fun to reconnect w/ them, as lee said, 'two summers in a row'. they had just deposited their daughter, hannah, at williams college. we spoke of these separations and new lives that begin to grow within us as our children depart.

of course, i had to diverge into a mini-lecture to cory on the nature of hinduism over my tunafish sandwich. g-d knows how i got there, but, no doubt through some idle aside or our animated discussion on the taliban in afghanistan.

but, outside of the talib, who were practically invisible in greenfield today, and our mini-contretemps on barak and hillary (ohh, so democratic to feud in the clan...), there were more reflections on our lives with no little amazement at how much we've done since way back when and how mature our children have become.

of course, there was some irony in these two amherst freshmen roommates meeting, almost to the day, 36 years later when we were enrolling our own children at williams and nmh. full, fuller, fullest circle in so many delightful ways...

as i was rabbiting with lee and janet on about my own personal confusions at this stage of life, my children leaving us, my job disappearing, nepal dissolving, lee left me w/ a brilliant st. augustine quote that the williams chaplain had just related to the parents as an aspiration for their children:

'i have become a question to myself'.

i immediately felt that i had a friend in st. augustine, as well as lee. i think that expression so well describes my thoughts and bemusement in this world.

although, again, as it's coming soon, it's hard, saying adieu to my beautiful adolescent men in less than two days. but when i read the words that ezi wrote today in a long, loving, insightful and wise email to shaku back in k'du and have the heartfelt conversations that i've had w/ josh this week, i know that this change for them is good, very good, albeit hard -- possibly even more for us.

for these evolving adults, their time to grow wings came a bit early, it's true, but so naturally along the way.

it's part of the larger lives we created for them over their first sixteen years...

so international, confident, curious and loved.

as cavafy would say:

kathmandu is their personal ithaka and, no doubt, they will spend a lifetime finding their way back home.

this then is the beginning of that metaphorical return to us, their parents, nepal, their origin, and, most crucially and exquisitely, to themselves...

their beautiful, noble and rare souls.

bless them.

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