Saturday, August 27, 2011

Back to School Memories

I have been trying to get a post out for days now. The words just don't want to go from my brain to my fingers to you. I have lots to say, just no energy to put forth the effort. I wanted to share the family reunion with you, and I will do so soon.

When my dear blogging friend, Diane, and others were talking on Facebook this week about leaving their kids at college, far away from home, I naturally went in my mind to my first week-end at Bethany Nazarene College, (now Southern Nazarene University) in Oklahoma.

My home was in Omaha, Nebraska, which was 700 miles from Bethany, Oklahoma. I had been counting the days for two years, ever since I had visited the campus as a junior in high school. I wrote about the process of getting to college in this post.

But the Facebook posts about taking kids to school and leaving them there brought these memories flashing forward. I was the first chick to leave the nest, the eldest of five. The long trip south was the first time I'd been alone with my parents since I was 11 months and two weeks old and my sister was born. I don't actually remember much about the trip itself, nor do I remember the specifics of what we did all week-end. I do remember lugging all my belongings up to the third floor of a very old, very hot,, un-air-conditioned dorm. This was before the days when the college or university had special programs for parents to help them with the adjustment process of leaving their children on their own.

One of my favorite spots on campus - taken in 1964 during the first visit. The flame is always burning. The flowers are beautiful around the torch. But the main reason I love it is the graduation tradition. All the graduates gather in a circle around the area, which is (or was at that time) the center of the campus. Everyone holds a portion of the ivy ring. The president of the university then cuts the ties to the university and sends the graduates out - except for married couples who are graduating. Then he leaves theirs intact between the two of them, cutting on either side of them as a couple.

Getting settled in the room, meeting my roommate, "bath mates" (terrible term for the girls who shared the bathroom between our two rooms), and the girls down the hall was fun. I'll never forget the cute little three-year-old boy who came into my room and began chatting with me. He was from Texas and with his cute little drawl he told me that his big sissie was moving in down the hall. She came down looking for him, we struck up our first conversation, and went on to become fast friends - which included double and triple dating that freshman year. I recently connected with Vivian on Facebook, and would love to see her again someday.

I remember going to church with my folks that Sunday morning - the church seemed so huge at that time. In the afternoon, it was time for my parents to head back home. We'd had lunch and we were up on my floor, where I was networking like crazy. They were getting ready to go down to the car and I was saying "so long!" Suddenly I realized that I should probably walk down to the car with them. I had been completely unaware, clueless, and insensitive to their feelings about leaving their firstborn behind and heading north. I was having such a great time beginning the fulfillment of my dream of getting there that I was shocked to find my mom crying.

I had very few moments of homesickness during those 4 years - which is not to say that I didn't love "home" or my parents. I just think that when you're doing what you're supposed to be doing, that's the way it should be. I looked forward to letters - the written kind that appeared in my mailbox in the Student Union. Over the next two years, my brother and sister became students there, too, so the trips to and from school became more complicated. We shared a mailbox - whoever got there first read the letter, initialed the envelope, and put it back for the next one. We had very very few phone calls over the years, because that cost way too much. The only moment of aching homesickness I remember feeling my freshman year was on my birthday - I was only 17 when I started college, and turned 18 less than a month later. It was Homecoming back in my high school that same night, so I was kind of missing that for a few brief moments.

Well, that was a fun trip down memory lane - I hope you enjoyed coming along with me.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Maine Vacation 2011, Part III

We headed to the other end of Boothbay Harbor for the rest of the afternoon. It was a much busier area than the beautiful spot in the previous post. But it was fun in a different way. We got in line at a very popular ice cream shop - I had THE best sugar free cone ever. I drool when I think of it.

We were walking across the boardwalk by the water and saw chalkboard signs for whale watching cruises. It was too late for those, and too expensive. But as we walked further, we saw a sign for a shorter, 1 1/2 hour cruise around the harbor. The price was reasonable, so we signed up.

We boarded the very full boat and headed off for a delightful adventure.

We learned that Boothbay was established in 1816 and was a prominent ship building town. They still build high end custom yachts today.

The musical movie "Carousel" was filmed there in 1956.

It is also a very busy lobster trapping harbor. We learned that the buoys are color coded for the trap owners. We were given a demonstration of the lobster harvesting process.

It was just a demonstration, so they put them trap back in the water.

The harbor seals come out in the late afternoon, just as we were getting to the rocks where they surface, fishing for their dinner.

We saw such beautiful sailboats and other vessels.

This is Tumbler Island, with one house hidden in the trees.

This is a very bad picture of a gigantic house, now called Minister's Retreat. I don't know many ministers who could afford the $28,000 per week price tag - even though it includes 8 bedrooms, a maid a butler, a boat to ferry you back and forth, all your meals provided and served.

I love lighthouses and would have loved to visit and explore these a bit. This first one is the Ram Island Lighthouse, built in 1868. We had heard a foghorn in the morning on the other end of the harbor, and it was quite annoying. Turns out it is very sensitive to humidity and goes off all the time. The residents are so used to it that they don't even notice.

This on is the Burnt Island lighthouse, built in 1821, and the last one to be automated. Sadly, there's nobody manning them any more.

We thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful air, the hum of the motor, the lovely scenery - and each other.

And, like in the morning, there's always someone willing to take a picture for us.

We spent Sunday visiting Kevin and Angie's little church, with a good meal fixed by her, and a peaceful afternoon. The next morning we went Old Orchard Beach for a bit of sun and surf. It was very crowded on the beach. We didn't stay long, but just got a taste.

Tuesday morning Angie had to go back to work, and Kev had a doctor's appointment. But before the appointment, we had an appointment of our own - we met Groovy and her husband and girlies at Panera for a bit of breakfast, and good conversation and laughter. What a blessing.

We had another early morning departure - we tried to get a last minute room in Boston so we didn't have to leave in the middle of the night to return the rental car and get to the airport for our 8:00 flight. But there wasn't anything affordable, so we got up at 2:30 and had a peaceful drive into Boston.

I realized that when I'm flying is the only time I've really wished I had a Kindle - I was afraid my suitcase was going to go over the 50 pound limit with all the books I took along. I read two books flying there and in the evenings while the others watched a movie, but the third one was just not working for me. So I bought one at the airport - something I try hard not to have to do. But I am so glad I found this book - Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay. Oh, my goodness, what a heart-rending book. I had not heard of it before, nor did I know it was a movie. But I highly recommend the book. You know how I feel about books based on movies.

Come back again for The Swanson Family Reunion!

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Maine Vacation 2011, Part II

Saturday morning dawned pleasantly cool and gorgeous. Maine is a beautiful place - so many trees, so many lakes - and the ocean to top it all off. I can't believe it's been two weeks already since we were there, and I am just now getting to Day 2. But so much has happened since then.

After a good night's sleep, and much lower temps outside and in, we got to a slow start in the morning. We were on vacation! No hurrying that day.

We headed to Boothbay Harbor, a beautiful spot Kevin had mentioned several times, but which we hadn't had time to visit yet. It was a lovely drive and we got there just in time for lunch. We landed in the perfect spot, just by good fortune. It was the beginning of the end of my "being good" when it came to food for the next few days.

This was when something funny happened - one of the gentlemen who was eating next to us (the one in the blue shirt at the next table) asked if we'd like him to take a picture of all of us - for some reason, Dwight said, "No thanks." I was surprised, because when someone offers, you usually take them up on it. We were finishing our meal when a lady came walking across the patio and asked if she could take our picture. Dwight said, "Sure." I was shocked, and a tad embarrassed. Turns out the lady was a professional, and just saw a good photo op, I guess. The people beside us sat and watched the whole thing.

It didn't seem to bother Dwight, but as we were leaving, I said to the people next to us, "Want me to take your picture?" They laughed and said, "No thanks!" We had a bit of a chat and I felt better for it.

After lunch we began a bit of exploration of the area. It was absolutely enchanting. I imagine many of the houses are vacation spots, but you could tell that many of them are year-round homes. The flowers were amazing . . .

. . . and the beauty extended across the road, between the road and the water.

I love how they set up their lawn chairs across the road, facing the water.

I have never seen blue hydrangeas before - they were everywhere.

I was amazed to see the flowers growing out of the rocks, in profusion.

I visited this little chapel, which is an interdenominational place of worship for the citizens and visitors in this beautiful spot.

I loved the sight of the children running through the sprinkler with the little kiddie pool set up, when they live across the street from the ocean.

Dwight took this picture and it was mentioned that it looks like a Kincaid painting - all that's missing is the light in the windows.

A picture of Kev taking pictures and me checking pictures.

Kevin and Angie enjoying the day.

Stay tuned for Part III - the rest of the day at Boothbay Harbor.