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Mid-Spring and Memories

May 2018

by Michael O’Brien

We’re in mid-spring right now, the school year is winding down, the spring flowers are giving way to early summer blooms, the heat is rising and the summer schedule is about to begin.

Baseball here at A&M is coming to its last games of the season. It’s been a good season overall, lots of freshmen players showing real promise for next year, and I’ll miss the games, sitting with the one who holds my heart while trying to think of interesting things one might associate with the players names and guessing the pitch sequences to share with the fellows who regularly sit nearby.

Mothers’ Day is kind of the beginning of summer for me. The one who holds my heart and I will pack up our little dog, maybe a new waffle iron, and some things and head south for the weekend. There will be cooking, and baby-care, and evenings outside with the fire; we’ll look back and look forward, remembering people, wishing a few wishes and looking for satellites amongst the stars.

The start of the summer schedule is always a bit tricky for me; the to-do list at home seems to grow longer each year, mostly because I haven’t finished all the projects! I still have some painting to do, some roofing to do, some decking to do, a little electrical, some flooring, and need to find a carpenter for the railing and an a/c company to replace the downstairs unit. So there’s all that.

We have a bit of moving around to do as part of our summer schedule, a drive through the beauty of West Texas to visit the one who holds my heart’s parents, the rest under the big sky of New Mexico now, a place of brilliant blues and tall clouds. I enjoy that drive; it’s time away from the daily schedule where the one who holds my heart and I can be together. This year, on the way home from there, we will stop by and visit the family reunion, a lively group anchored by the patriarch John, and animated by…pretty much everybody else! It should be fun, especially after seeing VG and Beverly; the stories we hear are always interesting; bits of family history emerge that helps form a larger picture.

We’ll fly east shortly after to see my favorite daughters, favorite eastern son-in-law, and our favorite granddaughter! I look forward to learning her personality, seeing her teeth!, and will be interested to see if she remembers me from her early days sleeping on my shoulder. We’ll visit Jim’s family, I hope, see how they’re doing; we all were knocked back by his early passing and miss his wit and wisdom.

I think the rest of June kind of quiets down; maybe we’ll have some good porch sitting weather, maybe a few more fireflies, (each one a spirit) and get a little time with our favorite grandson too! Yes, I’ll get after the to-do list as well, and try to squeeze in a little writing time on the parklets paper, make some models of the Freedmen’s Church, and look for calls for abstracts for next year’s publications.

But before all that, we celebrate graduation. Meet parents and spouses of the students, help with the ceremony, and wish them well, hoping they’ll succeed, hoping they stay in touch, hoping we helped them build a firm foundation for a long career. By my rough count, this will be my 41st graduating group! If there are about 20 in each graduating class, that means I am partly responsible for 800 or so professionals out there….  That’s why I hope we helped their foundation well. So many.

Facebook helps me keep up with some; others I remember when I show their work to current students. It’s interesting how the artifacts of someone’s study can inspire another student 10, 20 or 30 years later. I showed a thesis book from VT yesterday; it was Tim’s.  He had designed 3 small houses to study the differences and similarities of three kinds of sites. The students were amazed to see this work, artfully presented, each page frameable; then I unpacked Sean W.’s thesis. He had a flip book as part of his boxed set of documents, along with a CD that contained his walk through animations. The students looked respectfully at the work, but held the flip book and began flipping the pages to see the walk-through animation, very clever, but then, wait there’s more! Flipping the pages the opposite direction showed a shading study. I watched the student sflipping the pages one direction, then the other, “This just makes me happy,” they said. Good work Sean!

Things from the past can be difficult sometimes; sometimes we become so focused on the challenges of each day we forget to look back, and more important, forget to value the past. Sean’s book opened up a student’s eyes decades later. The one who holds my heart looked back at the spring night a few days ago and remembered the joys (and scary toads and spiders) of growing up in Trinidad. You never know what someone will remember. It’s hard to think about that as we go about our daily schedules, busy here, busy there, but someone, we don’t know who, will remember us, on that day, or in that place.

We all matter.

We all need each other to matter.

Mattering is memory. Hard as it might be, say out loud the memories that matter.  Share them around a fire or in the dark, say the names of those who mattered to you. It will help us all.

Be good to each other, look after each other, remember each other.