Enjoying a busy celebration

I was largely incommunicado the last week or so because I’ve been wrapped up with (and worn out by) a family get-together and celebration in Massachusetts.

Doing as I said, not as I did, my youngest daughter, Tracy, was named a 21st Century Scholar at UMass-Amherst last week. Doesn’t sound like a big deal but… She was one of 11 to receive the prize, given to the University’s “most talented and accomplished graduating seniors” — out of a class of 5,500. Aside from a young woman from South Africa, she was the only non-Massachusetts resident to be selected. She was also the only winner from the College of Humanities and Fine Arts.

It was a somewhat wearing number of days. My wife and I flew out last week and the other two daughters flew in separately from their respective locations (the first and perhaps only time all of us are together this year). We actually attended four celebrations from Thursday through Saturday. One was for the Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies Department (one of her majors); another was for the Commonwealth Honors College (where she designed her other major in using media to assist in public health for persons with disabilities); there was the general commencement in the football stadium (it took 47 minutes for the commencement march, even with students entering from four different places), where she was on the platform throughout; and the HFA ceremony (where we stood for more than two hours). We also attended the Chancellor’s commencement dinner, where Tracy formally received her award.

She wasn’t the only one who had something to celebrate. Our middle daughter, Andrea, received her master’s degree in community and regional planning from the University of Nebraska the week before. At the same time, she gained full-time employment at the Nebraska Rural Futures Institute, where she worked as a graduate assistant.

We spent some enjoyable dinners with the faculty member who became Tracy’s mentor and close friend. One get-together included other faculty and staff, including her undergrad advisor and the School of Public Health faculty member woman who supervised Tracy’s honors thesis. Then we went to Boston as neither of the oldest two daughters had been there. That, of course, required a Red Sox game and general touring. (The trick to driving in Boston? Drive there, park near a T station and use the T until you leave.) And, of course, I returned home with six more books than I left with, supporting independent bookstores in Amherst, Northampton and Boston

Everyone flew home this week, except Tracy. Wednesday, she left for New York City, where she will spend the summer interning at the Clinton Global Initiative before returning to Amherst to pursue a master’s degree in public policy. All I know is my wife and I were both worn out. It’s hard to keep up with the young ‘uns.

As has become evident by how well each of them has done (and how proud I am of each), they’re lucky their mother did such a good job.


Confronted with infancy, I was exceptionally no good. …I was really marking time until they were old enough to be able to hold a conversation.

Christopher Hitchens, Hitch-22

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