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Summer Idyll
July 13, 2007 - 6:37pm


It was blessedly cool and bright today, and I walked over to campus, where I haven’t been in weeks. I had no pressing business there but needed to get away from this house, this computer, and the toy trucks jackknifed in the middle of the living room floor amidst books, juice cups, video boxes, and 5,000 sets of Mardi Gras beads. The toy drivers and passengers looked like victims of some awful disaster. The elder boy, who had wreaked most of the havoc, said to me this morning, when requested to pick up, “Daddy, I’ve been thinking. Today I have swim camp, and Wolfie is going to school, and well, Daddy, I think we should clean up another time, and just move on with our lives.”

The day supported it.

Campus was quiet and manicured, the Japanese Beetles buzzing lightly as they descended on the flowers of July. There’s nothing like the commons of a big university in summer or in late December, when tens of thousands have left, and everything belongs to those who remain.

Never mind that the head groundskeeper told one of my ethnography students, a couple of semesters ago, that none of it is meant for faculty, staff or students, and that no one who lives here actually notices it. He said the money to make the grounds a showplace is an investment in alumni and parents—those who visit only occasionally but need to remember the school fondly during donation drives.

Never mind that the picture at right is the inside of an English classroom.

And never mind that the people who cut the grass (on riding mowers, no less) make more than I do. The grounds crew probably has the more honest trade after all. I was a visitor myself today, my teaching deferred until the end of August. It was a happy afternoon, and I’m just trying to move on with my life.


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