Remember how back in August I mentioned the faculty member who passed away? At the time, my emotions were too raw to be able to write anything. As time began to pass, however, the words came, and I ended up writing a piece for the school newsletter (with very helpful contributions from my friend, Linda Carroll). I thought I’d post it here as well.
On Saturday, August 2, 2008, GSLIS lost one of its greats when Professor Allen Smith passed away. In his thirty years at Simmons, Allen touched thousands of lives; Dean Cloonan estimates that the number could be as high as 4,500. Four thousand and five hundred students — nearly half of the Simmons GSLIS body of 10,000 alumni — took Allen’s teachings about reference, humanities, oral history, and yes, back in the day, computer programming, with them into the library world. To merely say that his influence was far-reaching doesn’t begin to describe the impact he had on our personal and professional lives.
Is there anyone who sat in his class who can’t recall his presence as he stood in the front of the room as we tried to absorb every nuance of his 70-page list of reference sources? How we hoped to impress him — or at least not disappoint him — and what joy it was when he smiled and nodded when the answer we gave was one that unexpectedly pleased him. (If only I’d been the one to think of bringing the reference librarian as my one thing to bring into his exam. To whoever you are — kudos. “That was a good one,” he said in his characteristic understated way. With a smile on his face, though, and a twinkle in his eye that indicated exactly how monumentally perfect your choice was.)
Though he could sometimes seem, well, curmudgeonly — yes, those were his sighs that
could be heard buildings away from where the faculty meetings were being held — he lived for his students. They were the ones who made him smile when laughter was otherwise hard to come by. They were the ones who especially pleased him with their energy and excitement. When students in one of his classes came to the last day of Reference wearing t-shirts with the words “Deliberate Searchers” emblazoned across them, that was a day you’d be hard-pressed to find a happier guy. “They get it,” he said. And they got it with unmistakable humor, respect, and love.
In the week after Allen died, the tributes came from all quarters — there was the “Remembering Allen Smith” group on Facebook started by former students, the posting from his fellow farriers, the wiki page with favorite Allen-isms, the shared e-mails and conversations and blog posts and notes from far and wide. His legacy is continued by the legion of former students and colleagues searching deliberately, seeking bibliographic control, and explaining to the IRS why it is that everything we librarians do is legitimately deductible. And although some of us will use more exclamation points than he would have allowed, every single one of them will make us think of our teacher, our colleague, our friend, Allen Smith.
Allen, the third floor of Palace Road will always feel a little empty. May you and Merrill rest together in eternal peace. You are deeply missed.
We collected the links for the online version of the newsletter. If you’d like to read more about Allen, please see http://web.simmons.edu/~lislive/infolink/#allen.
Today was Lucy’s first day of third grade. And, just because I have the technology, here’s a picture:
Lucy and Will on Lucy's first day of school
She was both excited and nervous. She truly does seem to love school, so I think that she was eager to get started, and yet she’s been quite concerned about how hard third grade is going to be. As she said in her tearful breakdown of last week: “They’re going to expect me to do harder math and write more and… and… Everything’s changing now and I don’t like it. Why can’t it be like it was when I was three? All we had to know how to do was play.”
O.k. So maybe that’s not verbatim, but it’s pretty close. You get the idea.
"I am NOT related to those people behind me."
She walked ahead of us all the way up the hill to the school. We saw Jiovan right away, and Matthew, two of my favorite kids in her grade. Then, as we walked past the hopscotch and sat down on the stone wall (with her, once again, keeping her distance), Ruth walked in through the gates. Oh, joy! Even better, Ruth had the same Hannah Montanna messenger bag as Lucy did, so they had something to talk about right off the bat. (Oddly enough, 8-year-olds don’t waste time on the adult standbys of ‘How was your summer?’ and ‘Went by so fast, didn’t it?’ They just get right to the awkward silence part. Much more efficient.) Although she rolled her eyes, Lucy did allow me to get a picture of the two of them (well, three, including Ruth’s baby brother.
Lucy, Ruth (and Ruth's brother), and the Hannah Montanna bags
Then she spotted Francesca, and then Jiovan came over again. Somehow I managed to catch the four of them in the (literally) three seconds that Jiovan sat still. I think my threatening him with the pictures I had from their kindergarten days may have been what worked. A few more minutes later, Lucy saw her new teacher. She stood in awe for a few seconds, wondering, I think, if her teacher knew who she was. When it was clear that yes, her new teacher did know her, all was well.
The crowd began to swell a bit, and before we knew it, the gates were open and the kids were let loose onto the playground. And so we came upon one of those eternal parental dilemmas: should we stay or should we go? Lucy was definitely keeping her distance. She didn’t actually say, Mo-om (the two drawn out syllables that are difficult to spell, but that every parent knows intimately), but it was definitely implied. Although there were a bunch of others sticking around, we left.
The whole lot of 'em
As soon as we started down the hill, I had second thoughts: what if she looks up and expected to see us, but we’re gone? Have I ruined her ability to trust all adults from here on in? Have I left her to the awful mean girls on the grounds of the school? Have I inadvertently sent a message to all the teachers that I’m not a supportive parent? What have I done?????
Reenacting the same walk from four years ago, when we left her for her first day of kindergarten, Kelley said, “Just keep walking. She’s fine. No, we didn’t leave her to evil things.” (O.k. So that’s not exactly verbatim, either, but well, you get that point, too.) Realizing that Will is silently taking all of this in, I just bite my lip, try not to cry, and move the heck on.
Life got a little frustrating from there.
We went back home to get Will’s stuff, then turned around to bring him to Owen’s for the morning. With him happily playing legos, I was out of the Nash household by 10:25 and off to spend a couple hours working at the library. Not, unfortunately, the library that I had hoped, since that one doesn’t open until noon on Thursdays. After spending a good 20 minutes in gridlocked traffic, I found my way to another branch.
I’m not naming any names, since this one just really wasn’t what I’d been hoping for. The parking lot was gravel and weeds — actually, it was the parking lot for the abandoned gas station next door. Once inside, I actually kind of liked the atmosphere, although it was definitely 70s era. I turned on my laptop so I could get to work, though, and there was no wireless. That was highly annoying, since I can absolutely guarantee you that people are emailing me and wondering why I’m not responding, but without the wireless, I can’t even put an away message. Grrrr.
I would have stayed to do work, but I felt lost. Then, being lost, I really wanted some coffee. Then, deciding that my day simply couldn’t start without my coffee, I got all antsy. And then the storytime started on the other side of the wall from where I was sitting.
Oh, goodness. It all started coming at me: Bad mom! Bad mom! (You leave your son with a friend instead of spending quality time with him like all the happy parents and kids next door, including the effervescently cheerful storyteller?) Worse mom! Worse mom! (You leave your son with a friend in order to work, but you didn’t even check out whether or not you’d be able to?) Worst mom in the world! Worst mom in the world! (You leave your son with a friend in order to do work that you can’t do and then the thing that’s really bothering you is that you haven’t had coffee yet?)
Sigh. Run away. Run away quickly.
Back I was in grid-locked traffic, determined to find a Dunkin Donuts where I could both drink coffee and get work done. Knowing that there was one right up the road, I thought, well, why the heck not? Alas, the one up the street was a drive-thru only. Foiled again.
O.k. GPS time. Find the closest DD other than that one. On your way there, drive past the Nash house and feel guilty all over again. Remind yourself that Will is having a much better time playing with Owen than he would be with you getting lost on the streets of West Roxbury and being in a non-coffee’d up state.
I finally found the Dunkin Donuts and then decided to go to the library branch that I would have been at originally if it hadn’t opened at noon. I got to the library at a few minutes after 11. (Yes, that whole saga took 40 minutes.) It took me ten more minutes to drive past it, turn into the CVS parking lot, wait until the annoying car in front of me worked it’s way through the lot, run back around, and park in front of the library. Yay, shady benches right there in front! I got out the computer — and my iced coffee and breakfast sandwich — and happily sat down. Perfection.
Except not so much, thanks to my uncanny ability to attract people, even when I have my back to them, my head hunched down, and I offer monosyllabic answers as they begin complaining about the 45 minutes they have to wait until the library opens and they don’t want to waste the gas to go back home, given the prices these days.
Really? I just went through all of that to have that conversation?
Trying to be even more obvious — while also at the time not being completely rude (yes, I realize this is why those conversations continue) — I began getting my computer out of my backpack. The fateful decision was that I decided to do so despite my breakfast sandwich not being done. Did I put the sandwich down? No, I decided to be all fancy and do it one-handed. Any guesses as to what happened next? Yep. You got it. I done flung that breakfast sandwich over the back of the bench. There it sat, strewn across the lovingly landscaped West Roxbury library lawn. I did have the thought that maybe the West Roxbury lawns, being West Roxburyian and all, were clean enough for me to still eat it. If the cheese hadn’t been all mulched by that point, I might even have tried it. But alas, mulched it was. As I threw it away, I told myself that I shouldn’t have been having a breakfast sandwich anyway. It didn’t help.
So here I sit, breakfast sandwich now in the trash, sitting on the bench and writing this post. Not posting this post, mind you, since I have no wireless still, but writing it nevertheless. Now off to work…
I am happy to report that work got done. Amazing how productive you can be when you don’t have email to distract you. Will and I went on to have a lovely afternoon meeting his new teacher and some of his classmates, getting a special McDonald’s lunch, and hanging out with Aidan from across the street.
And this all brings me to his agenda for tomorrow. He wants to buy me a car.
As you all know, Will is obsessed with cars. One of his latest things is that he wants to buy me one. I mean, he really wants to. Not a toy one, mind you, a real one.
Last week, he came into the dining room and told me that, for my birthday, he was going to buy me some trucks. Big ones, like Owen’s dad’s.
“Really,” I murmured. ‘Where are you going to get the money?”
“I have a lot of coins in my bank,” he answered.
“I’m not sure if that’s enough,” I said. “Trucks cost a lot of money.”
He thought for a moment. “That’s o.k. I’ll put the dirt from Wendy’s Cow House in bags and sell it. It smells good. People will want some.”
(You think I’m making that one up. I’m not. I swear.)
Well o.k. then. “Thanks.” (I mean, what else could I say? Truly.)
He nodded and went back into the living room.
Clearly, it wasn’t just a one time thing. Today’s conversation happened while we were driving to meet Kelley for our First Day of School dinner celebration at Cabot’s. On our way, we passed three dealerships.
“Mommy,” Will said. “Are those car stores?”
“Tomorrow I’m going to buy you one car from each one.”
Which of course brought up the cost issue again — “Will, they cost a lot of money.”
He gave me that glare of his that says, Do you not remember that we’ve already discussed this? “I’ll bring my bank. There’s a lot of money in there. If Daddy comes with me, they’ll let me get one.”
The topper was when we got home and got the mail. Both Will and Lucy received a card from Grandma and Grandpa. In each card, was a wonderful surprise — $5 for Lucy, $2 for Will. (Now normally, of course, I wouldn’t be so crass as to discuss such details, but how else to share the ending to the story?) Will’s eyes lit up like you wouldn’t believe. “This kind is paper money. Now I’ll have even more to buy you a car.”
So who knows? Kelley’s got Will tomorrow and who am I to say that they shouldn’t be buying me a new car? The next time you see me, I might be driving a fancy new pick-up. Or maybe not. O.k. Probably not, but only time will tell.