Sunday, October 21, 2012

This Year At Farm Festival

The drummer, the baker, the comedian, the rebel. 

Our daughter came home for the weekend, having made plans with several of her friends to meet up at Manhattan Country School's annual Farm Festival on Saturday. The kids in the photo above, all college freshmen, have been friends since pre-K/ kindergarten/ first grade.

With their first grade teacher, Laura. 

Until they graduated from 8th grade and dispersed to different high schools, the members of that class bonded through the years of farm trips—barn chores and planting days and afternoons spent roaming those grassy hills, splashing in the stream and the frog pond, building snow forts in winter, playing manhunt in the pitch black night, sharing clothes and laughs and tears. 

Joined by Maiya, who guided them through their high school apps in 8th grade. 

Back in the city they navigated the happy chaos of small classrooms, and did spontaneous group therapy sessions huddled on the fire escape, especially during fifth grade, the year of the girl wars. They fearlessly stated their hurts and learned to accept each other's truths, and through all those years of shifting and regrouping, they came to the seventh grade autobiographies, in which they examined their young lives and excavated a conscious understanding of just how lucky they were to have each other. They promised to hold each other close. And they have.

This group of 9th graders, newly minted high schoolers, also returned. The bonds are real.

And so a handful who could, who attend college in state, came back to the city this weekend. There they were, wandering that lively harvest festival on a block where they spent their most formative years, startling their old teachers by how grown they are, the friendships as easy and flowing as when they were five, seven, ten, fourteen. 

One more. I love all these kids. And their parents, too. 

Then last night another one of their number arrived in town, this one all the way from Ohio where she attends Oberlin. When we opened our front door to her at almost 11 p.m. last night, she literally jumped into my daughter's arms, wrapped her legs around her and cried. The third of them looked on, twirling her hair. "Are you really crying?" she said. And soon they were all laughing and crying together and telling stories of their time away. I don't know how late this went, because my husband and I went to bed.

This morning, I stumbled into the kitchen to make coffee only to see two of the girls asleep under comforters on the couches, having drifted off watching Malcolm in the Middle on Netflix. And now my daughter has left to meet up with another friend (in the striped tee) to take the bus back to their college town together. There is nothing in this world like being accompanied on the journey.


  1. I love it -- such youthful, audacious beauty in each of them.

    1. Elizabeth, audacious is a perfect word for these youngsters. Nobody ever made them feel that what they have to say doesn't matter. And that has made all the difference in how they walk through the world. Thanks for appreciating them.

  2. There are no friends like the friends of your childhood! (Didn't Stephen King write that in the story that inspired "Stand By Me"?)

    1. Steve, that could well be, because those are the people who saw you becoming who you would be, and played such a large role in all of it. When it's good, it can be very, very good.

  3. Your new header is beautiful, by the way.
    And those kids. Wow. When you chose that school, you did your daughter the very best favor ever. Somehow they instilled light within their students, didn't they?

    1. Dear Mary, isn't that header photograph beautiful. It was taken by my daughter, before she bought that blue bottle with the candle suspended inside and brought it home as a gift for her parents. It now sits on our dining table. And yes, that school did impart a light. I think it did that by teaching the kids from the time they were yay-high that their voices were important, that they should make their ideas heard, but also, very important, that they have a responsibility to their fellow humans and they are all part of a community. It is an incredibly special place, made all the more so by the farm curriculum. So many social workers and activists of various sorts have come out of that school. Not many corporation CEOs however.

  4. I love that your daughter makes friends so easily and so completely she must have learned that from you. This makes me warm and sad too because I am so difficult to know. And your daughter totally rocks those gorgeous boots. I'm glad she's home.

    1. Rebecca, she does make friends completely, but when she started out, she didn't make friends easily. in fact i used to see her sit and watch her brother, who always did make friends easily, and i could see her wondering what his secret was and why she was so left out. which is why that school was so good for her. it actively fosters a sense of community, especially among classmates, it shows them how make connections, the commonalities among people, and it gave my girl a base from which to seize life with arms wide open. that school really was a game changer in her life. It brought her out of herself in a way that might not have happened in another setting.

      As for being difficult to know, you are an artist, you are always discovering new dimensions within yourself so of course you're not an open book; you're complicated, it's part of your drive to make art and its makes you deep and profound. that's infinitely more interesting, though perhaps not to the one living it!

      But I am very happy to know you, even a little bit!

      (those boots my girl is wearing btw aren't the ones that are like yours. she wore a hole through the sole of those, so well loved they were, and she finally had to retire them. )

  5. I wish my grandchildren were in a school like that or had attended one.

    1. Kristin, it's a great place, very big on social and environmental justice. And sustainability. To graduate, students must complete five farm requirements:

      1. Milk a cow and manage barn chores
      2. Bake with yeast
      3. Prepare a meal for the whole class
      4. Produce an original textile
      5. Participate in a mock town meeting on a current environmental issue

      Nice to see you here as always! xo