Country mouse city mouse
Tuesday December 14th 2010, 1:35 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

I mentioned earlier the passing of Smokey, and after quoting his love Jan’s words, this happened the next day. Cool.

What I didn’t mention on the blog, I did yesterday to Jan and to Smokey’s oldest daughter.

The 13th would have been his birthday as well as mine, and thus was the day of his memorial service. We got to see old friends from back in the day, it had been way too long… PAM!!! Pam, who had had no children yet when we moved here, who had latched onto my babies and adored them as we adored her. SO good to see you! And you, and you, and…

But what I said to those two members of Smokey’s family, with more detail here, was this:

My husband’s first job out of grad school was in a town near New Hampshire’s southern border where a couple of high-tech companies had started expanding into to escape Massachusetts’ taxes in the Route 128 corridor.  The town was growing fast and was a mixture of old small-town New England and young professionals from all over.

The old folks voted down things they didn’t want to pay for: kindergarten being one of them. Instead, the schools there tested a small child coming in for the first time to see if he could do the things you’re supposed to learn in kindergarten–and if not, or if he froze up in front of the stranger doing the testing, he got put in Readiness, which was kindergarten by another name. There were eight-year-olds in first grade there!  How does a child recover from that?  They don’t.  And that was a third of the children. Shyness could tank your path forever.

There was a memorable School Board meeting where some guy proclaimed all public schooling as being (slamming his fist on the table and shouting) COMMUNISM!

We invited the folks next door over once for an evening of Scrabble, and were stunned at being turned down with, “We don’t play that kind of game like you educated folks.” The woman went on to tell me that they were discouraging their kids from going to college.

And this was where my children were going to grow up? Nice people around us, make no mistake, it’s just, we grew up in the part of the country with the highest number of PhD’s per capita and high expectations on the children. Lifelong pursuit of learning is just something you do.

We moved here near Stanford University just before our oldest turned five.  I told the two women yesterday that now, she’s finishing her PhD, a researcher with a dream to cure malaria. The others are  in their own graduate paths, the last in his undergrad, inspired to pursue his own area of science by a gifted middle school teacher.

Smokey had not only offered my husband a job in Silicon Valley; he had changed… everything. (They were nodding; they knew what the schools here are like: the pressure, for good and bad, for everybody to be the next brilliant scientist or engineer to change the world. The co-author of the high school biology textbook was my oldest’s actual teacher, passing on her love of the subject and inspiring her to follow her footsteps. )


Jan was thrilled.  His daughter was nodding, going, “All these stories I’m hearing! All these people he influenced! I never knew…!”

8 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Matt is determined to cure malaria as well . . .

Comment by LauraN 12.14.10 @ 2:38 pm

That is the best, to be able to share a part of the lost one’s life those who loved him didn’t see.
And a cure for malaria is stupendous because of how many people it will save. On a personal note, it may help me, too. Because I do not have a spleen, the anti-malarial drugs are ineffective. There are parts of the world I shall never have a chance to see.

Comment by Diana Troldahl 12.14.10 @ 6:22 pm

It is such a gift to give those whose loved ones have left them, to show how they are immortal in so many other lives.

On a similar note – I watched “It’s a Wonderful Life” the other night and wept tears of joy and recognition through many spots.

I always do. 🙂

Comment by twinsetellen 12.14.10 @ 8:46 pm

Beautiful. And you know, I’ve never minded paying for schools. It makes sense to invest in the future.

Comment by Channon 12.15.10 @ 7:30 am

as far as I’m concerned education is one of the most important things we can get for our kids — we always said to our daughter “WHEN you go to college”, not “IF you go to college” — from very early on we made that seem to be the thing you did (and when she hit a pretty rough patch in her junior year, I reminded her that I had quit and I never got to go back, so it was much better to stick it out — she did and thanks me for that still)

our culture seems to have lost sight of the fact that our children are the future as we cut funds and programs and fight over a tax raise to put teachers in the classrooms — so sad

Comment by Bev 12.15.10 @ 9:10 am

I agree with Channon — paying for schools is not an expense; it is an investment.

Comment by Don Meyer 12.15.10 @ 9:50 am

makes one ponder how those little things have such a large impact!

you are welcome to come play scrabble at my table any time!

Comment by marti 12.15.10 @ 10:52 am

In 2007 NH became the last state in the nation to make it mandatory for school districs to offer kindergarten. (Attendence is still not mandatory, I believe, but at least it’s available.) It was finally implemented in all school districts for the start of the school year last year.

Still makes me shake my head. I don’t have children, but I don’t begrudge paying for schools. It’s one of the responsibilities of a civilized society to educate the next generation.

Comment by RobinH 12.16.10 @ 8:36 am

Leave a comment
Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>