Monday, June 22, 2015

Angels on ATVs - Mount Watatic, MA

Photobombed view from the top of Mt. Watatic
When BH and I wanted to get out for a hike this past weekend, I sent a note over to my brother who has lived in Boston for the last 18 years or so. He's a hiker and an adventurer and knows the area from Maine to Connecticut extremely well. He suggested one of three mountains to hike with the 8 year old kids, the most appealing of which seemed to be Mt. Watatic.

Mt. Watatic sits between the towns of Ashby and Ashburnham in central Massachusetts. Its peak is about 1800 feet above sea level, and the "standard" hike is around 1.1 miles to the top with about 500 feet in elevation change. I say "standard" because we found ourselves on a much longer hike--but I get ahead of myself. 

Saturday was a gorgeous day with high wispy clouds and a 70ish temperature. We hopped in the car--me, BH, the twins and our 2 year old rescue dog named Coal. It was to be Coal's first hiking adventure outside our conservation woods and we were prepared with a leash, his water and lots of treats. For us and for him. 

It took us about an hour to drive to the trail head. Most of the ride was the through woods and dale, with an unfortunate 20 minutes through trafficky, construction filled Fitchburg. The trail's parking lot was full so we parked on the main street (not recommended with little darty kids), loaded up two backpacks and hiked in. 

For the number of cars, we were expecting lots of people on the trails. But given that Mt. Watatic is on the 22-mile long Midstate Trail, there were more than a few people who had clearly hiked in on days previous and taken off for New Hampshire. We were passed by one enormous backpack laden group then a few trail runners and a few hikers we met going up and down. The trail is not too challenging at first, then slowly gives way to steep root-and-rock-filled slopes--how the trail runners did that without breaking an ankle, I will never know.

About halfway up the steepest part, I noted that Coal was not making his usual happy jangling noise. His happy jangling is provided by his town rabies tag and his name tag making a pleasant bell tone that serves to warn all chipmunks and other rodents of his approach. I looked to see that the ring had broken open and both tags were gone.

The kids were surprisingly uncomplaining--they are not so patient with hiking. One wants to GET THERE RIGHT NOW and the other likes to pick flowers and make fairy houses. We finally broke free onto the summit where Coal romped and played with another black rescue dog, we picnicked on salami sandwiches and trail mix and watermelon and Coal photobombed the only photo that would propose to show the skyline of Boston, which you could indeed see in the distance.

At the top of the hill, I also noted a huge stone with beautiful inscriptions about how the mountain had been saved from development. My favorite lines were about the "mountain that lived" and now was "holding us up to meet the sky." Good stuff. And we were to learn more when our adventure continued.

Now as we are standing around on the summit, my cell phone rings with an unknown number. I pick up and the person says "Do you have a dog named Coal?" and I say, why yes, I do. And the person on the other end says that he has found Coal's name tag. I say I'm all the way up the mountain. And he says he's all the way down the mountain. And so he says that he will leave the tag for me on the great steel post in the parking lot. So I'm happy.

Since it only took us about an hour to climb the hill, I look at the book (Best Hikes with Dogs Boston and Beyond) and it shows that there is a way to do a loop back down to the parking lot rather than scrambling back the way we came. Cue suspenseful music. I admit that following directions that were exactly this "From the gravel road, watch for a trail that veers to the left, following an old stone wall," was not my finest choice. Especially because New England has a looooooooot of old stone walls. And there were no blazes or trail names.

So we load up, find what seems to be trail by a stone wall, and head down. Later, much later, at home, I now come to believe that we actually followed down one of the old ski slopes. Yes, Watatic used to be a ski mountain--more on this one soon. 

BH is following our progress with his map function on the phone. He keeps saying that we are heading too far north. Given this map in the book, I say "no, honey, we have to head north to get the trail west to loop us around back south." I generally have an excellent sense of direction. I was pretty sure I was right. BH was not going to argue any more with me.

The map. See the summit lower left? I tried for a loop. Not a great plan.
We keep hiking. I let Coal off the leash since he hasn't had a chance to do his stuff, and he disappears. Twice. The second time for ten minutes, and the kids begin to panic so we put him back on leash. Then we start hiking over biting ants and the kids start getting upset. So we go faster. And pass by another stone for Mt. Watatic that lists a whole bunch of names of people who donated to save the mountain. I of course think this is a good sign--since we MUST still be on the mountain. But we're not.

We also see some old abandoned machinery a pond, and then we are seemingly at the bottom of the hill. If you look at the map above, we are actually at the point of the triangle at the top of the page. In the end, it turns out that we are in New Hampshire.

At the bottom of the hill, we decide we would find a trail to get us back south. We are now following BH's RunKeeper app. The kids are beginning to suspect that we are lost. They are right. Another 20 minutes walking and we see a tiny seemingly abandoned cabin in the woods. As we start bushwacking through the woods, an ATV (those little four wheel drive golf carty things) comes up the trail and pulls up to the cabin.

I am elected spokesmodel to ask for help. I walk towards the woman who hops off the ATV and call out (trying not to scare her) and say "help, we are lost!" And she comes over and says "yes, you are. And the only way back is up and over Nutting Hill (at this point, the kids screw up their faces like they might cry) or I can take you back to my house which is about six minutes from here and then drive you back to the parking lot." 

The offer of rescue was so spontaneous and generous that it took me a minute to even register it. Here was a woman, in the middle of her Saturday afternoon visit to her cabin, who was going to drive two 8 year old kids in an ATV back to her real house. BH, Coal and I would follow along behind. ATVs don't go so fast. I am afraid I did not thank this New Englander quite enough.

She loaded the kids into the ATV, hopped on and talked with them all the way back to her house. We met there her slightly less talkative but just as helpful husband who mentioned that they rescue a hiker group per week. They just appear out of the woods having gotten lost on the way. Signs they put up are stolen by ne'er do wells. So they just pop the hikers in their car and take them back to the trail head, 10 minutes away by car.

Diane, as it turns out her name is, pulls out her large SUV, puts down the seat and a towel for Coal, and loads us up for the drive around the mountain. And she tells us more of the story of Mt. Watatic. Later I would find out that we were talking to one of the names on the stone--one of the people who had worked hardest to save that mountain. 

The old ski resort. Novice through Intermediate. Photo credit:

Gravel road to right. photo credit:
Mt. Watatic had indeed been a ski mountain in the early 1940s, closing in the mid-80s due to competition and its location which is rather hard to get to. It was simply abandoned with the base lodge eventually being burnt by vandals. You can read a very interesting story about it here. Later, the top of the mountain was bought by a cell phone company which were the folks who built the gravel road that we started on at the top--cutting through the slopes forever. And there was further talk of re-opening the ski mountain or making a huge adventure park at the bottom. 

That is when the towns and residents (and Diane, it turned out) sprang into action. From wikipedia: 

In 2002, prior to development of the communications tower, the mountain was purchased for $2,500,000 by the Ashby Land Trust, the Town of Ashby, the Ashburnham Conservation Trust, the Town of Ashburnham, Mass Dept of Fish and Wildlife and Mass Dept of Conservation and Recreation... The purchase resulted in the permanent protection of approximately 281 acres (1.14 km2) of the mountain, including the summit, as conservation land.

Diane dropped us back at the trail head parking lot (where I found Coal's tag waiting for me) and sent us off with a trail map that she said would keep us from the madding crowds. My son Nico gave her some wildflowers he had picked, then we thanked her again, and she drove off home, possibly to await her next lost "city folk." 

We learned more than a little on Saturday about the history of Mt. Watatic (Algonquin for "wigwam place" by the way) and the people who care for the mountain and those who get lost on it. Angels on ATV.  

Monday, June 15, 2015

Truly Madly Deeply - Lincoln, MA

Sadly, my readers, I must confess that I am an addict. I am an addict of breathing in green leaves, sometimes dried, sometimes fresh. And yes, the white stuff too--it makes me giggle crazily as I sink into the maddening piles of it. And the worst of it is that while I love to share my addiction some days, mostly I prefer to feed it alone. 

My addiction is not, of course, to drugs, but to a place once called Preston Woods, now called Beaver Pond conservation area, or by me: "the woods."  A place conserved and managed by the Lincoln Land Conservation Trust and cared for by members of the community (both Weston and Lincoln townsfolk mostly). A place so magical in every season, it is truly addictive.

Trail markings
 Yesterday afternoon I was crabby. In frustration, BH (Brazilian husband) asked "what is going on?" And before I even answered, he figured it out-- "aha, you did not get into the woods today." And he was right--I was missing my woods walk. It is a walk I take, in some variation, every single weekday after my kids go to school. On weekends, I can't get out and both Coal, my 2 year old dog, and I are somewhat crabby about it. I do love my kids truly madly deeply but I also need the woods. It is hard to explain the feeling of absolute joy I get from these trails, leaf-covered, quiet, calming. It is a drug.

John Muir understands me, or perhaps it is I who understand him when he says: "I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out I found, was really going in." The woods are a place for introspection, for wonder, for true quiet. Going in.

Foggy? Rainy? No problem!
Today is pouring rain but it stopped me and Coal not one bit. On went the waterproof pants and jacket, the duck boots and into the woods for my favorite 3-mile hike. On days when I have other morning appointments, I frequently take a shorter and hillier 2-mile hike--each trail is delightful and each day brings us something new. Today, for instance, a brown toad rushed so fast across the wide trail even Coal was taken aback and slow to react. And new tiny white flowered plants are lining the trail where they had not been a week ago.

I have lived in three places that have what I'll call marginal seasons...San Francisco, Miami and Brazil. SF seems to have foggy season and golden season when the dryness browns the hills. Miami has pleasant season and freaking hot season. Brazil has more variety but no snow, to the great relief of many of my warm-weather fan friends. New England has 365 seasons, sometimes all in one day.

Every day there is something new to look at in these woods. Fall is my favorite of course as the trees compete to out-beauty each other.  The smell of fall is indescribable-- a mix of memories, trodden leaves, crisp air and pumpkins. Seriously. The woods put on an incredible huge last party and this is the season when I most run into people on my walks. Who can resist autumn?

Winter was alternately gorgeous, forbidding or comical. Making the first footsteps on a fresh snow = priceless. The crunch, the absolute silence except for the calls of the chickadees or the haunting warning cry of the red-tailed hawk. The lakes frozen tight, the bareness of the trees, all somewhat lonely and scary... until I fell off the trail into a 2 foot drift and could not right myself--my laughter echoing in the trees.

Lady's slipper - beautiful, short-lived, rare
Now spring with its frenzy of growth, leaves popping, new tiny flowers sprouting and dying back on a weekly basis. Lily of the valley, lady's slipper, ferns, and my old friend poison ivy. All reaching and dancing in the dappled springtime sun. One morning I was greeted by a cacophany of spring peepers from a vernal pool--so loud my dog Coal stopped, head cocked, to assess the level of danger. The people are back and I often have to share my woods--with Steve and his grey Weimaraner, or a foreign gentleman with a small terrier that romps and plays with Coal, or horse-back riders and others. But rarely do I run into more than about 3 people on the whole loop. 

The also-rare Haifa, my senior dog
Summer is but a week away and I have yet to experience that season in the woods--we arrived at the end of summer last year. I'm looking forward to it.

Yesterday at a Lincoln Land Trust event on caterpillars, I picked up the Trust's 2014 annual report which contains photos and an article about the Preston family and their land grant. One of my favorite signs in the woods is dedicated to Jean Wood Preston who is honored for sharing her "perennial joy in nature." Her daughter Katherine is quoted saying "My soul was set on its journey by Lincoln--its fields and woods and streams and ponds -- and the people it nurtured."  (you can read the full article on page four here).

I would like to think my soul is also set a journey here--it starts with three miles and ends truly madly deeply in my love of this place. Thank you, Lincoln Land Conservation Trust, the Prestons, and all those who preserve nature. It is the best addiction.

These two photos are from the same spot on Stony Brook just below Beaver Pond. One in January 2015, the other in May. Perennial joy, indeed.

Monday, June 8, 2015

There is No Charge for Awesomeness - Wellesley College, MA

The incredibly cool Science Center, the location of our Saturday night party
I have never been so hungover. Ever. Unfortunately there is no cure (at least for the next five years) since it was neither alcohol nor drug induced. It was Wellesley Class of 1990 induced. 25th Reunion induced. Gorgeous campus and fantastic women of all ages induced. I think you've got it. 

Or not. I will say that if you are not a Wellesley alum, you may find yourself confused by the following post. I have a feeling that no other school anywhere does reunion like we do. I do not have enough time or database space to completely explain about its awesomeness but I will try to convey at least part of the joy.

Reunion started at 1 pm on Friday and went through lunch on Sunday. It's not long enough, yet if it went any longer, we would collapse into a gigantic pile of purple goo. Why purple? Because we are the purple class (class colors are red, yellow, green and purple). I note that over the years we have gotten a lot more purple--while I own little purple in my wardrobe (augmented more recently by the very purple Northwestern University gear which my MBA provided). I had to run out for some purple eyeshadow at least. 

A friend demonstrates how to wear purple nail polish while clutching a purple drink (it is not grape juice, hence the anonymity ;) )
My roomie and I stopped into Severance (hilariously misquoted as "Severus" by one of my sons, who was pretty sure I had graduated from Hogwarts when he saw the castle-like appearance of the Tower Court complex). Purple abounded. Purple chocolate kisses, sugar pops, banners, ribbons, people. A front desk wo-manned by fabulous current students of Wellesley who blinked not an eye as we smooshed our friends in giant bear hugs, met new friends, and generally wreaked havoc. We were handed our purple capes which would be our class insignia for the Alumnae Parade on Sunday. A more appropriate insignia was never created...sheros. She-heroes. Caped crusaders.

Disclaimer: this image has been adapted by unnamed sister alums just for fun, and not for sale.

Yes, I did meet new friends in our class. It turns out that a 650-person graduating class is quite large. I was Econ/Poli Sci, and if you were botany or say, art history, you and I never crossed paths. Yes, I did get through my science requirement by Baby Chem (I learned to diagram Diet Coke's chemical formula), Geology (Rocks for Jocks, of course) and my crew friend Isleen and I slept through many an Oceanology class, which had the misfortune of closely following our morning row on the Charles. The movie on pillow lava exploding during one great nap pretty much scared the beejees out of us. By the way, oceanography is NOT boring--I loved that class.

So, yes, new people. One new person sat next to me in the class meeting at 9 am on Saturday wearing kitty-cat pajamas that I quite admired. One I discovered lives one town away from me in Sudbury. Then I ran into a couple of friends from my living-in-California days (SF 1990-1995) who are still living there--one I remember best for saying "just because we all went to the same college doesn't mean we all have to be friends." This was said after the 18 of us from the class of 90 who had moved there after graduation had had get-together number 4000 and maybe it was time for us to make new friends. 

But guess what? I think we are all friends because we went to the same college. I have girl crushes (is it still politically correct to say that?) on a vast quantity of these women. They are simply awesome and they don't charge for it. There was no charge for a crew friend who was canoeing on the lake on Saturday to rescue another friend whose pedal boat had putted to a stop in the middle of Lake Waban. 

Photo credit:Emily Christmann, Note, that is our class insignia cape
There was no charge for singing and chanting and laughing over memories. There was no charge for a memorial service that brought a number of us to tears for the eight classmates we have lost.

One of the best traditions at Wellesley College is step-singing. Normally held several times during the school year, it is usually on the steps of the Chapel where people line up with their classes. For Reunion, we are all inside of the Chapel to allow for more seating, better acoustics and no dependence on weather. My only complaint would be the college never allows for the size of 1990. I think we have broken participation records every year we have had a reunion. 

Songbook at the Chapel

One of our cheers
Because we are the 25th Reunion class, our songmistress was the overall songmistress for stepsinging. She led the gathered alums through America the Beautiful (written by a Wellesley). We sing what we believe to be the original and appropriate lyrics of "and crown thy hood with sisterhood" and you'll want to put in earplugs for the part we get to "purple mountains majesty" because we will blow your eardrums out shouting "purple." Songs are interrupted by chants from each of the classes -- our standby is "we are high and we are mighty, we're the class of 1990!" and yes, we have some new ones in 25 years.

My favorite from Stepsinging continues to be the Wellesley Composite, sung to the tune of Funiculi, Funicula "Some think it worth their time to go to college, And so do I...some think that only men are fit for knowledge, but not so I , Oh no, not I..." Lyrics were adapted in 1901. Old alum kick ass. So do new alum but imagine the scene at the turn of the century singing that song... I'm going to get back to the old alum topic in a minute.

Where roomie and I studied in the libary

The recently renovated boathouse. Photo credit: Heather Stratton Williams
Earlier on Friday, my roomie and I hiked the campus. The Wellesley campus must be the most beautiful in the world. Before you argue with me, just forget it. We win. Roomie and I busted into our first year dorm which was once the stables. We found signs of habitation in numerous unmade beds but no actual humans. Weirdly a shower turned off but there was no one there. Spooky. A ghost of a former resident goat perhaps. Then we busted into our old sophomore dorm room where we woke up a sleeping student who was pretty confused by us. Shortly thereafter we heard sirens and exited stage left in case Cam-Po (campus police) had been called.

View of a former parking lot, now meadow - photo Heather Stratton Williams

 We were unremorseful though and headed over to Cazenove (where do we get the names of our dorms?) where we busted into our old singles, where we found signs of 1975 alums in the guise of their suitcases. We were almost discovered at the bell desk since we were wearing purple and they were a green class. Finally we stopped into senior dorm Shafer where we definitely were busted by an older alum as we shut the door on the turret rooms. Ah well. No trips to the Cam-Po clink. 

As we headed over to the academic quad, we ran into Winnie. Winnie, class of 1950, was lost and trying to find a lecture on Shakespeare in Green Hall (they ran shortened classes all weekend long, I only made it to one on the Saturn mission--no charge for that awesomeness either). Winnie was, if you pardon my language, a pistol. She had a cane but would not use it on the stairs. As we walked her to where she needed to go, she cared not that she was a half hour late, and told us about her great-great-niece who had graduated from Wellesley a week before. Winnie is 86 years old. No charge for her awesomeness.

Saturday night was the class party and what happens at the class party stays at the class party. I dressed up as an 80s Billy Idol groupie, and others also followed the 80s theme, or wore a lot more purple that I own. We danced for hours to music rolled by an extremely talkative DJ, who sounded roughly like the folks on the loudspeaker on a NY city subway "wah, wah, wah wah...blah". The Science Center, where the party is held, is criss-crossed with bridges two stories above the open atrium. People lined up and danced and revved up the crowd. So. Much. Fun. 

Photo credit:Cassie Chao
Now I could go on and on and on and on, but I think I already have. Before I close out by saying that our Reunion Committee and volunteers are on a level of awesomeness that there SHOULD be a charge for, I must talk about Alumnae Parade. Alumae Parade makes me tear up every single time. All the classes who are "reuning" line up along college drive. The youngest class (in this case 2010) is closest to Alumnae Hall, the destination of the parade, and the oldest classes are at the other end of the campus. We line the route waiting, waiting until finally you see and hear the sirens of the campus police leading the parade. 

Photo credit to one of my classmates

First through the lined route were four alumnae from the class of 1940. These women are 96 years old. They were driven in old Fort Model Ts, in the rumble seats of some other old car, they wore hats, they waved, they smiled. They made me smile. And get a little misty for the fact that the parade started with 1940--when five years ago, it started with 1935... 

Photo credit: Kimberly Bolin
Next came 1945. Some drove, but some walked. Yes, at least six 1945 alums (91 years old more or less) walked the entire route with a banner, waving and smiling. Some followed in cars driven behind. 

1965 can-cans up the street. Photo credit: Michelle Lesowski
Then 1950 (I did not see Winnie, I hope she did not get lost or late to the parade), 1955, 1960, all greeted by cheers of the younger alums. 1965 did a can-can up the street. I kid you not at all. They chanted their chants, we chanted ours...we cheered louder for any purple classes.

And then it was our turn. We headed up the route through the classes of 1995, 2000, 2005 and 2010. And they cheered us. And we waved and smiled. 

See you in five, she-roes. Crusade on!

Monday, June 1, 2015

One is Silver, the Others Gold - Weston and Wellesley, MA

Galen Tower, Wellesley College (photo credit: Wellesley College)

Twenty-five years ago today, I graduated from Wellesley College along with 600+ classmates. It was a terribly hot day and while the campus looked gorgeous (and does in rain, shine, winter or spring), I was not at my best that day. For several weeks our campus had been overrun with media, the KGB and American secret service. You see, the wife of our sitting president was coming to speak, as well as the wife of the sitting president of the Soviet Union. Yes, it was still the Soviet Union then. 

For a couple of months the campus had been embroiled in a media storm--I have little interest in reviewing it when one of my classmates has so eloquently done so here. Yesterday I found my box of newspaper clippings from that time--the media portrayal of my college and its graduates changed forever my view of what is said by the media. Words of classmates were twisted for maximum impact, the overall debate changed (we had "disinvited" Mrs. Bush, according to the media, a "fact" that was never true), and hundreds of unique and wonderful women summarily dismissed as spoiled brats. 

What should have been a time to celebrate and enjoy turned into a bit of a hassle. The graduation ceremony was moved to the big lawn rather than the gorgeous academic quad because of security risks and space constraints. During the actual time that Barbara and Raisa were there at the graduation, I could barely hear speeches over the clicking and whirring of the photographers seated just behind me. When the "famous" speeches were over, half the media packed up loudly in the middle of other events. I have not willingly given a media interview since that time though once I did appear in print for my company in Brazil, and just recently I spoke to the local paper about my college's plans for donated land in Wellesley. It was a learning experience that I appreciate.

Wellesley, more than any other experience (including ex-patriate living in Brazil for 9 years), changed who I was and has guided who I now am. I came from a sheltered small town in Connecticut, much like the small town I now live in--I was a driven, athletic kid and continued that in college. But,  I learned, there were many women more driven, more focused and more athletic that I was. I worked hard. I am proud of my college degree, of those two little words "cum laude" after it. I joined the crew team--I was never the strongest, but I was always there rowing my little heart out.

Studying by the lake, on the way to crew practice

And I met the friends who are the gold. They opened my eyes to different experiences, different religions, new places and bad tv shows (Twin Peaks, for those who are of my generation). My closest friends all lived with me in one of the smallest dorms on campus during the first year--the former stables. While I am opposed to this dorm still being used as a dorm because of its size and isolation (no dining hall), the fact is my best friends were made there.

My second year roommate introduced me to a "new" religion. I had never understood the Jewish religion or its holidays or customs. I learned about Shabbat, she told me what kosher actually meant and I held a candle for her when she needed to speak the words. She and I were so different--she was a college government leader, she loved social activities, she was a night owl. In college, I was shy, an early bird for crew practice and a non-practicing Protestant. Yet, we got along like a house on fire. I can still hear her call out "knock knock" during our senior year as she crossed from her room to mine and just opened up the door.  We wrote each other bad poetry while sitting on purple chairs in the library. During wintersession senior year she studied women Holocaust survivors while I wrote my paper on the tactics and techniques of the Viet Cong--we shared horror stories and ruggalach (I still can't spell it). She is the only one who can call me Krissie.

Another close friend brought me to her home in Bar Harbor where I began a 30 year love affair with Acadia National Park and all things Maine. Well, not their governor. This friend also introduced me to down east humor and story-telling. She would have hilarious dreams mostly about her family every night and make me spit out my pancakes laughing at the cafeteria breakfast the next day. We once had a diet that involved brownies and M&Ms (with salads for lunch) that was an epic fail. 

A third friend was from Connecticut too--we drove to one march for women's lives in DC together. We were similarly interested in economics, and the Soviet Union, and both spent junior year (me just a semester) in England. We had several ski trips together, one particularly exciting one involved fish-tailing her Chevy Sprint all over some northern highway, crashing into a huge snowbank and having to be fished out by tow trucks and her dad. And we still went skiing the next day.

One of my close friends now lives in Switzerland. She had (and still has, I think) Swiss parents and invited me once to travel with her to Luzern to visit her grandmother there. Grandma spoke no English and I spoke no Swiss-German but we played cards together and I learned a cute swear that sounds something like "fieferdeckel" from her. I think it means "darn." We also had a number of road trips in her red Suburu wagon, including to Walden Pond, a place I now live two miles from.

As I celebrate my silver college anniversary today (and this upcoming weekend at Reunion weekend), I celebrate my friends (and others, including crew teammates, that I have not enough space to mention). They continue to enrich my life--one came over to help when my move arrived here in Weston and the moving guys simply dropped and ran. The same one invited me and my kids to her Maine retreat last summer when we had no furniture and nothing to do--her teenaged daughters built fairy houses with the boys, her husband made a crab castle with them, and she allowed the boys to shoot plastic arrows for her Maine coon cats (not AT them). 

Another invited us up to her Maine weekend home and we came complete with a just-off-the-plane-and-traumatized Haifa, my 12 year old labrador with limited mobility.  She piloted the kids around the lake on the pontoon boat, took us out for ice cream and made the Labor Day weekend before school start one of the most memorable for the kids.  And many other Wellesley classmates have held my hand at various points in my life--a recent new friend-classmate in São Paulo even helped us find a mortgage broker and sprang into action when my son broke his arm on the first day here and later with another health scare. My Wellesley degree is priceless, but not for the reasons I expected at age 21.

So, dear Wellesley, I cannot totally embrace my graduation day, which was frankly a pain in the ass.  But I thank you most kindly for bringing me the gold.  To my friends, see you Friday.