Christmas anticipation–online professor style

When I taught on a university campus, the Christmas celebrations began as soon as the students arrived back from Thanksgiving break. (I should add that I taught at Christian universities, so the specific holiday of Christmas–not just a general air of festiveness–was celebrated loudly and proudly.) Everything had to happen early to get all the various departmental parties and campus traditions in before winter break. The maintenance crew had to start putting the lights up early (one of my universities meticulously outlined every tree on the main street of campus) so we could enjoy them for more than a day or two. Christmas music started floating out of various doorways, and colleagues started dropping cards and cookies on each other’s desks.

Even if the pandemic hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t have been able to experience all of that this year, my first year teaching completely online. While I’m probably going to get more accomplished this December than ever before because I’m not getting interrupted for things like the faculty Christmas card photo and the office decorating competition, I miss the excitement of December on campus. So I’m making a list of ways that I can make these next few weeks special as I work from home, and I’m sharing that list with you in hopes that it will inspire you to add a little anticipation and jollity into your December, even if you’re not an online professor.

  1. Listen to Christmas music. This is obvious, but what if you’re tired of the cycle of the same 50-ish songs that gets played on every radio station? Also, what if, like me, you prefer to listen to instrumental music while you work? Good news: There’s a ton of wordless Christmas music out there, in a range of genres from classical to bluegrass. Just search “instrumental Christmas” on Spotify or Pandora. One of my favorite artists in this niche is Craig Duncan, who has released a whole series of Celtic and other folk-inspired Christmas albums over the years. Also, a fun activity for you classical fans is to repurpose pieces that aren’t normally considered Christmas music. For example, this morning I was listening to Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “Fantasia on Greensleeves.” I listen to it year-round, but on December 1, it becomes “What Child Is This?,” like magic.
  2. Start your workday with an Advent reflection. You can take this in many different directions. I’ve never tried this, but I bet you could come up with readings for the whole month of December from Charles Dickens’s Christmas stories. For the past few years, I’ve been enjoying Biola University’s Advent Project: http://ccca.biola.edu/advent/2020/#. You can sign up for free by entering your email address, and every day from now until Epiphany (January 6), you’ll receive a multimedia devotional that includes two pieces of music to listen to, a work of art to look at, and a scripture passage, a poem, a reflection, and a prayer to read. Biola also does a Lent Project in the spring, and if you sign up once, you’ll get both series of devotionals every year. And they are very good about not sending junk emails; you’ll only receive the devotionals. I love this because it’s a moment of reflection and worship that comes right in the middle of my morning email check–a time when I very much need it!
  3. Upgrade everyday items. On December 1 or slightly earlier, I bring out my Christmas items. These are not just tree ornaments, though my husband and I do have three trees to decorate this evening! (That’s what happens when you get married after living alone for years and accumulating a lot of stuff.) I have Christmas mugs, Christmas coasters to put them on, Christmas socks, Christmas sweaters, Christmas earrings, Christmas candles, Christmas hand towels, Christmas notepads, Christmas soap and matching-scented room spray, a Christmas tablecloth, Christmas cookie cutters and tins, even a Christmas salt and pepper shaker set. I realize that to some people, bringing all this out every year and putting it away a month later probably sounds horribly stressful. But for me, a person who loves ritual and tradition, this is one of my most dearly anticipated activities every year. And you don’t have to go all out; even one or two special items can do the trick. Try it–a grading session is more fun (or at least more bearable) when you’re drinking tea out of a mug that says, “Have a cup of cheer.”
  4. Have your own office Christmas party. I haven’t tried this yet, but because my husband and I are both working from home right now, I’m hoping we can take some breaks during our workdays over the next few weeks to do something seasonal like watching a short Christmas movie, working on our cards, or taking a brisk walk in the frosty air (or the snow, if we ever get this lake effect snow shower they keep talking about). Our activities this year will not be centered on food because we’re doing the Whole 30 right now (great timing, right?), but if you’re working from home with someone else, you could have a cookie-baking party or re-create the classic office potluck (i.e., each of you searches the pantry and fridge and puts something yummy on a fancy plate). This is also a great time to listen to your favorite non-instrumental Christmas music.

I hope you got at least one idea from this post, and I hope you’ll share your ideas for making December special with me in the comments!

What’s next for Penelope?

I’ve been blogging at this site since December 2011. I started the blog so that I could review a couple of books that I wanted to receive for free. Since then, I’ve written about topics as serious as the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and as frivolous as my hypothetical Roller Derby name. I’ve told numerous embarrassing stories about cooking mishaps and breaking things. I’ve reviewed movies and albums, shared a couple of fan fiction stories, and hijacked the blog for a couple of months as a promotional platform for my self-published novel. I once seriously considered and made some steps toward re-branding this into a “Hufflepuff leadership” blog. (I still think someone should do that.) I’ve written about my job, my faith, and lately, my marriage. And I have nine partial drafts in my queue, including a “zany” travel mishap story that turned out to be boring when I wrote it down and a post tentatively called “what Ross Geller has in common with almost every Jimmy Stewart character (and me?).” (This one was doomed from the start.)

I realize that if I kept pressing forward for another year and a half, I could celebrate the tenth anniversary of this blog. But I think it’s time for me to end this long chapter in my writing life. I’ll keep the WordPress account in case I want to write a special post now and then, but these will likely be rare. Writing will always be one of my primary means of processing my thoughts and feelings, but not all of that writing needs to be shared with a readership.

Speaking of you, my readers–I know I’ve always had a small following, but you’ve been incredibly faithful. Some of you left long, frequent comments on my posts; others read the blog quietly for months, maybe years, before dropping into a face-to-face conversation the fact that you were reading it–always a delightful surprise. Thank you for paying attention.

I’ve thought for a while that it would be fun to have a podcast or a YouTube channel (actually, I have a great channel idea that I’m trying to convince my husband to help me with), but I don’t think I’ll jump into anything like that anytime soon. I’m thankful for the years I’ve been able to share my thoughts with you, and I hope we can stay in touch by other methods. Now I’m going to go cry a little.

Wall-E: Pixar’s apocalyptic romance

Last week, I watched Wall-E for the first time in years, and wow, does it ever hold up. Its cultural criticism is sometimes hard to watch, but it’s ultimately a story of hope–though not a cheap one. It’s also not a children’s movie, I would argue, even though it has an adorable protagonist: it’s too slow, too subtle (there’s almost no dialogue until halfway through the movie), and too bleak. It’s also a romance, which makes it unusual if not entirely unique among the Pixar filmography.

Let me take a little detour to make this point. I’m probably forgetting about a few movies, so please feel free to critique my analysis. Pixar is good at making films about the crucial relationships in life: with oneself (Inside Out), one’s friends (Toy Story, Cars, Monsters Inc.), and one’s family (Onward, Coco, Brave, Finding Nemo, Finding Dory, The Incredibles…I think it’s safe to say that this is Pixar’s wheelhouse). But, perhaps for obvious reasons involving its target audiencePixar doesn’t really do romances. Up, despite its famous tearjerker opening sequence, is not primarily the story of a marriage but the story of an unlikely friendship between a crotchety old man and a quirky little boy. Ratatouille is basically a romantic comedy, but like many rom-coms, it’s more about the protagonist’s development as an individual than about the romantic relationship.

So Wall-E is unusual, because cultural criticism aside, it’s a love story. Wall-E and EVE progress from infatuation to companionship (where many romantic movies stop) to self-sacrifice. Each becomes the other’s mission in life, or “directive,” to use EVE’s term. But their relationship looks outward, too; instead of losing themselves in love, they draw strength from it that allows them to help save the world (and the human race, to which they don’t even belong) in a very literal way. Watching this film with my fiance roughly one week before our wedding, I was profoundly moved by its depiction of a love that actually changes the world.

There’s also another love story in Wall-E, between the humans John and Mary. Though this story gets about five minutes of screen time, it’s important to one of the film’s main themes, the survival of the human race. Wall-E and EVE are almost an apocalyptic Adam and Eve, but they can’t quite fulfill that role because they’re robots (a fact that makes the brilliant depiction of their love an even more stunning achievement). John and Mary, though, can actually carry on the human race, a truth that is not very subtly hinted at when they rescue a whole nursery full of babies. Their relationship, too, is built on selflessness: their meet-cute occurs when they literally bump into each other and are forced out of the insular, self-absorbed life their culture has lulled them into.

There’s so much more I could say about Wall-E, from the apocalyptic landscapes as startling as anything in The Road or The Walking Dead to the beautiful score by MY BOYYYYYY Thomas Newman. (The track “Define Dancing” ranks among his greatest hits in my opinion–plus, that’s a beautiful scene overall.) But I’ll stop here and implore you to go watch Wall-E. Maybe not with your kids. And let me know what you think.

special guest next week: send me your questions!

Hi everyone! Next week, I’m going to have a special guest on my blog: my fiance, Jordan Martinus, a magnetics design engineer who enjoys playing role-playing and board games, teaching kids at Bible Study Fellowship, and staying active with CrossFit and basketball. He also loves hanging out with me and participating in such pastimes as walking, cooking, and watching movies. What would you like to know about Jordan? Post your questions here, and we’ll tackle them in next week’s post!

Emma (2020)–not “badly done”

Last week, I went to see the new adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma, directed by Autumn de Wilde. For a few years now, I have regarded Emma as my favorite Jane Austen novel. Arguably, it’s the funniest and has the most dynamic protagonist, and I like the coziness of it, the fact that it all takes place in one small community and is essentially about neighbors taking care of each other. (While most of Austen’s novels are set in similarly close-knit worlds, usually someone travels somewhere–to Bath, the beach, or London, say–and nothing like that happens in Emma except outside the narrative.) Also, despite the fact that he can be read as bossy and condescending (as in the line I quoted in my post title), I really like Mr. Knightley because he says what he means (unlike certain other secretive and brooding male leads in Austen’s novels) and seems to genuinely respect and care about his neighbors who are less fortunate than he is–which is, basically, everyone.

Until now, my favorite Emma adaptation has been Clueless, but I may have to update my ranking after seeing the new movie. In some respects, such as its lush, Oscar-hopeful costumes, it was a typical period piece; in many others, though, it was a surprise. For example, I really enjoyed all the traditional vocal music incorporated into the film, both diegetic* (like when Mr. Knightley and Jane Fairfax sing and play “Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes”) and extra-diegetic, like the rousing rendition of the hymn “How Firm a Foundation” that played whenever someone visited Robert Martin’s farm–an odd choice, but in keeping with Martin’s steady nature.

The amount and silliness of the humor in the film also buck the staid tradition of BBC Austen adaptations and, actually, align this Emma a lot more with Clueless than with its Regency-era predecessors. But I never thought the humor was unkind or mocking, except insofar as certain self-important characters, like Mr. Elton, totally deserve to be mocked. (It would be ironic if the humor in the film were mean, since one of the main lessons Emma learns is not to be mean in her humor.) And possibly my favorite thing about the movie was how sincere and unabashed everyone’s emotions seemed. In the climactic proposal scene, both Emma and Mr. Knightley were visibly crying.

Some things about this Emma (e.g. the Wes Anderson-looking sets, as well as a couple of naked butts) are going to anger some of those people who act like the Masterpiece Theater versions of Austen are the Bible, but I don’t think there’s much, if anything, about this adaptation that Austen herself would quibble with. It made me laugh and warmed my soul, and I recommend it with a full heart.

*a fancy word I learned in a film class that refers to music that is part of the story–i.e. the characters can hear it.

 

 

one of my periodic existential crises

This afternoon, a colleague who edits a theological journal came to my office and invited me to contribute an article to an upcoming issue on theology and literature. He assured me that I wouldn’t need to write an entirely new piece but could update something I wrote, say, during my doctoral studies. Knowing my love for Harry Potter, he said that a piece on the series would be enthusiastically welcomed. I said I’d be happy to contribute, and the conversation left me feeling honored and excited.

Now, a few hours later, I’m feeling more worried than anything else, for two main reasons. One has to do with the fact that I produced the bulk of my academic writing before cloud storage existed, or at least before I was using it regularly. I have a few PhD. papers in my Dropbox, as well as my dissertation (which–shameless plug–you can read on ProQuest), but the only academic work I still have from my master’s and bachelor’s programs are my respective theses, which are also accessible through library databases. One might correctly argue that most of what I wrote during those first two degree programs is not worth resurrecting, but I can think of a few papers from those years that, with some revision, would fit well with the theme of the journal issue–such as the first paper I ever presented at a conference (in 2008, during my master’s program), which connected Dorothy Sayers’ analogy of the Trinity with the author-character relationship in the film Stranger Than Fiction. This paper, which actually made a lot of sense, exists now only as a line on my CV.

My other, bigger concern has to do with the imposter syndrome I regularly experience, which leads me to believe that I’ve lost the ability to write. I realize the irony of expressing this fear in a blog post, but I worry specifically that I’ve lost the ability to write academically. A few weeks ago, while organizing the files in my Dropbox, I made a folder called “things I’ve written,” and I was pleasantly surprised by the number of written and oral contributions I’ve been able to make in the almost five years since I finished my doctorate–a short reflective essay published in Collegial Exchange (a publication of the professional organization for women educators, Delta Kappa Gamma), two lectures given at meetings of the local creative writing group I belonged to in Virginia, a short story written for my current employer’s annual magazine. I’m proud of these, but not one of them was scholarly in nature. I did present at an academic conference last year, but even that paper was a humor-laced analysis of the character of Loki in the Marvel movies, skimpy on sources and not rigorous enough for publication in a journal.

So I’m nervous. I haven’t written anything truly scholarly since my dissertation. Perhaps I can comb through said dissertation for segments that I might be able to expand into a journal article, but the problem is that there’s no obvious connection to theology or faith in my dissertation. There’s kind of a sideways connection, which I mention in the introduction, but I’m not sure if it would make sense as an article outside the context of the full study.

Underneath this nervousness, though, I still have to admit I’m a little bit excited. This will give me an excuse to go back and read at least parts of my dissertation and see if I still think they’re good. I have a feeling that there’s something there that might work for this assignment. The ideas are vague and formless, but watching an idea take shape was always my favorite part of writing for school. I’m ready to get started.

long stories

I’ve been listening lately to Ann Bogel’s podcast What Should I Read Next?. I have to admit that this show is not at the top of my to-listen list, and that’s because it stresses me out a little, for the simple reason that the question that Bogel says “plagues every reader”–what should I read next?–does not plague me. Setting aside my purely aspirational Want to Read list on Goodreads, I have a list of books that I already own and haven’t read yet, and it’s still quite long despite the fact that I’ve been systematically attacking it since fall 2018 (when I realized it was a problem). So the podcast just gives me a bunch of titles of books that I’ll probably never read. Nevertheless, I get some pleasure out of hearing people chat about books, even ones that I’ll never read, so I keep this podcast in my rotation. If you’ve listened to the show, you know that Bogel asks each guest to name three books they love, one book that didn’t work for them, and a book they’ve been reading recently. So naturally, I’ve been thinking about which books I would name if I were a guest. The first two of the three books I love are easy: Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series (if she forced me to choose one, I’d go with Prisoner of Azkaban, the one that really made me fall in love with the series). I’m still mulling over what I’d choose for my third book (it feels like a high-stakes decision), but in the meantime, I’ve been thinking about what makes me love a book.

I thought about this last night after I got out of the bathtub, where I had spent a relaxing half-hour reading one of my Christmas gifts from my sweet book-loving fiance: The Well of Ascension, the second book in Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy. I am now about halfway through the book, which means I’m about halfway through the series, and it just struck me last night how much I am enjoying these books (though I don’t know if I’d use the word “love” yet. For the books, I mean. I love my fiance.). I realized that I am looking forward to long periods of time when I can sit down and read The Well of Ascension, that I can picture the setting vividly even when I’m not reading, and that I really care what happens to the characters. I know part of the reason why I’m just now getting into the story is that there were too many blow-by-blow (literally) action sequences in the first book–and I understand why this might be necessary for the first book of a fantasy series that involves a specific, unique type of magic. But I really don’t care who punched whom and when. This second book is much more about relationships, political intrigue, and human psychology. But I think another reason why I’m so into this book is that it’s long.

Well, not just long. Quantity does not supersede quality for me. But I’ve realized that I love books (and movies and TV series) that have extensive world-building, deep character development, and layered plots–and on top of all this, a sense that the story-world has been lived in, not just made up on the fly. And in order for all that to work, a writer needs space–hence, length. Most of my favorite stories–stories you’ve seen me write about on this blog–have these qualities: Downton Abbey (with its hour-long, commercial-free episodes), the Godfather films (a major time commitment I embark on only about once every other year), the novels of Charles Dickens (it’s no accident that one of Dickens’ shortest novels, Hard Times, is probably my least favorite). [I have written on this blog about Dickens’ “teeming world,” crowded with memorable people.] One of the greatest compliments I can give a story is that I’ve spent so much time inside it that I feel like the characters are my family. That’s why I cried so much when Sibyl died in season three of Downton Abbey, why the birthday party scene at the end of The Godfather Part 2 blows my mind every time I watch it, and why I’ve written fan fiction about the Weasleys going about their mundane lives after the defeat of Voldemort. However flawed they are, I want to be part of those families. I don’t know if Sanderson’s ad hoc family of thieves and kings will make it into my top tier of favorites, but their admission to that circle currently looks promising.

emerging from a tunnel

I’m in one of those seasons (and I mean that in the currently trendy in “inspirational” women’s writing sense, though I’m going to talk about the revolution of the earth around the sun sense later in this post)…Let me start over. I’m in one of those seasons in which I’m having a hard time coming up with wise or even coherent things to say on my blog. (You may have noticed that I didn’t post last week.) I promise I’m having smart ideas right now; I’m just wasting them all on my students. (Just kidding about the “wasting” part, students!) I’m having a ball teaching three literature classes this semester: children’s, dystopian, and my usual intro to lit with a little bit of composition thrown in. The fun part about teaching multiple back-to-back classes in a day is that a topic from an earlier class might lead to an apt illustration coming to my mind in a later class. Yesterday, the sinking of the Titanic came up in both of my classes, both times as an oddball illustration that nevertheless seemed to resonate with my students. And I’m pretty sure I’ve talked about World War One in all three of my classes. And I haven’t even seen 1917 yet!

Oh, that reminds me–I was going to say something about the Oscars. I’m mad at 1917, actually, because I picked it to win Best Picture, and it let me down. I’m not ignorant of the historical significance of Parasite‘s win, and I’m mostly pleased that it did, except that it busted my bracket, to borrow a March Madness metaphor. I believe I would have won my family’s prediction competition had I gotten this category correct; as it was, I came in third out of seven (not bad, I guess. *eye-roll*).

Unlike last year, when I very deliberately watched all of the Best Picture nominees before the Oscars, I had only seen one of them this year, Little Women (which I greatly enjoyed, except that I was a bit troubled by the implication that the whole Jo/Bhaer romance was a fabrication added to please the publisher. Did anyone else notice that?). So I’m going to confine myself to making two comments.

  1. I have to say something about my fave category, Best Original Score. Although I would have liked to see my guy Thomas Newman win, I was happy to see the award go to another young composer (and a woman at that), Hildur Gudnadottir, who composed the haunting (yes, I looked it up on Spotify and listened to it in full, along with all the other nominees) score to Joker. I say “another” because last year’s Oscar went to Ludwig Goransson, another member of what I see as the upcoming generation of composers, for his epic and experimental Black Panther score. By the way, if you haven’t seen The Mandalorian yet, Goransson’s very cool score is one reason to check it out.
  2. I have a crush on Adam Driver. I mention this because he was sitting in the front row and they kept showing him. But you know what? I have an even bigger crush on my fiance, Jordan Martinus. And do you know what Adam and Jordan have in common? They have both lived in Mishawaka, Indiana. True story!

Okay, now that I’ve exhausted most of your patience on preliminary stuff, here is what I actually sat down to write. I went for a walk in the park this morning, and although there was snow everywhere and I didn’t see or hear a single bird, I started to have that feeling I get this time of year when spring is juuuuuuust visible on the horizon. It’s like emerging from a tunnel. Some of my usual reliable signs of winter’s approaching end have occurred: the Super Bowl and the Oscars are over (though the Oscars were early this year–did anyone else notice that?); The Walking Dead is coming back soon; it’s still light outside when I sit down at my computer to work for an hour at 5:00 pm. In a month, my students and I will already be back from spring break, and I’ll probably start making more sense in class because I find my brain is generally clearer in the spring. Oh, and there are just over 100 days left until I marry a guy from Mishawaka. (Jordan, in case you were wondering.) Next time I write to you, we’ll be a little closer to the tunnel’s edge.

 

stuff in my life right now

I looked back through my blog archives and realized that it’s been a while since I did one of those themeless list posts. Since people tend to enjoy those, and since I’m not sure if I can generate a coherent argument today, here is a list, in no particular order, of things I have going on right now.

  1. I just put my electric blanket on my bed and tucked it in at the end so that it has officially become part of my bedding for the duration of the winter. This will no doubt enhance my quality of life.
  2. I’m in a Peter Pan season. I went to see the strange and delightful play Peter and the Starcatcher Friday night at the South Bend Civic Theater. (By the way, did you know that the novel on which the play is loosely based is called Peter and the Starcatchers? Play–singular; novel–plural.) This week in my children’s lit class, we are reading Peter Pan, and as part of our discussion of Peter Pan as culture-text (a fancy term for the whole conversation surrounding the text–sources, adaptations, connotations, etc.), I plan to show the student clips from the 1953 Disney Peter Pan and Finding Neverland, read them part of Piers Dudgeon’s The Real Peter Pan, and show-and-tell them my Peter Pan Funko Pop. Maybe I’ll even wear my new  Neverland jacket. In summary, I’m way too engrossed this week in a flying, narcissistic, magical boy.
  3. Jordan and I are doing the Whole30.* I am putting an asterisk next to this statement because we are aware that we cannot truly say we have done the Whole30 if we take a break in the middle, which we did last weekend for a very good reason: our wedding reception tasting, which we weren’t about to delegate to anyone else. Also, you’re not supposed to eat sugar-cured bacon or sausage on the Whole30, but it’s dang hard to find non-sugar-cured versions, and I’m not stressing out about it. So we’re doing the Whole30.* Maybe we’ll do it for real later this year. In the meantime, I’ve learned that you can make a really good barbecue sauce using dates as the sweetener. Who knew?
  4. I am doing Yoga With Adriene’s 30-day yoga “journey” entitled Home. (Look her up on YouTube; she’s a phenomenon.) Instead of doing my daily practice in the morning as I typically have in the past, I am waiting until 4:00 or 4:30 pm. This not only frees up my early mornings for other types of exercise but also gives me a delicious (yummy, as Adriene would say) break after the workday. It’s been fun trying to wrap everything up in order to make sure I can get started at the time I’ve written in my planner. (See last week’s post on why I’m giving non-meeting, non-appointment activities like yoga a specific time in my planner.)
  5. I received six goodly-sized jar candles for Christmas. That sounds like a lot, but I love having a bit of fire in my home, and since I don’t have a fireplace, this works almost as well (and smells better). I did have all six out in various places, but today, in an effort to be seasonally appropriate (something I typically don’t care about), I put away Peach Flambe and Ocean Currant for later. I’m amazed by my restraint.

And now, I must go because it’s almost 4:30 and time to do yoga. Let me know what you’re into right now!

trains on Thanksgiving

Very early tomorrow morning, my fiance is arriving in Pittsburgh on a train to spend Thanksgiving with my family. I am already here at my parents’ house, benefiting from a work schedule that I admit is almost embarrassingly privileged (I get the whole week off) and the fact that I finished up last week at a conference in Baltimore, about 3.5 hours from my parents. Jordan, who had to work this week like a normal person, is taking an overnight train and then hitching a ride back to the Midwest with me on Friday.

Although it means waking up at an ungodly hour, I am excited to see Jordan at the station. (I’m thinking about making a little sign with his name on it.) There seems to be something inherently romantic, or at least heartwarming, about meeting loved ones at transportation hubs on holidays–just watch the end of Love Actually. Bonus points if it’s in a train station, which is inherently more romantic than an airport–just watch the middle of White Christmas. But my mom and I both went to a different movie reference today: We imagined being late to the station tomorrow morning (a distinct possibility; let’s be honest) and finding Jordan sitting forlornly on a bench with his mittens on and all his worldly possessions (or, you know, his overnight bag) sitting next to him, like Del Griffith at the end of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, a movie that is actually about Thanksgiving and that I have written about twice over the past year. (This post is about the movie’s theme of “radical hospitality,” as I put it; this one consists mainly of an embarrassing story about something dumb I did, but it does reference the film several times and is also of historical interest since I wrote it shortly after meeting Jordan).

I don’t think I’m saying anything profound here: There’s something special about picking a beloved face out of a crowd. There is something special, too, about the look on the face of the person you have come to pick up. I know from my own experience that even if, unlike Del Griffith, you know someone is coming for you, there’s still a moment of relief: “Oh, they didn’t forget me.”

Keep those feelings in your heart as you celebrate Thanksgiving this week. Don’t take for granted the beloved faces around you. And don’t forget about the people who feel like they have been forgotten. Fred Rogers used to remind us to look for the child in each person we speak with. I would add: Look for the child who is afraid of not getting picked up after school. I think there’s a little bit of that child in all of us still.