Saturday, September 01, 2007

Thoughts about the elder teen

... who is now in a dorm in Stony Brook. We will not see her ’til Thanksgiving.


We rode our bicycles "down" the hill from Skyline/Woodside to the beach at San Gregorio (Highways 84 & 1), hung around for a while, and then rode back "up" the hill—those directions are in quotes because the road does a lot of up-and-down from mile marker 0 up to, say, about 9&mdash then back down and home. We left the beach at 12:45, and went up to mile marker 8 in under 40 minutes. We stopped for 2-3 minutes for a break, then did the next 7 miles (to mile marker 15) in the next 50 minutes. Boy, was it hot! We stopped at "my favorite store in the world" (the words of the elder teen) for frozen bars (mine was berry; hers was coconut) and a pint of "honest ade", which we split. Jenny went back in and got another pint of... pomegranate something-or-other. Then we zipped home.

We each took showers, then I went to the bank to pick up my sunglesses, then picked up the younger teen from a friend's house. She asked me what was for dinner. Pre-fab "bool ko-gi" from Trader Joe's, which I grilled. Zucchini and eggplant "juhn" lovingly fried up by the lovely Carol. Some other veggies brushed with olive oil and spices grilled over the coals. She sure was happy about that.

At dinner, she suggested we share some of our favorite memories of the elder teen.

Well, that was a great time of celebration. Mourning, too, since she was about to leave us.

Some of my memories of the new freshman:
  • Getting off the bus one day in Kobe. I was complaining (again) about the idiotic payment system -- it took 3 times as long to empty the bus as it used to -- and she said, "Daddy, I think you complain too much about the bus fare system." She was right! So I stopped. But it really was bad. I think city official's brother-in-law was the sha-chou of the company that made those glacially slow card-readers. It really did take three times as long to empty out the bus....
  • Recently we have been reading Hofstadter's Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid. Many times we have both paused to reflect that "This guy is really brilliant!" The way he combined ideas from those various disciplines -- it is really something.
  • Some years ago, there was a parent meeting at the middle school, following an outburst from an incompetent and verbally abusive math teacher. The principal met with a whole pile of parents, and after he tried to smooth things over, asked for questions. My daughter, then 13, raised her hand and said, "I want to know what's going to be done about what happened in class today." The principal was stunned. I just about popped a button! He mumbled something and asked what more should be done. My daughter said, "She should apologize to us, and some of us should apologize to her." I about popped another couple of buttons. What a powerful girl! I would hate to be cross-examined by her -- at any age.


Pretty uneventful. We took a JetBlue nonstop SFO→JFK, then a cab to the Holiday Inn Express Stony Brook. After we turned out the lights, we somehow got onto -- oh, I remember, I mentioned an article in a recent New Yorker written by a guy with Asperger's. He's a couple years older than I am. She had read it, she said. I think I was an "Aspey" (however it's spelt) as a child, though perhaps not quite as extreme as the author. I am mostly grown out of it I hope. Anyway, one characteristic she used to have was she'd get a picture in her mind and was upset if things did not turn out that way -- when plans changed at the last minute for example. One of my memories of this was a vacation somewhere -- I want to say the Izu Peninsula (when we were living in Kobe, so she would have been in elementary school) -- when we went on a boat ride. Basically this was a tour of "the bay" (whichever bay it was), which went more or less in a circle. When we got off the boat and she realized that we had not gotten anywhere, she was really unhappy.

She had thought we were going to some exciting and cool place; this would have made up for the queasiness she experienced on the boat. When we went through all that unpleasantness and didn't even get to see some cool new place, well, that was bad news.

Listening to me recount it, she said, "I must have been difficult" or something like this. She was at times, "but you brought us a lot of joy and delight too," I said. "Still do."


She asked me for parting advice. I didn't have anything to say to her that she hadn't heard already, but I said something like this
  • Be safe, but don't live a boring life.
  • Make friends with people in the IV group.
  • Watch out for boys.
  • Stay away from sex and drugs.
  • You're a great student so I'm not worried at all about your classes.
  • I think I should have taken more classes outside my major, but I didn't want to at the time and I didn't have to, so....
I think she'll make better use of her college years than I did.

But we all will miss her and we look forward to seeing her at Thanksgiving.

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