Posts Tagged ‘nostalgia’



Paris. Long walks on grey cobblestones alongside the rushing, undulating waters of the Seine. Bookshops (librairies) full of slim paperbacks with incomprehensible titles in a beautiful language. The tall, proud spires of Notre-Dame, from whose roof you can see the entire city, spread out at your feet.

Paris. Blooming trees in the springtime, golden leaves in the fall. Soft watercolor paintings by Monet and ballerina sculptures by Degas. A train station-turned-museum – the Musée d’Orsay – full of light and open space and beautiful, thought-provoking art. Twenty-three bridges over the Seine, many of them lit softly at night, ghost bridges to another city, another time.

Paris November 07 181

Paris. The setting for some of my favorite books: Les Misérables, A Moveable Feast, A Homemade Life, The Piano Shop on the Left Bank, My Life in France. And many more with Paris in the titles: Lunch in Paris, Paris My Sweet, Paris in Love, The Paris Wife, Paris to the Moon.

Paris. Thin buttery crepes with sugar and lemon juice, wrapped in wax paper and eaten piping hot on the street. Wood-paneled cafes with long mirrors, white tablecloths, small round tables. Gold-rimmed cups of café crème and chocolat chaud, with sugar cubes wrapped separately in crackling paper. A glass of vin chaud at Cafe Panis one sharp spring night, after a long solo browsing session at Shakespeare & Company.

cafe panis paris mulled wine notre dame

Paris. Swing dancing in a stone-vaulted basement at Caveau de la Huchette. Cigarette smoke and elegant buildings. Buttery croissants and thick onion soup. The best falafel in the world on Rue des Rosiers in the Marais. An exotic honey shop on the Rue de Rivoli, filled with glass jars that seemed to capture different flavors of sunshine.

Paris. Endless grey rooftops stretching out across the sky. The wedding-cake confection of Sacre-Coeur, set high on a hill in Montmartre. The siren call of streets and gardens; the mystique of a city I adore but have only begun to discover. And, this week, the site of unimaginable yet all-too-familiar tragedy.

Paris, je t’aime. My heart is with you.

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pool view lounge chairs

When I was a kid, summer meant long, sun-soaked, chlorine-scented days at the local pool, where my mother flipped through magazines on a lounge chair and my sister and I turned flips and did handstands and tried all kinds of tricks off the diving board. (I never did learn to dive properly, but I could do cannonballs and jackknifes with the best of them.)

We slathered on sunscreen and let our toes get pruney from staying in the water for hours, usually until Mom called us out to eat lunch or an afternoon snack. On the weekends, my dad would go with us too, and we’d take turns riding on his shoulders or playing keep-away with a squishy Koosh ball. Once or twice, my sister’s blonde hair developed grass-green streaks from all the chlorine, and we all sported serious tan lines, despite all that sunscreen.

I don’t get much time by the pool these days, for various reasons – chiefly the demands of work and other obligations. But earlier this week, I drove out west of Boston to visit a friend who works at a health club. Its campus boasts two large, beautiful outdoor pools, and I lounged by one of them (in the shade) until she was free to join me for lunch.

book magazine poolside reading

I’d brought plenty of reading material: in addition to the novel and magazine above, I’ve been rereading To Kill a Mockingbird (again). Mid-morning, I bought a plastic cup of lemonade from the snack bar, sipping it as hazy clouds drifted across a pale blue sky. I listened to the splashes and squeals of kids playing, the rhythmic sloshing of adults swimming laps. I remembered those long-ago carefree days, when summer stretched out before us, sparkling like the summer sunlight on the water.

Just for a few hours, I had nothing else to do, nowhere else to be. It was a rare, quintessentially summery treat.

Do you get to hang out by the pool in the summertime?

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oas main building

Every November, when the leaves turn yellow and the nights begin to draw in, there’s a particular sort of grey, windy, serious afternoon that takes me right back to high school.

Along with a dozen of my fellow students, I spent the fall of my senior year preparing for the annual conference of MOAS, a mock diplomatic organization in which teams of student delegates represent the nations of the Western Hemisphere. I interviewed for the team on a whim, looking for something to fill up my schedule, never dreaming what it would come to mean to me.

Our team was assigned to represent the U.S. that fall of 2001. Mr. Walker’s English classroom was our headquarters, and we spent hours hunched over particleboard desks, heads bent over thick black binders filled with forests of paper, learning terms like rapporteur and communiqué and secretariat.

We drafted formal proposals and learned the rules of table discussion, dragging our desks into a wonky circle and holding mock debates: “Point of order, question to the speaker directed through the chair.” Along the way, we worked physics problems and held economics study sessions and piled into each other’s cars at lunchtime, grabbing burgers or tacos or sandwiches in our 55-minute escapes from campus.

The old-timers, like my best friend Jon, told stories of past conferences and explained to us newbies what to expect. We learned salient facts about various Latin American countries, most of which I have now forgotten. Walker warned that as delegates representing our own nation, we would be seen by other teams as the heavyweight, worth taking seriously but not always popular. (It was my first indication of how the U.S. is often perceived by the rest of the world.)

September 11, it need hardly be said, would have changed all our lives, irrevocably, forever. But it had a particular effect on this group of serious high school students in a mid-size West Texas town. We watched the news and read the headlines obsessively, worrying over what this meant for our country and our futures as adults, but also for our immediate futures: our trip to D.C. and the revisions now required (if we went) to accurately represent our country, in deep shock and mourning.

After days of holding our breath, we learned that the conference was still on, and by a tremendous diplomatic feat of his own, Walker persuaded most of our parents to let us go.

As the trip approached, we received detailed briefings: conference schedules, travel itineraries, handwritten packing lists, most of them headed by Walker’s no-nonsense black capitals. The packing list was divided into casual, semi-formal and formal “occations” – my friend Sarah’s handwriting joyfully misspelling the same word over and over again. After Walker advised us girls to “pack a little black dress” for the conference Gala, we met in the hotel lobby to discover that nearly every female in the group had bought or borrowed a little black dress. Somewhere there’s a photo of us, glittering and unsteady in our high heels, teetering on the edge of an exciting evening and also of something infinitely more huge and terrifying: adulthood.

gala photo

Jon and me at the Gala, and yes, I’m wearing a little black dress.

During that week of mock diplomacy, I learned a few things: one, I didn’t want a career in this field. I am not interested (part of me already knew this) in spending my days arguing with a roomful of colleagues and strangers. Walker slipped me a note during one lunch break, after catching sight of my tense expression, that read, in part: “Knowing what you don’t want is as important as knowing what you do.” I have carried those words, and many of his others, through thirteen years and two countries and half a dozen jobs.

That week, I also learned how to cook in a tiny hotel kitchen, how to wear a suit with heels, and how to dance the Cotton-Eyed Joe with gleeful abandon under a roomful of bemused non-Texan eyes. I did not learn how to tie a necktie (not for lack of trying), but I learned to knock on the door of the senior boys’ suite when I needed a can opener, help with last-minute proposal revisions, assistance in tying said necktie, or simply an encouraging word. (Jon, well-spoken MOAS conference president and endlessly patient best friend, came through every single time.)

I also learned how to navigate a big city on my own for the first time, tramping around the tangle of streets that connected the OAS building to the edge of Georgetown, where we were staying. I waited for Jon after the sessions ended every night, shifting in the high heels borrowed from my mother, feeling the city’s pulse under my feet as we walked through the dark streets to our hotel. Under the city sky, crisscrossed with floodlights, we discussed committee politics and personal dramas, but we also caught glimpses of our future selves: the adults we would become long after we had left high school and MOAS behind.

These days, I hurry along sidewalks in a different city, my mind full of to-dos and writing projects and social obligations. I don’t often pause to wonder at my grown-up life; most of the time it is simply the life I’m living.

But every November, the grey skies and brisk winds bring me back to that week long ago: hovering on the edge of adulthood, nervous, exhilarated, plunging into unfamiliar, exciting territory. The world opened up for us during those days in D.C., shifting to allow us a peek into our own futures while we played at being adults. We headed back to the safety of parents and school and home, but nothing was quite the same. And every autumn, I walk under the grey skies, and remember.

(Top image from oas.org)

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katie lizzie rowing

I’ve said it before: there are always a hundred reasons I want to go back to Oxford. The city itself is an old friend: the winding streets, honey-colored stone and lush green parks are all dear and familiar. But I also have a half-dozen friends who live in Oxford, and I’d planned to spend an afternoon with my former housemate, Lizzie. (That’s her above.)

We met up on the colorful Cowley Road, near the little chocolate-box house we once shared with two other girls: a small, spare semi-detached with a blue door, tucked into a quiet close. Lizzie, knowing my penchant for nostalgia, suggested we go and say hello.

cowley house blue door

We stood in the middle of the close, marveling at how big the trees have grown and trying to guess who lives there now (we suspect another group of students). As I went to snap a photo, Lizzie said something and I turned around – to see Jo and Grace, our other housemates, standing behind me with identical grins on their faces.

housemates radcliffe square

I was flabbergasted. Stunned. Delighted. I hadn’t told Jo and Grace I was coming to the UK, knowing I wouldn’t be able to go see them while I was there – but Lizzie, clever girl, had secretly organized a surprise reunion. The three of them had been scheming for weeks. And we had the most wonderful afternoon.

We headed down to Magdalen Bridge, where you can go punting or rent a rowboat. (We opted for the latter, feeling more confident in our rowing skill than our punting prowess.)

rowboats river cherwell oxford

After a couple of failed attempts at synchronized rowing, Lizzie took charge and rowed us out onto the river.

lizzie rowing

The girls had packed a feast – sandwiches, fruit, chips and veggies with hummus, flapjacks and cookies. Lizzie even packed some prosecco and plastic flutes. (Later on, we traded some to a Scottish couple in another boat for some of their banoffee chocolate. Yum.)

Mostly, we just had the loveliest time being together.

grace jo rowboat river oxford

It is six years since we all lived together, crowded into our wee house, cooking slapdash dinners and writing essays and brewing endless cups of tea. We always knew our living arrangement was temporary: I was in the UK for a one-year master’s program, and the other girls were finishing their undergraduate degrees. Grace and I were both engaged to the men who are now our husbands, and Jo met her husband, Tim, during that year. (The last time we were all together was at their wedding, five years ago.)

katie grace river oxford

Since our little household broke up, we have scattered far and wide, gotten married, moved too many times to count. Grace has a little boy and another baby on the way. I have made a cross-country move that proved just as challenging as my moves to Oxford and back. Jo has returned to the Welsh city where she grew up, and Lizzie has remained in Oxford while earning a master’s degree and establishing a career.

We have kept in touch via Facebook, text message and Christmas cards, knowing the broad outlines of one another’s lives while missing the details we knew during our year together. But we still love one another deeply, and that afternoon, we talked and laughed as though we had never been apart.

grace jo rowing

After the rowing (which proved excellent exercise), we wandered through town, pausing in Radcliffe Square for more photos.

housemates radcliffe camera oxford

We wound up with a walk to University Parks, where we sprawled on the grass and talked some more – about work and marriage and grown-up life, about family and travel and our days together in Oxford. “Do you miss anything about the UK?” Grace asked me at one point. That question has a thousand answers, but I gave her the most important one: “Yes. I miss all of you.”

It may be another several years before we are all together again. But this afternoon of sunshine and good talk and laughter will last me for quite a while.

More Oxford photos and stories to come.

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oxford wall blue sky

The old familiar way into Oxford, then. Down Headington Hill, which offers no prospect of the towery city; along a nondescript street to the roundabout always called “The Plains,” with no sight yet of anything remarkable; and then a turn onto the bridge, on the far side of which rises Magdalen College tower – Gothic at its most austere and beautiful, and shedding like falling petals into the memories of anyone who ever heard them, the voices of the choirboys from aloft, singing an annual welcome to the first day of spring.

—The Late Scholar, Jill Paton Walsh

I read The Late Scholar on my overnight flight to London a few weeks ago – particularly apt, since its plot features Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane (now Lady Wimsey) returning to Oxford (to solve a mystery, of course). I first fell in love with Peter and Harriet during my first long-ago spring in Oxford, when I read Gaudy Night and thrilled to every description of the city’s towers, golden stones and winding streets.

all souls towers oxford england

Like Peter, whose journey is described above (though he came by car), I came into Oxford the old, familiar way: on a bus from Heathrow Airport, through the countryside, half dozing for the first hour and then sitting up, alert, as we approached Oxford via the busy ring road.

all souls college oxford radcliffe square

It’s true that Headington Hill offers no view of the spires I love, but Headington’s high street has its own charms, and I relished every familiar sight: charity shops, alluring side roads, the Starbucks where I used to go see Lizzie at work and indulge in peppermint hot cocoa.

oxford view g&d's ice cream

We swept down the steep hill, past Oxford Brookes’ gleaming modern campus, the green bolt of South Park unrolling down the hill to our left, then swung around The Plain and rumbled over Magdalen Bridge.

magdalen bridge oxford england

I am never quite back in Oxford until I’ve caught a glimpse of Magdalen’s tower, tall and proud, its carved battlements tipped with gold in the morning sunshine. Then it was down the High Street, past Christ Church with its iconic Tom Tower, through a few back streets to the bus station, and onto the familiar cobblestones of Gloucester Green.

feet cobblestones

And then home, the old way – down St Giles and the Woodstock Road, past buildings and shops whose names all called out, dear and familiar to me.

st giles church oxford england

The pub where Tolkien and C.S. Lewis used to drink and argue about writing and theology. The Oxfam bookshop, though it was too early to stop and browse. The wishbone-shaped piece of land at the divergence of the Woodstock and Banbury Roads, where sits St Giles’ Church and its peaceful graveyard.

st giles church oxford england

The grand Roman Catholic Oratory. The unassuming Radcliffe Infirmary. A few familiar pubs, and several colleges bounded by their stone walls, over which leaned graceful trees, their leaves colored with the first hints of autumn.

katie leaves oxford

Peter Wimsey notes, later in the chapter quoted above, that “Oxford people return to base.” For Peter (as all Wimsey fans know), this means visiting Balliol, where he earned his degree.

balliol college oxford uk

For me, it means a pair of tall Victorian houses on a quiet street in North Oxford, where I spent a blissful semester as an undergraduate and many happy days as a postgrad student. They have sheltered hundreds of American students from my alma mater, and the sight of them always means one thing, deep down in my bones: I am home.

house 9 oxford uk

More Oxford photos and stories to come.

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Return to Oxford

st johns front

After a long, lazy, sun-drenched summer, we have officially made the leap to fall around here.

September began with a slow, quiet Labor Day weekend, and quickly revved up to include my birthday; two sets of houseguests (including my sister); a work event that demanded great quantities of time, energy and mental bandwidth; and all the daily details of life. This past weekend, we went apple picking with friends, and the hubs has a work retreat coming up.

And later this week, I’m hopping a plane to Oxford.

radcliffe square radcliffe camera oxford england

If you’ve been reading this blog for longer than about five minutes, you know I harbor a deep love for Oxford. I never tire of its golden stone and winding streets, its crowded bookshops and its soaring, ornate, dreaming spires.

gold spring sunset

I spent a semester there as an undergraduate, then went back to spend a year and earn a master’s degree, and it remains my favorite city in the world.

all souls college oxford towers

I haven’t been back to Oxford in five years, which is simply too long – and the timing, while never perfect, seems pretty good this fall.

A dear American friend who lives there has a new baby I need to meet (and a room where she can put me up). Another American friend (and fellow Oxford devotee) has just moved to the UK and will be coming up to spend a weekend. My former housemate Lizzie lives in Oxford (and we are looking forward to several long chats over cups of tea). And yet another American friend and her family are spending the semester there. (Bonus: I’m planning to meet up with Caroline during a day out in London.)

I can tick off all these reasons, but the real, gut-level reason is much simpler: Oxford is my home.

south parks mauve sunset

Almost since I stepped off the bus back in 2004, Oxford has been the place where I feel most like myself. It is the first place I chose and made my own that was wildly different from my hometown in West Texas. It is where I discovered the deep pleasure of walking a city, the joys of living independently (but connected to a few dear friends), and the inestimable comfort of a cup of tea.

queens lane

The dreaming spires (above) are an indelible part of my heart’s landscape. And every so often, I need to get back there for a little while.

In his lyrical book about Oxford (aptly titled The Secret Garden), Justin Cartwright muses, “Oxford has a kind of wildly enhanced significance for me because I was young and almost ecstatically happy here.” When I met Cartwright at the Oxford Literary Festival in 2008, I was both young and ecstatically happy in Oxford – and he, kind man, listened to me gush about the city and agreed with me about its charms. I still have my signed copy of his book, and that sentence rings as true as it ever did.

In short: Oxford is the city of my heart, and I’m so glad to be going back there. Photos and stories to come.

If you’ve been to Oxford, did it capture you as it has me? Or is there another place that seems to belong to you? (I believe many people have a place like this.) Do share in the comments!

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treasures big ben books shelf

A Big Ben tealight holder, a gift from my friend Charity in memory of our times in London together.

A lacy, silvery box that once held dark chocolate, a gift from my husband.

A book of love poetry from a long-ago afternoon in York. A book of Shakespeare quotes handed down from my dad (who received it from a favorite professor). A copy of Gift from the Sea, picked up at a used bookstore somewhere, so full of wise words.

All sitting on a shelf from my favorite antique store in Abilene.

Treasures, indeed.

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anne books pei
I’ve been an Anne fan for many years.

Like thousands of other girls, I met that spirited, imaginative redhead when I was a child, when my mom gave me the first three Anne books. I read them over and over, delighting in the stories of Anne’s arrival at Green Gables, her mishaps and adventures as she adjusts to life in Avonlea, and her later experiences at Queen’s and then Redmond College. Later, I moved on to Anne’s time at Windy Poplars, her newlywed life in the House of Dreams, and adventures with her children at Ingleside.

I also love L.M. Montgomery’s other heroines: Emily Byrd Starr, Sara Stanley (better known as the Story Girl), Jane Stuart (of Lantern Hill). But Anne is and always will be my favorite.

All this to say: I have wanted to visit Prince Edward Island for years.

pei red fields summer

We made the drive in one long day, through Maine and New Brunswick. We reached the Island well after dark, flipping through our printed-from-Google directions, winding our way down well-paved but barely lit back roads. When we finally reached our wee guesthouse on the North Shore, we collapsed into bed, thankful we’d made it.

The next morning, we woke up and headed for Anne’s place.

pei view l.m. montgomery homestead

Our guidebook suggested starting our journey at the L.M. Montgomery Homestead, where a tiny bookstore-cum-exhibit-area stands behind a white picket fence. (The photo above is the view from the bookstore.)

l.m. montgomery homestead cavendish pei

The site is run by descendants of Montgomery’s family, the Macneills, and one of them, David, gave us a brief history lesson before sending us out into the garden.

green gables path pei

A narrow path (red clay, just like the roads Anne loved) winds through the trees, past the stone cellar of the Macneill farmhouse, the old well, a 100-year-old apple tree, and several plaques bearing extracts from Lucy Maud’s journals, about her old home.

The path forks, with one branch leading to the wee Green Gables post office, below. (Lucy Maud’s grandmother was the postmistress, and she used to help sort the mail – which came in handy when she started submitting manuscripts!)

green gables post office cavendish pei

The other trail continues down the hill and across a few fields (and a highway) into what is known as the Haunted Wood.

haunted wood path pei

I enjoyed every step of that walk down twisting paths lined with trees, including the slim white birches Anne loved so well.

birch trees haunted wood green gables pei

There’s an old log bridge over what I am certain is the real Dryad’s Bubble (the spring), and at the end of the path, you look up the hill – and Green Gables is right there.

green gables cavendish pei

We climbed up almost in silence, and I felt positively reverent as I entered the house. There’s no guided tour, though there are guides present to answer questions, and you’re free to wander through both floors.

green gables parlor cavendish pei

I spotted so many details that felt familiar: the black horsehair sofa in the parlor, Matthew’s little room off the kitchen (with his suspenders hanging over a chair), the big, cheery kitchen (with geraniums on the windowsills!).

green gables sewing room cavendish pei

Upstairs is Marilla’s room, a larger sewing room (above), a back room off the hall for a hired hand, and – best of all – Anne’s bedroom, “sacred to the dreams of girlhood.”

anne's bedroom green gables pei

This room, especially, was rendered in loving detail. Anne’s carpetbag, her boots under a chair, the yellow chair by the window, the low white bed – even the hard red velvet pincushion – are all here. And hanging on the closet door is the famous brown gloria dress with puffed sleeves.

katie haunted wood cavendish pei

It was so easy to imagine Anne sitting at that window, elbows propped on the sill and eyes full of dreams, or gathering flowers in the garden, or running down the hill to meet Diana on the log bridge. She seemed so near the whole time we were on the Island, as we drove past furrowed red fields, dark green spruce woods, or rounded a corner to glimpse the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

We loved everything about the Island. But one of the best parts was this green-and-white farmhouse among the trees. It felt at once brand-new and familiar – because, even though I’d never seen it, I’ve been going there for years.

More PEI photos and stories to come.

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It’s finally glorious spring here in Cambridge, and everything – from the azaleas to the tulip magnolias to the shrubs lining the sidewalks near my office – is blooming. The tiny sunken garden next to my building is filled with tulips and flowering trees; the planters outside the nearby Episcopal church are bursting with daffodils. And the other day, the Internet was blooming with people calling “Happy May Day!” to one another.

I didn’t celebrate, or know anyone who celebrated, May Day when I was growing up – I’d read about Maypoles, but they seemed mostly an historical concept. I don’t really celebrate it now. But like so many other things, May Day took on a new significance during the year I lived in Oxford.

magdalen tower oxford may day

Since time immemorial (or since 1509), a group of boy choristers from Magdalen College School have rung in the month of May at dawn, from the top of Magdalen College tower (which sits at one end of the bridge spanning the River Cherwell), with a few a cappella madrigal songs. This coincides with the end-of-term balls at many Oxford colleges, so much of the audience consists of bleary-eyed students wearing crumpled ball gowns and slightly askew tuxedos, the girls’ elaborate coiffures slipping out of their perfect arrangements. Crowds gather on either side of Magdalen Bridge in the chilly blue dawn; jackets are necessary (unless, I suppose, you’ve been out drinking all night).

May Day is also my friend (and Oxford housemate) Lizzie’s birthday, and that year, it was the day of the student end-of-term ball at my beloved church. Both Lizzie and I had planned to go (and bought new dresses for the occasion). Although we knew we were going to be up half the night, we dragged ourselves out of bed in the dark, threw on jeans, jackets and scarves, and walked with our other two housemates, Grace and Jo, down the length of the Cowley Road and over Magdalen Bridge.

As the sun crept upward over the horizon, we huddled among students, tourists, families with sleepy young children and more than a few bobbing balloons. We knew this day was a beginning – the first day of May, the dawn of summer – but we also knew it was the beginning of an ending. We’d spent eight months living together in our wee chocolate-box house in East Oxford, but in May, we would all finish our courses and at least two of us (Grace and I) would leave Oxford for good. But that day, we still had four weeks to revel in each other’s company.

may day girls

We waited, wrapped in pashminas, morning mist in our hair, to hear the first line ring out from the tower: “Now is the month of Maying.” The crowd was hardly silent, and it was difficult to make out all the words. But we stood and listened, then joined the masses streaming down the High Street in search of breakfast. We treated Lizzie, for her birthday, at a cafe down on George Street, and then we walked back home through the brightening morning, under blossoming tree branches. That night, Lizzie and I slipped on our new dresses and high heels, and danced under the vaulted ceiling at St Aldates, with dozens of our friends.

christ church meadows oxford may day

That last month in Oxford was bittersweet in a thousand ways. I was headed home to the West Texas college town I loved and missed, to be near my family and friends and marry the man I loved. But I was also loath to leave this quiet city of books and gardens, and the friends I’d made during my year there. I longed to freeze time during those last weeks, even as the days slipped away one by one, even as I filled them with long walks and afternoons in cafes and college garden tours and “last things.”

Since I couldn’t hold on to those days, I made every effort to savor them. Even if it meant waking up before dawn and taking a long, chilly walk to hear some old songs performed.

Every year, when the trees burst suddenly into bloom and the light turns golden after months of bare branches and grey skies, I remember that morning in Oxford, listening to that ancient, joyous song with those three girls so dear to me.

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I am not a golfer, unless you count the occasional round of miniature golf. I don’t have a patented swing, a pair of special shoes, a collection of polo shirts emblazoned with the names of famous golf courses. I don’t own a set of clubs.

But I spent hours this weekend, as I do every year, watching the Masters. (And cheering wildly at Adam Scott’s long birdie putt on the 18th hole, then holding my breath through the two-hole sudden-death playoff. What a finish!)

masters logo flowers

(Image from Wikimedia Commons)

I know that for most non-golfers, watching golf is a dull prospect. Even my sports-loving husband is no golf enthusiast, though he’ll happily watch hours of baseball on TV (which I find unbearably slow, though I like going to games). When we started dating, I bemoaned his indifference to the one sport my dad loves above all others. You can’t spend even a weekend at my parents’ house without a discussion about golf.

When I was growing up, I thought everyone’s dads kept a couple of putters in the corner of the living room, handy for a bit of practice while dinner was cooking. My dad, though he spent lots of weekend days playing with my sister and me, usually kissed us good-bye and headed to the course on Saturday morning or on Sunday after church, slathering on sunscreen or pulling on a windbreaker, depending on the season. He wore the same tattered green and white stocking cap for many winters, till I knit him a striped one in the colors of my high school. Polo shirts make up a significant part of his wardrobe, and you can always find a copy of Golf World on the kitchen counter.

When Dad wasn’t at the course on the weekends, he’d turn on the TV to catch the tournament du jour: the U.S. Open, the PGA Championship, the British Open, lots of smaller competitions. I learned the names of the greats early on, chief among them Jack Nicklaus (“the Golden Bear”) and Arnold Palmer (“the King”). I spent hours watching them swing their clubs against long stretches of velvety green, shading their eyes to follow those tiny white balls through the deep blue sky. Nick Faldo, Ben Crenshaw, Gary Player, Greg Norman: these men were the giants of my childhood. I still cheer for Fred Couples and Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson, because they are the players I know and love.

I never took to playing the game the way my sister did: Dad taught us both how, but only Betsy played competitively in high school. But Dad (who played in high school and college, and still boasts an impressive zero handicap) did instill in me his deep respect for the game. Having lived with a serious golfer for many years, I understand the skill and patience required for these men to play the way they do. I love that golf is a sport people can play for their entire lives. And I deeply admire many of the pros I grew up watching, who are good men as well as good golfers.

dad masters surprise

When my dad turned 50, my mom surprised him with tickets to the practice round at Augusta (above). They traveled to Georgia to walk the course, see the famous azaleas in bloom, watch the competitors prepare for the upcoming rounds of play. A framed yellow Masters flag now sits in my parents’ living room, next to the trophies Dad has won at various local tournaments.

Every year, around the beginning of April, Dad calls and says: Do you know what starts in a week or so? And I smile and lower my voice, and whisper reverently: The Masters.

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