After a month of change and upheaval, the past two weeks passed uneventfully. There were no storms, no power outages, and no one got sick. What a relief to have two ordinary weeks in a row! The past two weeks have also given me a sense of what a typical Stony Brook week will look like for our family.
For Brad and the kids, that means a pretty full week. The three of them usually start walking to class between 7:35-7:40 am each morning, while I stay home (still in my PJ’s!) and enjoy a quiet moment and a quiet house before I begin to get ready for my day. To be honest, I am still adjusting to being the one left behind each morning. It’s such a departure from the past five years of my life.
My workday begins at 9 am with a short walk down the hill to my office in Monro Hall. For the next six hours or so, I am immersed in the life of Stony Brook as I read and write about all the happenings on campus. I still have a lot to learn, but I am enjoying this new challenge. Since starting this new job, I find myself paying more attention to words—written and spoken. How will this word work here? Does this sentence read well?
Usually I see Brad and/or Jacob and Anna at the dining hall for lunch. If Brad isn’t on lunch duty, we can sit together and chat for a few minutes. After years of peanut butter sandwiches and leftovers, I can’t get over the choices I have for lunch. What’s even better—I didn’t have to make any of it! From the hot dish line, to the panini/sandwich bar, to the salad bar, choices abound to the point where I could be overwhelmed. The students and faculty at Stony Brook eat well. This isn’t like the cafeteria food I endured throughout junior high or high school.
Once I leave the office, I may or may not see Brad and the kids before they head off to their athletic practices. If I do see them, they are rushing to change clothes and to get to practice on time. Once again, I find myself in a quiet house with no papers to grade or lessons to prepare. Lately I have been using this time to take Lucy for a walk and to work on the never-ending house project list.
Starting around 6 pm, students begin heading to the dining hall so that when the bell rings at 6:15 pm, they are seated at their assigned tables. Each faculty member is assigned a table and anywhere from six to eight students sit at each table. At the end of three weeks, a new batch of students will join our table and we will get to know them just like we have gotten to know Jon, Richie, Rachel, Isaiah, Jillian, and Christopher. Even though it has only been two weeks that our current group has been together, I feel an attachment to these students. I know that Rachel will pass on the food served at the table and only eat off the salad bar. I know that Jon will eat everything that is placed in front of him and also eat at the salad bar (his mother would be proud!). I know that Richie will be the first to volunteer to serve our table and clean it each night, and he would do this every night if we let him. I know that Isaiah will come to the table with a smile on his face, and smile regularly throughout our meal together.
Rituals are a big deal to me—especially those that give shape and meaning to the everyday acts we do as humans. As our family sits at our table each night with our assigned group of students and shares a meal together, something more meaningful than food is passed. I believe it is a form of grace. I haven’t had a single “deep” conversation with any one of these students so far. But I have asked questions about each person’s day. I have listened as each one shares whatever it is he or she chooses to share. And as we pass our plates and talk and clean up after each other, grace is extended.
By 7 pm, dinner wraps up and the students head back to their dorms for study hours. Our family walks home, and Jacob and Anna tackle their homework. Brad retreats to his office and prepares for the next day. I make sure everyone stays on track, and find ways to fill my time. Don’t worry—I am not bored! Most nights of the week, Jacob and Anna do homework right up until it is time to shower and then go to bed. It is a full day. Already I have found myself worrying that it is too full for them. But this is our life at the moment. A popular phrase amongst the faculty at SBS is “finding your rhythm,” especially as it pertains to a boarding school life. I would say that’s exactly what we are doing: “finding our rhythm.”