May 1st, 2012

Family 2009

Personal: A Long-Distance Weekend

The weekend ended up being less fun and social than I had hoped, with the bulk of my energy going into grading instead, pleased at least to see how much my Catholicism students who had started to take it easy instead seriously rallied and did some very impressive work.

I had some good breaks into that, though, although they ended up being all long-distance. A typically-random and free-ranging conversation with Anne Marie in London occupied my Sunday morning, and a long Skype conversation Friday night with my friend Dan back in Milwaukee was provoked by his text to me that he had just won an assistant professorship and that they would be moving in the summer. The job description of the professorship was something I had seen, and had looked utterly insane to me, although I now learn from Dan that the vast list of duties which looked like they were concurrent, separate duties were in fact descriptions of overlapping duties, and so it wasn't so ridiculous a one-man-doing-the-work-of-five job as I thought. So they have a bid on a house in already, and we had a long talk about the effect on the kids at their (still mercifully young) ages, and the educational disappointment of their losing their German-language education, although they do have the bright spot of apparently moving into the best school district in South Carolina, which Dan said looked ridiculously healthy and flush with funds after witnessing the increasing-destruction of public education in Milwaukee.

I also had a long FaceTime conversation earlier in the day with Sophie, who, as usual, received the phone from Grace as soon as I called rather than texted. Then, also as usual, Grace hung out some in the background and spoke with me more obliquely, which is an interesting sort of display of shyness to me. My nieces are enthusiastic at play and chat when I'm actually physically present, but for some reason, the elder two have never warmed up to the phone, or even, once the initial novelty wore off, the visual "phone" now available across a wireless network. Sophie loves to chat, but Grace (who likes texting, more than talking) hangs back, and Haley works hard at pretending not to even notice me. Yet I'm so smitten with them that even Haley's apparent disinterestedness or stand-offishness comes across as cute, as there seems to be a certain element of razzing me as part of it. (Last year, for example, she actually called me, then muted her iPod Touch and placed it face down on the carpet, keeping the connection open while leaving me without sight or sound, which I thought was hysterical of her.) So at one point, then, in the other day's call, Grace was showing me new music skills from the background, playing the melody of "Amazing Grace" and "When The Saints Go Marching In" on the recorder and then the piano. Then both she and Sophie were propping the phone up or using it to film one another as they demonstrated some gymnastics to me, with Grace helping Sophie out on a move or two.

Haley was upstairs, glued to the television in the parents' room, watching Cartoon Network, as Sophie complained she always is doing, and peered at me in a sort of mute (and interested) greeting only at the end, as they all gathered to go out to the Olive Garden for dinner after Jim got home. She was peering at me interestedly, I think, because this was the first time I spoke to them with my face unbandaged. I broached the idea with Sophie at first as she appeared on the screen and as I realized (it being Friday and me being at home) that I hadn't covered my surgery site. I asked her if she wanted me to go cover it with a bandage (I was hiding it behind my hand) in case she thought it would be too scary to see my owie. So she peered at it for a moment, announced that it wasn't too scary, and that was that. Haley was the last to see it, then, but as she didn't say anything, I don't know what she thought.