Saturday, April 11, 2015
I had been looking forward to meeting Tina Hudak and the young men (young gentlemen!) of St. Albans for a long time. Then yesterday came. The students I met were gracious, funny, engaged, and engaging. I might also use the word "charming." The teachers have ideas. And Tina herself, the librarian of the Lower School, was—is—not just a woman who knows books and gets young readers charged up about their powers. She is an artist, too, a book and paper maker, a guardian angel with energy and wings to spare.
Located on the grounds of the National Cathedral (the world's sixth largest cathedral, stretching one glorifying tenth of a mile long), St. Albans has been named the country's smartest boarding school. It was home, for a year, to Curtis Sittenfeld, of Prep. Its alums include Al Gore, Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., Jeffrey Wright, Brit Hume, Jesse Jackson, Jr., and astronaut Michael Collins. And the best, I am now confident from my conversations with the young gentlemen yesterday, is yet to come.
I talked about history and how alive it can be. I talked about research and the imagination. I talked about the books these students had read—Flow, Dr. Radway, Going Over—and about One Thing Stolen and how that story had erupted.
This: Midway through the day, Tina told me about her aunt, who had lived in Florence and had, indeed, endured the 1966 flood that lies at the heart of One Thing Stolen. Tina has transcribed her aunt's notes about that time, which you can find on her blog here. An amazing coincidence, an amazing resource, or perhaps not all that amazing, for Tina and I connected long ago in ways that can't be entirely explained.
This: Before I left for cherry blossoming DC, my father told me a story about how, years ago, he had made his way to the St. Albans campus as a senior in high school. My father was hoping for the financial aid he would need to be able to attend college. His interview for a scholarship was conducted in the halls of St. Albans. Changing his life. Making room for mine.