June 26, 2007
Roman flew back to Russia a week ago, today, and arrived safely last Thursday– 18 hours in the air, and about that many in airport layovers. He arrived back in Orenburg at 3AM. He called me on Friday, and I’ve had emails from him. Yesterday I bought a phone card and called him– midnight my time, 10AM his time. He said he’d been having trouble sleeping, and wasn’t interested in eating. As far as I recall, that was the way he felt the first week he was here- and I’ve always heard that jet lag is worst going COUNTER-clockwise around the earth. He’s also feeling depressed, he says, because his friends have changed in some ways that he doesn’t like. And Russians, he says, seem rude and mean compared to Americans. So I think he’s feeling some homesickness for Franklinville.
I’ve been putting off posting some of our last activities together, at first because we were so busy getting him ready to go, and then because I’ve been adjusting to not having Roman around , myself. My house certainly does seem bigger and quieter without him, and his friends.
He didn’t have to take exams (though he took pre-Calculus anyway, so he would have the practice when he takes it at home this summer), so he spent much of the last week of school taking pictures of Eastern Randolph to share with his Russian schoolmates. He also documented my house , and my livestock , and Mother’s house.
On Thursday the 7th, Roman had to be at Graduation at 4:30, and Mother and I went at 5:00- it was very hot, and very crowded. I had already spent the morning doing the History of Randolph County class for the 33 people in the Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Randolph, so I was already wiped out. Graduation was on the football field (appropriate for the state champions, I guess!). Elizabeth Mitchell, her god-daughter Nikki, and Maxine Wright came to watch.The band played, the graduates marched , and the valdictorians spoke. Roman was given a present by the senior class (a set of #24 Jeff Gordon beer glasses- something to remember NASCAR by, no doubt). It was a happy time, meeting his teachers and seeing his friends and their families. We made it to the Mexican restaurant in Asheboro in time to get served, and Charlene Edgerton, the district representative of the exchange program, met us there to give Roman his certificate of completion and his airplane tickets home. Another kind of graduation present.
That Saturday Roman went to Lake Jordan with Tyler Milliner and his brother Gary and their boat. Roman evidently learned to water ski pretty well for his first time out. They and their friends had a LOT of fun, if only gauged by their Class A sunburn- both Roman and Tyler being too macho to put on sunscreen. The next Tuesday Roman went to Carowinds with his band friend Andy Augustyne and his family, and they really loved that. Roman took loads of pictures of the rides and roller coasters to show his friends back home. the one ride he thought was scary was the “Drop Zone”– and ironically, that’s the one that was shut down this week, after a similar ride in Kentucky seriously injured a teenage girl.
Wednesday afternoon I decided on the spur of the moment (nothing important being on the work calendar), that we’d drive down to Jill’s house at Morehead City so he could have one last beach experience. I had to be back Saturday to speak at the Magna Carta luncheon at the country club, and he had to pack, so it was a long whirlwind trip- and we were back Friday night late.
There were a lot of ‘last times’ the next few days, as there eventually had to be after so many first times this past year. His last night at my house was actually Sunday night, as we spent Monday night at our friends Alex and Kay Rogozhin, so that we’d be near the Raleigh airport in time to eat breakfast and get him through security. It was hard for me to watch him go; we waited through all the bag searches and shoe searches and etc., until he turned out of sight walking to the gate. Alex and Kay got me to spend the day with them, to cushion the separation anxiety, but it was still hard to know that my year of fatherhood was at an end. It was a great experience for me; for us both, I think. My friend Greg said that both of us “won the lottery” in this exchange- I got a student as smart and flexible and open as could be asked for; he got a father who’d treat him like a son, not a tourist, and show him everything great about America.
For weeks everyone has been saying I’d be looking at feeling the “empty nest syndrome”– lost, depressed, dislocated from our old routine. And that has been true. But I guess that’s the price of investing 100% in the experience, and I certainly don’t regret that. I just hope I’ll get to Russia some day, and that he’ll come back to visit some day. For now, I just look forward toward feeling like going back into Roman’s side of my house! I haven’t even opened the door there since he left- it already feels lonely enough.
June 13, 2007
June 1st was the 83rd birthday of Mother’s oldest brother, Broadus Chriscoe. On Saturday the 2nd, his family had a surprise picnic party for him at his house, inviting all his brothers and sisters and their families. I drove down to his house in the Union Grove community in Moore County with Mother and Roman.
Someone from every branch of the family was there except for Aunt Vera’s, who is down in Atlanta. Kenneth cooked burgers and hot dogs on the grill, and everyone else brought something, so it was a typically-overstocked American picnic. Aunt Mona Rae brought a banana pudding, which I liked the best. (BTW: The skinniest people in these photos are obviously not Chriscoes… besides Roman, there are the boyfriends of Patricia’s daughters Heather and Amber. )
I used part of the time to collect names and dates for the Chriscoe side of our family tree which I’ve put into the geneaology program at Ancestry.Com (one of those Mormon programs, stored forever in a salt mine out West). Anyone can check it out; this is the link to my tree, which will show both the Whatley and Chriscoe sides: http://trees.ancestry.com/pt/pedigree.aspx?tid=2384080&pid=-1844418166&pg=0
June 13, 2007
We got up early on Sunday and drove South through and around Boston to Cape Cod. There wasn’t much traffic, and it took a little more than an hour to get to the bridge over the Cape Cod canal. Then it was just 15 minutes to Hyannis, and the ferry terminal. There’s a brand new ferry, just put into service in 2006, which is for pedestrian passengers only and takes less than half the time the auto ferries do. The ferry runs about 40 miles an hour (FAST for a ship) and really churns up the wake. It costs more, but it makes twice as many trips during the day, so that’s the one we got tickets for. Roman and me and about ten youth-league lacrosse teams, going to a tournament on Nantucket. They were remarkably loud!
The sun came out and the day was pretty nice by the time we got to the island — in just 55 minutes! Like I always do on Nantucket , we just walked around , looking at the historic houses, the shops, the landscapes and the ocean. It’s obvious, though, that Nantucket has really ‘gentrified’ over the last 25 years– every house in the real estate magazine was priced at over a million dollars, and there were some very fancy boats in the harbor.
Roman developed a hankering for Italian spaghetti, which was just the wrong thing for Nantucket, one of the seafood capitals of New England. We had lunch in a beach bar, and both enjoyed whatever it was we had. We shopped, bought t-shirts and gifts for friends , got coffee, and toured the whaling museum (totally renovated with new galleries since the last time I was there). We walked out to the Brandt Point lighthouse at the entrance to the harbor, and by the time we got back to the center of town, the 5:00 ferry was leaving. We realized we were exhausted, and the thought of sitting down on the ferry sounded pretty good. So we caught it back to Hyannis.
I drove a short distance to our cheap hotel- a third the cost of a Boston hotel- and we swam in the heated pool. Later that night we went to an English pub in Hyannis, where we had “pasties”- pastries like calzones, filled with cheese and stuff. I had the “New England Tradition” pasties– turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, peas and cranberry sauce, wrapped up in a pie crust. Something unusual, and good.
The next morning, Monday, we slept late for once, and got on the road at 10AM. My plan was to return the car to the airport and then take the subway downtown so as to avoid the parking problems. With some backtracking (I missed the airport exit and had to navigate the narrow streets of the North End to get turned around), we turned the car in about noon, took the bus to the terminal, and were all set for our 6:15PM flight. So with 5 hours to wait, we took the new Silver Line bus trolley across to Boston. It uses a restricted lane on the Interstate to go to the new Convention Center on the old South Boston waterfront (30 years ago, that was all warehouses and fish wholesalers); then it has its own underground tunnel which links to the subway system at South Station.
When we got out of the subway, Roman was surprised- this was the Financial District , the super new part of Boston, and looked very different from the half of town we walked through Saturday. He was amazed at the variety of the skyscrapers, and how everything was oriented toward the piers and waterfront. We walked around what will soon be the Rose Kennedy greenway, on top of the now-underground “Big Dig” expressway, and got to Fanueil Hall and Quincy Market. The Market has every kind of trinket and food for sale you can imagine, and that’s where Roman finally found his Italian pasta.
We bought more gifts, walked up to the Blue Line stop at the Old State House, and took the subway back to the airport. (The odd photo of an octacycle… 8 people pedaling the hills downtown. It looked like work!) We still had a little wait for our flight, but after a quick change of planes at LaGuardia in New York, we got back to Raleigh about 10PM. Roman was hungry enough to eat week-old doughnuts… and did!
June 12, 2007
Saturday morning was not quite as sloppy as Friday night, but it was still drizzling enough to make the Sox vs. Braves baseball game problematic. It was set for a 1:30 start, which would allow them to schedule a doubleheader for the evening, and catch up on the Friday game that was postponed. We left North Andover and drove to Cambridge, where I (from memory- impressed myself!) found and parked at the Alewife T station (the end of the red line subway, where there’s a ginormous parking garage). We took the red line all the way into downtown Boston, getting out at Park Street– the north side of the Common. We walked around the common, so Roman could get a taste of Boston, and then got lunch before taking the green line trolley south to Commonwealth Ave.- the BU stop- which is about 3 blocks from Fenway Park.
We walked in the rain to Fenway, which was packed with people even a hour before the game. We shopped the official paraphenalia stores (the UNofficial stores are actually more expensive!) and finally went on to our seats, because they were under the upper deck and therefore, dry. We watched them ready the field, rolling back the tarp as the rain let up. At game time, it was dry, though gray and cool, but by the end of the game the sun actually peeked out for a minute or two.
By luck (Saturday afternoon being the spot in my schedule for the game, no matter who was pitching), we saw the Red Sox’s new phenom pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka vs. the Braves (and virtually their entire pitching staff, since the Sox got so many hits the blew out more than half a dozen Braves pitchers). “Dice-K” (as his name is actually pronounced) is just as good as the PR says. The Red Sox won, 13-3. It was a great game to watch, and fun to be there in person. It was all new and amazing to Roman.
After the game, we actually walked all the way through the Back Bay and across the Common to Beacon Hill, and caught the red line at the Charles River stop. Roman was interested in that part of Boston looking so European. (I didn’t realize until Monday that he thought ALL of Boston looked like that.) It was a good hike and by the time we caught the subway train into Harvard Square, we were glad to sit down.
But once at Harvard Square, we started walking again, so I could show him the Yard, where I lived as a Freshman, Widener Library, the Lampoon, Mather House, the central spaces of my college career. I was surprised at all the infill construction… nothing left of the few vacant lots or parking lots I remember from the old days. We ate dinner at the John Harvard Ale House, something Italian and filling, as I recall, with a good dark ale. Beside us was an attractive blonde woman from Finland who had been at Harvard as a Fulbright Scholar, and was visiting on business.
It was late when we took the subway back to the car, and raining again as I found I-93 in the dark and made it back to North Andover. The Sox and Braves did play the night game, and John Smoltz turned the tables for Atlanta in the rain- Boston lost that one, 14 to 4.
June 12, 2007
The flight up was quick! We got into Logan at 11:15 and got the rental car on the road by 11:45. On the drive to Lowell (about 45 min.) Roman was starving so we stopped at a Cracker Barrell- and now it’s Roman’s new favorite place to eat. I met with people at the museum and then we checked into the hotel. That night we saw Shrek 3… the next day my meeting was until 2, so Roman wandered around Lowell . Then we drove around some in the rain and went to North Andover, where Diane Fagan-Affleck let us use their beautiful house while they were in New York. Friday night we drove in the downpour to see Spiderman 3 at the IMAX, but it’s an IMAX at Jordan’s Furniture- the biggest furniture store in New England. It’s at a mall, but free-standing beside the Home Depot- a big 3-story box where, besides the furniture store and the IMAX, is a trapeze training school (!), a Fuddrucker’s , an ice cream place , and the “Fireworks Fountain”. It’s crazy what all they have in a furniture store– and there’s another one like it on the South side of Boston! The movie was fun to see in IMAX, but the whole Jordan’s furniture experience was weird and crazy. That could have been the highlight of a trip all by itself.
Saturday– the Red Sox in the rain!