Coming Home from Homecoming

Let me begin by proclaiming Christendom’s Homecoming 2016 a huge success – this despite the rainout of Sunday.

Hundreds of alumni and their families returned to Front Royal this past weekend to mingle with old classmates and professors, to take in the breathtaking campus once more, and to hear about the future of this place we love so much.

Much praise goes to several important people.  Let’s start with Vince Criste.  I had been unaware that Vince’s last name (rhymes with fist) was so unpronounceable to so many.  On Friday morning he casually joked with me and Karla and the many ways people have bungled his surname.   Perhaps his is really a name that ought not be pronounced.  Ever.  It’s more exotic that way.  In fact, it almost makes him like some sort of ancient deity.  “Hush now, my children, while we ponder the name of our Assistant Director of Alumni and Donor Relations.  God be merciful.”  However you say it, Vince did an amazing job coordinating all of the Homecoming efforts.  Several times this weekend I had occasion to witness Vince running around campus (either on foot or in a white minivan), arms filled with stuff like a photo backdrop that was custom made for the occasion, stopping joyfully to chat with people.  It’s a tough job, Vince, but your efforts made my weekend much more fun.

Another big shell in the Christendom arsenal is Paul Jalsevac.  Ironically, no one gets his name wrong.  In searching the college’s website for his official title the only thing I encountered was “wonderboy”.  I’m just a teacher.  He’s “wonderboy”.  There’s probably a reason for that title.  Paul’s help in organizing an alumni council is invaluable.  I still remember about a year ago sitting in his office as he somehow conned my wife into taking on the role of heading that council.  Listen, Paul, any man who can get my wife to get me to put that kind of milage on my car has got to be superb at his job.  I’ve been trying to get her to let me get a tattoo for years now and no dice.  Clearly one of us has better persuasive skills.

Then there are the members of the Alumni Advisory Council who in so many ways continued to give of themselves this weekend.  It was wonderful for me to finally meet some of them.  From manning the registration table at the reunions to spending several hours in meetings discussing survey data these men and women showed forth again why Christendom is a special kind of place.  We all know that the world needs Christendom.  Christendom needs active and involved alums and these guys have moved heaven and earth to facilitate that.

I have to mention Walter Janaro because I’m contractually obliged to there’s no way to write a piece about Christendom without doing that.  But you’ll be hearing from and seeing a whole lot more of Walter in the near future.

So how was the main event, you ask?  It was phenomenal!  We began the evening with three separate reunions (for the classes of ’86, ’96, and ’06).  This was followed by a great gathering of many more alumni in the library’s lower level that lasted into the night.  I had posted last about how some things never change.  The food was fine.  The bar was a cash option, beer and wine event.  Listen, none of us are kids anymore and we ought to be OK with a pumpkin spice microbrew.  It sure beats the Beast, right?  And we’re adulting these days, right?  We have cash for the cash bar!  But some things truly never change.  There’s always going to be that one blogger who mingles around with the crowd at such an event sipping from a large, opaque travel mug.  When asked why he would be seen dropping a lime wedge into that coffee (or why the lime wedges were in his backpack under the circulation desk for that matter) he could be heard to say “Um… shut up.”  Perhaps he felt it was owed to him or perhaps he’s allergic to pumpkins and spices.

The highlight of the night, at least for me, came when Tim O’Donnell spoke to the assembly.  I believe the content of that talk will be available soon.  He ended his remarks by saying “Now, let’s bring Karla up here to talk about the Council!”  I do find it cute that my wife is so well known that she just goes by her first name.  And she spoke so well too.  “Funny,” I thought to myself, “she’s speaking a little faster than normal.”  She spoke about our trip and our efforts and the good things coming in the near future.

“We’ve been listening to your feedback and we know that you have certain wants and desires,” she said before I nudged her.  I was trying to break the tension, you see, as she was clearly not 100% comfortable behind the microphone after having worked like a dog all day.  She graciously allowed me to interject.

“Of course they have desires,” I said.  “Look at the number of babies in the room.”

That’s the other person I needed to thank!  Thank you, John Echaniz, for laughing heartily  from the back of the room at my attempt at levity while the rest of the rest of the crowd stared stonily at the floor.  Puritans.

Unamused, my wife returned to her remarks, now speaking faster than ever.

And then it happened.

She started to cry.

As a husband there are some things I never want to see.  Childbirth is at the top of that list.  Fortunately we had sections.  Those drapes conceal a lot.  The other thing I hate to see is my wife cry and especially for no known reason.

Composing herself a bit, she physically grabbed the mic and shouted through even more tears “Christendom is great!”

I leaned in and whispered “Honey, is everything OK?”

“I’m just so freakin tired!” she said.

Oh, if that’s all…

But it was a good kind of tired and so we soldiered on.  More “coffee” and more visiting with friends followed.  We finally made it to the house where we’d be sleeping that night by about 1:30.  Then it was up at 5 for the short drive to Dulles and our flight home.

And then I had my breakdown moment.

While waiting in the terminal at IAD I set my bag down.  “I have time to grab coffee and then use the bathroom, right?” I asked my wife.  She nodded.  A few moments later I came back.  “I have time to hit that smoking lounge right over there next to our gate, right?” I asked.  “Honey, I think we’re boarding now,” came her calm reply.

Turning to Karla with complete sincerity I blurted:

“I HATE this flight!  I hate everything about it.  I hate this airport.  I hate this time of day.  Who books a flight before the sun comes up!?”

Moments later after sneaking that smoke anyway I found her already seated in the back of the plane.

“Sorry about that outburst,” I said.  I suppose we’re even.

And then we laughed.

Just another weekend for your sometimes-weary, always-cheery devoted Christendom Alumni Council members.

Just before takeoff on Sunday morning.  Karla hides her face, still mystified by my nicotine outburst.

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