February 14, 2015
Dear friends and family,
Happy Valentines Day! 2014 was an eventful year in the Churchill household, with each kid hop-skipping off to new schools, and Suzanne leaping into a sabbatical, while I learned the old age shuffle. Yes, the “highlight” of my year was arthroscopic knee surgery.
Now I’m not one to complain, but you would think that when I’m going under the knife, Suzanne would be clutching her rosary beads and praying for my welfare. Instead, when I come out of the general anesthetic, I find that she’s been posting to Facebook about the lawn mower and polyp removal conversations she’s overheard in the waiting room and debating with her friends as to whether I’d be able to meet my weekend cooking obligations (not a chance!).
But I have to forgive Suzanne. She was probably distracted by her upcoming 2-week trip to Russia as part of a Davidson College-sponsored faculty study tour (read about the experience on the “Studio R” blog), or the subsequent weeklong digital studies course in Victoria, British Columbia, or the potential “trials” of a year long sabbatical, or preparing for our Halloween trip to New Orleans for my brother Ian’s marriage to Pamela Waggoner (though as you can see from this photo, we didn’t dress up much). I recently asked Luke whether he had any inkling as to future career possibilities, and his reply was something like, “Well, Mom’s job seems pretty good right now!” Heck yeah.
I have to admit that I also enjoyed a work sabbatical last summer. Every 5 years my law firm allows for a 3-week “vaccatical” that we used to take a family trip to Italy and Switzerland. We feasted with Suzanne’s sister’s family for a week in Tuscany, toured 1,000 or so churches in Rome and enjoyed the extraordinarily generous hospitality of Suzanne’s Swiss relatives. Robin, Pat and Florence Alder hosted us at their vacation place on Lake Lugano in Southern Switzerland, took us on a tour of the Wallis Valley (including an unforgettable sunrise cable car ride to the top of the Eggishorn mountain and a day-long hike along the Aletsch glacier), and suffered through our gallant, but generally failed, attempts at water skiing. It was a real treat. The Schollenbergers also hosted us in Kusnacht, treating us to delicious meals and a guided family history tour of the town (with ice cream).
Despite a significant amount of parental angst, Thomas and Luke appear to have both found ideal college situations, which makes it a lot easier for their parents to bear the long distance separation.
Thomas, 18, set his sights on Stanford early, and I thought his application was pretty strong, except for the “letter to your future roommate” essay. Thomas chose to tie this essay to the T.V. sitcom, “How I Met Your Mother” and the “Bro-Code” modeled therein (which I loosely interpret as a vow to lie to your parents to protect your brother). He also borrowed the main character’s trademark expression of describing any “legendary” experience as, “legen . . . wait for it . . . dary.” I was pretty dead set against this essay and told Thomas that I thought it was going to be “legen . . . wait for rejection . . . dary,” but he stuck to his guns. And of course, when the acceptance letter came, the admissions officer told him she thought his time at Stanford would be “legen . . . wait for it . . . dary.”
Luke, 18, chose Washington University in St. Louis, which has a stellar academic reputation, a beautiful campus, and one of the worst names since Beaver College (my and Suzanne’s study abroad alma mater). Now I can understand adding a geographic descriptor if you need to distinguish between UNC Chapel Hill and UNC Wilmington, but do we really need to highlight St. Louis here? Our friend, Kristi, thinks my reaction stems from an anti-Midwest bias, but I beg to differ. I really like Chicago! Just to get on Luke’s nerves, I’m trying to convince members of my family to add geographic locators to their schools as well. So Suzanne could say she sent to Middlebury College in Middlebury and teaches at Davidson College in Davidson.
Zac, 13, is in 8th grade at J.M. Alexander Middle School (in Huntersville), which feeds into the I.B. program at North Mecklenburg High School (in Huntersville), from which Luke and Thomas graduated in the spring. When queried about the adjustment he’s had to make due to his older brothers’ departures, Zac opined that, “it’s no different” and promptly returned to Insta-gramming all of the other 13-year-olds that now dominate our neighborhood. Zac’s grown about 6 inches in the past 3 weeks (and added a bit of teenage attitude), but he still maintains a happy-go-lucky vibe that we treasure.
This year was not without significant loss. Suzanne’s Mom, Valerie Wintsch, suffered through the end stages of Alzheimer’s disease and just died peacefully early this January. Suzanne has written blog entries about Valerie and Alzheimer’s that I recommend to you (click on the topic “Alzheimer’s” in the right sidebar). We’ll all miss Valerie’s sparkle, warm chuckle, and fierce love for and devotion to her family.
Moments like this remind us of how important you, our friends and family, are to us, and how lucky we are to have you in our lives. We hope to see many of you in 2015, and we now even have a few extra bedrooms if you’d like to visit us in North Carolina. We promise that your visit with us will be legen . . . wait for it . . . dary!
Lots of love,
Matt, Suzanne, Thomas, Luke and Zac