My View from South Hill
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Last weekend my wife Amber and I held our first holiday party at Fountain Place, for faculty and staff families. Children and grandchildren of Ithaca College employees wandered into rooms set up for making holiday decorations and for smearing as much frosting on cookies (and themselves) as they could manage. Grown-ups and kids alike enjoyed baloney and PB&J sandwiches, pigs in blankets, milk, and juice boxes. I can’t be certain, but this could well be the first time peanut butter and jelly sandwiches have been on the menu at an official Fountain Place function. Perhaps we'll break them out again for the Trustees!
And why not? After all, the holidays belong to the young and to that youthful, joyous place we all have in our hearts. That is why it seemed cosmically right to launch our first-ever holiday season in Fountain Place with a party for children. Amber and I spent every free moment over the last week decorating the house and threading fishing line through foam cutouts of stars for the children to decorate.
Kids are really amazing. They're very perceptive about the world around them, and they don't mince words when things fail to go as planned. A number of parents told us they explained to their children that they would be going to a party at the home of the new president and his wife. The kids agreeably bundled into cars and made the trip to our home, which looked suitably impressive under a coat of fresh snow. Doubt began to set in only when several children looked around and asked their parents where the president was.
I shook hands with one solemn four-year-old who promptly turned to his parents and announced, "That’s not President Obama!" There was a buzz of confused agreement among other children in the room. Even among the pre-school set, the new man in the White House is a tough act to follow.
As with any worthwhile undertaking, creating this party involved the work of many. Facilities crews made the house festive by stringing lights in the trees and bushes outside, and opened up the interior space by moving furniture from the "party floor" to the upstairs. The Ithaca College Hillel board of directors donated a beautiful menorah that will forever grace future holiday parties at Fountain Place. Professor Katharyn Machan donned her costume as Zajal the Sugar Plum Fairy and, with her friend Lindy Cummings, entertained adults and enthralled the children. IC Bell People, a student group, rang in the spirit of the season. The party would not have been possible without sixteen student volunteers organized by Deb Mohlenhoff. The students donned Santa hats and helped the children find everything they needed for their cookie and decoration making.
I know this has been a difficult year on many fronts, for people here at Ithaca College and beyond. In the face of those struggles, the Fountain Place family holiday party illustrates what I hope will be the dominant theme of this holiday season: that the strength of our community will carry us through this or any other trial.
Happy holidays, everyone.
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