Sunday, February 13, 2011

Jakob, the Tall


Sweet, sweet sixteen! 

I remember those days.

I also remember the days when the newest sixteen-year-old boy was a brand new infant.

Thoughts of February 13, 1995:

1.  I loved Joe for his lobbying on my behalf in Labor and Delivery.  The nurse was convinced things would go better if I took off my bra.  I was more convinced I didn't want to take off my bra.  Joe told the nurse he would be happy if they cut it off me to save his son.  I got to wear it.  They eventually got to cut it off my body.

2.  I really worked hard to have a natural delivery.  Really.  Hard.  When the doctor came in to tell us she didn't think it was going to happen, I was pretty sure she was lying.  But what can a laboring woman do when the doctor says those words, "I think the baby is in trouble." 

Answer:  a laboring woman and her husband consent to a c-section.

3.  I couldn't help but giggle when the doctor held squishy little Jakob over the drape.  He was all nostril.  Trust me:  one of the ugliest babies who was best loved by his family.  Staci lifted off his little baby cap so her and Joe could laugh at his pointy head.  The rush of love?  Unmistakeable.

Could we do that day all over again, we would. 

We love Jakob Kounkel.  May God bless him on his sixteenth birthday.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Sr Margery, the Scary

Sr Margery was one of my favorite instructors the first time I attended St Kate's. She scared us all a little. Her comments could be biting, scathing, or a combination of both, and made her rare praise for excellent work all the more precious.

And praise my work she did. I struggled through my senior English seminar while being a brand new mommy - indeed, a breastfeeding mommy - while trying to complete the incomplete courses from both the semester of my first trimester AND the semester of my last trimester. If I recall correctly, it was a week or better after the semester ended when I received my senior thesis. I wept when I saw the mark on the paper. "A++, Kari. Excellent, excellent work." I wrote the paper about my favorite of Shakespeare's work, Othello, and how the most tragic element of the work is nothing Shakespeare's characters said. In fact, I wrote, it's the silence that causes the tragedy, the inability of this man and woman to communicate about the events of their lives and the longings of their hearts that causes the death of love and the death of character.

Today I saw someone who looked like Sr Margery walking toward the library. I caught up with her, and introduced myself. The conversation went something like:

Me: Sr Margery? I'm Kari Kounkel. I was a student of yours about twenty years ago

Sr Margery: Kari! With the baby in the basket. What ever happened to that baby?

Me: He's a first-year student st the University of MN, Morris.

St Margery: And what have you done with your twenty years?

I told her of the boys and watching them grow. Of knowing my busy work with them is complete and the satisfaction that gives me. I told her how Adam loves history and English and how Jakob is about to start driving.

I told her, too, of some of the sorrow. The bus accident. My subsequent grief. Of finding my way through it. Of the new grief over my parents.

I told her of other joys - of the twenty years spent married to Joe. Of my delight with my return to this campus and academia in general.

She talked too. Shared her life and something of recent campus history. Of her inability to embrace technology. Of her move from a cloistered campus life to an independent worldly life.

These conversations can happen. Even the part about remembering the baby. My pregnant belly interrupted one semester of her courses when the other women were fascinated by the little alien moving my belly all over the place. My baby disrupted a second semester with his cuddly sweetness and tiny, wonder-filled expressions. I bet most professors would remember that!

But she remembers me. The conversation continued:

Sr Margery: Percy. Walker Percy. You loved him and because you did, I tried to read him. I tried FOUR times!

Me: You didn't like him?

Sr Margery: No! Not even a little bit. (I wrote my senior honors thesis referencing a work by Walker Percy and another by Flannery O'Connor. She remembered.)

Me: I still love him!

Sr Margery: Have you read the contemporary Catholic criticism of the four major Catholic authors? Percy? O'Conner? Dororthy Day? Merton?

Me: No. (Ahem. When did I lose the longing to read the good stuff?)

Sr Margery: Find it! (Once an excellent teacher, always an excellent teacher!) Oh, Kari! It's such a treat to me at my birthday to see you back on campus! Such a gift.

And so, tomorrow on your 83rd birthday, I wish the best for you, Sr Margery, and for all the wonderful teachers of acadamia who no longer have a place on a campus because technology or age or life left them behind. Sure there are other good educators. Sure there are other great classes. Sure there are other great ways to inspire students.

Me? I really love the Sr Margery's of the world. And she isn't - wasn't ever - really scary. She had high expectations, and she encouraged those of her students who wanted to be better, better. The ones who didn't want to be better? They probably were really scared.

God bless you, you dear and darling woman.