I have been in Quincy, Massachusetts now for exactly 36 hours and they have been the most confusing, difficult 36 hours of my life. When I pulled off of Chewonki’s campus and onto Chewonki Neck Road at 8:45 on Sunday morning, I was still crying after saying goodbye to all of the 35 MCSers and 15 or so faculty members that I have spent every moment with for the past four months. The last thing I saw as I left was Cammie standing in the barn. We did not wave to each other, but we both saw each other and recognized the moment and its significance. We were leaving Chewonki and our lives would never be the same.
Although on Friday and Saturday night combined I only got about 3 hours of sleep, I did not immediately fall asleep in the car. First, I read the book of writing that we put together. To me, this book is worth more than nearly anything else I own. In those 35 pages the compassion, connection, and sheer intelligence of our semester is displayed beautifully through photographs and words. Each piece of writing or art shows the hard work and care that was put into every assignment to make it worthwhile and meaningful all semester long. The dedication to school, to learning, and to knowledge that is clearly presented in each of the Faulknerian interior monologues, final essays, history letters, and poems confirms my understanding that school was not a duty for us at Chewonki, but it was an opportunity to expand our comprehension of the world and fulfill our curiosity in a hands-on way that no other school could provide.
Next, I read our semester’s yearbook cover to cover. Again, the care and love that was put into every page showed me once more how much we mean to each other. Everyone worked together (with Claire in the lead) on that project to create a yearbook that was a thoughtful and sentimental representation of our time at Chewonki.
Once I was finished reading these two books, I thought back to graduation on Friday night. Though it was not the typical, formal graduation where a name is called and the corresponding body walks across a stage to shake the hands of their educators and receive a certificate or diploma, I believe it was much more suitable to the overall tone of our semester. At 8 o’clock on Friday night we all gathered in the Social Room, many of us in sweatpants and barefoot. We cuddled on the couches and on the floor, many of us with arms around each other, sitting on friends’ laps, or holding hands. Willard began the event by asking us to continue to use what we have learned at Chewonki when we get home. Then the floor was opened to anyone who wished to speak (which turned out to be nearly everyone, faculty and students alike).
People remained where they were sitting, buried under piles of friends, while they spoke, and within two or three speakers, the tears were flowing. Zoë shared how, before Chewonki, all of her experiences away from home had been terrifying. So terrifying that she had never wanted to leave home again. However, she added, we had shown her that sometimes change is good and being away from home could be just as comfortable, if not more so, than being home with her parents. Wells thanked us for teaching him that first impressions are not always true, and although sometimes making first impressions is inevitable, there is no need to rely on them. Amy told us how, although we can be sad to leave, we should be happy that we love each other so much and that we have this experience to always look back on for inspiration. Clif commented on the amount of love in that room and how, though there are many hundreds of people at his home school, he has never felt them generate the overwhelming emotion that 50 people were able to that night. I mentioned how, by reaching our seemingly impossible goal of folding 1,000 paper cranes, I learned that we, as a community, can do anything we set our minds to.
Those are just a few of the people who spoke and a few of the beautiful things that were said. In that one night, everyone truly felt the love that we all share and, I think, being able to formally thank everyone at once for the experienced gave us a sort of closure on the semester. After graduation we received certificates from our advisors, yearbooks from Claire, and settled down again with the tears coming on stronger than ever to watch the entire faculty perform two songs for us. It was then, sitting on the floor that Tori turned to me and said “This is the strangest birthday ever.”
When I returned to Orchard cabin for our final night together it was with a heavy heart, but also with an understanding that I would eventually make it through all the goodbyes. With a crazy dance party to cheer everyone up, the Orchard girls partied the night away until we were too exhausted to move. We settled down for a short but rewarding slumber to prepare ourselves for the next night: the all semester sleep over in the Wallace Center.
Saturday greeted us with a chilly nip to the air that we had been missing in the previous few days. By lunch, our cabin plaque was finished, our cabin was cleaned out (with the furniture rearranged so no one could take our exact places), and all of our luggage was in the barn awaiting departure. We spent the evening in Chapin Hall under the whale, sitting around the fire place as Wells, Ted, and Alex serenaded us with Wagon Wheel, Gillies sang I Can Go the Distance, Ranch sang Leaving on a Jet Plane, the Decomposers performed several of their Christmas carols and other tunes, and, finally, we had a whole semester sing-a-long (just to name a few of the acts).
After the fire we all returned to Wallace for a night full of singing, dancing, catch phrase, scrabble, taboo, good food, lots of laughs, and lots of tears. Dana was the first to leave at 3 AM which, unfortunately, set the mood for the rest of the morning. The slow trickle of departures for the airport or the highway started up again at 7 AM, and, for many of us, the tears didn’t stop until late Sunday night.
The past few days have been hard for all of us, but our love is still very very strong. The proof is in the phone calls, text messages, facebook messages, and emails that have been showering down upon me non-stop for nearly two full days. Most of us have reached our destinations, and we’re all thinking of those who remain stuck along the way.
I don’t know how to end this, because it feels like I should some up the semester in a few sentences. I know, from attempting to answer the questions of my friends and family, that this is impossible. Questions like “what was your favorite part?” or “who is your best friend?” go unanswered simply because there was no part that wasn’t my favorite and there is no one that I am not completely in love with. I would never change anything about the last four months, except maybe the part when it had to end.
Angela Baglione, Quincy, MA