The scent of Stanford University in the autumn is of redwood and pine and eucalyptus, old books and new pencils, newly cut grass and crisp northern air. Stanford University in the fall is heavenly. In fact, the campus is heavenly all the year through. I’ve not been back since Katie was about twenty months old. We went fountain hopping, saw my old dorms and houses, peeked in the rooms of many of my favorite classes. Stanford will always be partly my home, and I miss it. The energy and curiosity and joy of learning on the Stanford campus take my breath away.

Stanford held my 10th reunion this weekend. Pregnant and due with Katie, I missed our 5th and vowed to make our 10th. A beautiful dinner on the Quad… football… Classes Without Quizzes (taught by Stanford profs)… seeing old dormmates and friends…

For half a year I thought we would attend. I want my children to frolic there. I want them to taste the vibrancy of mind there, so that they know what they are working for. It doesn’t matter to me whether they attend Stanford or choose some other university, but I do want them to feel and see how alive such a campus is, to revel in the vibe that celebrates hard work, learning, and following intellectual passions.

Then in August, we had to make choices. First there was the choice of cost:  we took a long two week trip last summer and were thinking about an elaborate Disneyland/Grand Californian trip this autumn (and on the horizon, a trip for the Yoder reunion this summer in Indiana). Do we add yet another costly excursion? Each event at the reunion required tickets—for all four of us. Some events (Dinner on the Quad) added up quickly. Would the kiddos be able to sit through Classes Without Quizzes? Would it be better (for us) to try for a spring trip and add in visiting with my high school friends and aunts who happen to be in the Bay Area?

The thought of going alone was not appealing. I truly like to be with my children. I usually don’t go anywhere that they aren’t. Bill would have had to miss work, and if he didn’t, I wouldn’t want to leave him for so long. Should I do what is in my best interest, or what is in the best interest of my entire family? If it came down to a financial choice between the reunion and our annual Disneyland trip, which one would I choose?

Then there was a second choice to be made. This weekend also happened to be Dad’s half marathon, for which he has been training several months. He has made me so proud and done so much more than he ever thought he could do. Doesn’t he deserve his family there to encourage and support him, to celebrate? How often has he achieved something like this? He always attended every event of mine that he could. I know that if I had been running in my first half marathon, he would have come to support me.

What to do, what to do. When two things that we want are in massive conflict, we do not need to think in terms of sacrifice. It is a trade. We trade something that we want…for something that we want more. Fortunately my heart and mind often are in concordance, and their single arrow shoots ever toward my family. When in doubt, I tell myself, head toward The Family. What is in the best interest of my husband, children, mom, and dad, and extended relations? Usually whatever is in their best interest will be in my best interest, too.

So I let it go. I know I would have had so much fun. I cannot wait to see pictures, and I know my heart will twinge more than a little at missing it. I am happy for the people who got to go. There will be other reunions. And maybe life will happen such that I won’t make those either. We will see. I know I will be back to campus in the next year or two…I hope.

But I learned a thing or two at Stanford when I was there. I learned that if you have a solid ethical and rational basis for making a decision, then you can stand by your decision with all the joy in the world. In the long term, there is no sense of loss, because you acted according to your principles. We can’t all have everything we want all the time, but that doesn’t really matter in the long run. And it may be that someone will always seem to have more, be smarter, etc. If we focus on any of that bogus kind of competition, we lose ourselves. So, we keep working and striving and hoping, and we don’t need to get all fussy/jealous/competitive about it…the way through life is to have a sense of mirth about it ALL. We just need to be here, now. Here, and savoring the simple joys that come to us, or that we create. Here, making the most of what we’ve got. Here, trading one thing for something else and being delighted that we have the ability to make such a trade. It’s almost like being able to see through the Matrix. 😉

So here was my trade: one 10th Stanford reunion for one weekend of beautifully unique memories with my husband, children, and parents. We got to see my dad accomplish a major life goal, and we also got to spend the night at Nana’s (first time for my mom since she was MARRIED 37 years ago, and first time for both of my kiddos). We also kept our commitments to music class and our soccer team, in and of itself an important lesson for my almost-5-year-old.

Life is what we make it. I don’t focus on the not; I celebrate the now. Do I wish I could joined the fun at Stanford this weekend? Part of some other version of me, yes. Am I extremely glad I made the choice I made? Absolutely. Having lived it now, I know it was right for me.

Dinner at Nana’s last night was In-N-Out! We are not usually at Nana’s at night (sometimes we are, on Christmas) anymore, and this was sooooooo cozy! Night at Nana’s reminded me of all the dinners and family birthday parties we had at Nana’s when I was growing up.

Eric is very pleased! All during Katie’s morning soccer game he kept saying, “Me see Nana. Me see Nana.” We didn’t leave for her house until late afternoon, so he was asking hopefully for hours. Both Katie and Eric were excited for the sleepover all week.

Dinner with Nana!

After dinner, we all took showers/baths and got cozy in our pajamas and watched Ichabod and Mr. Toad. I loved bathing my babies in the same tub that my mom and aunts and uncle used to use and that I have used. I cannot find the words to express how meaningful it is for all of us that part of the fourth generation spent a whole night under Nana’s roof.

Eric wanted to cuddle with his Nana. So he took his favorite blanket and his Roo over to her lap. Sweet boy.

More cuddles…. This boy loves Nana with his whole heart. These memories are treasures. I am so thankful that we have them now. What if we had missed out on this? Not possible.

He cuddled with her for a long time…

All of us were so excited to have this sleepover, but possibly Eric was the most vocally enthusiastic. When I put him down in his play yard, he got a big smile and exclaimed, “Me sleep in Nana’s room!” He meant that he was sleeping in one of Nana’s bedrooms…actually we were in Aunt Debbie’s old bedroom. My mom and Katie were in my mom and Aunt Jenny’s old room. Knowing Nana was nearby in her room was so magical. We all peeked in on her in the morning. I’ve never seen Nana sleeping before…

We left early in the morning, while it was still dark. The kiddos said goodbye to Nana. Eric loved the owl on her jammies, and he told me more about it later. Here, Eric is putting his head in her lap and saying, “Me see Nana one more” which in Eric vocabulary means, “I want one more time with Nana” i.e. “Let me stay longer.”

We then drove to the Long Beach Convention Center area, parked a few blocks away, and hoofed it to the half marathon. Katie was an amazing walker! Eric took the stroller. We tried to see the start of the wave, but were not yet crowd savvy enough to do so. We then moved to the finish line and staked out a great spot.

My mom might look stern here, but she was really making a joke with Eric.

Katie and I decided to walk over a bit of a hill and try our luck at catching Dad on mile seven. When we finally spotted him, he was zipping along! We were so busy cowbelling and cheering that I got only a picture of his back! It was exciting to see him doing so well!

Hard to see him unless you know which one he is, but this is a picture of Dad right after he crossed the finish line!

Mom and Dad after the run

Dad and me

Eric checks out Boppa

Katie looks at Boppa’s medal. This is what accomplishment and dedication look like, Katie.

I am so PROUD of my dad. He is 59 years old, and look what he did. All his life he never figured himself to be a runner or even an athlete of any kind, and he had the courage to challenge those assumptions about himself. I am so impressed with him. His hard work inspires me on many of my runs. I am so glad I got the chance to see him do this: I know this achievement will be something I remember about him—and that my kiddos will remember about him—long after he has left this place. He made our universe a better place today by reinforcing the axiom that hard work helps us to achieve goals.

We got the chance to fill our hearts up with family this weekend. However old he grows, Eric will have the memory of cuddles with his Nana on a cozy October night. Katie will remember sleeping in her Amie’s and Great-Aunt’s childhood room. My dad will remember that his family loved him enough and cared enough to organize a whole weekend around his triumph. My kiddos will remember that their grandfather achieved something he never thought he could. I will be the keeper of all these points of our narrative and will press this newly formed history close into my heart so that we may never forget.

October is a month for magic. I am eager to experience all the magic next weekend will hold! Hint: it grows on trees…