The Power of Places and the People they bring you – A love letter to Oldfields School

Oldfields School 150th Reunion (April 2017)

Hello Friends!

As I’ve mentioned in past posts, I’m newly afflicted with the “wake up in the middle of the night with my brain on fire” syndrome – and yes, I get that this is part of the “magic” of my age which I’m totally game to embrace. However, while I’m still trying a myriad of techniques to get through the “hour(s) of awake” so that I don’t turn into a total zombie during daylight hours – I’m also trying to not lose all the vivid images that fill my brain in those weird, wee hours of the night. If only I could figure out how to get/let folks comment on my blog, I feel certain everyone reading has a suggestion of what to do or not do. I can feel them! (Sign up for wordpress Reader app and read me there?)

So, this past week, I had one of these dreams… but since I wasn’t asleep it wasn’t actually a dream, it was really just a technicolor clear flashback to a special series of days in the Spring of 1991. I remember the day (and series of days) in bright detail because they were “moments that changed my life forever” kind of moments. I’m forever grateful for the magic of that time which opened the door for me to meet to an incredibly special handful of the most important people in my life – all at once. They, in turn, brought me to a place where I grew up and became much who I am now and where I met a flock of the most amazing people who I hold most dear in my life to this day. It was such a big day. It was 28 years ago. And, I feel like I just went back in time to watch it again… and I’m reliving it, reflecting on it, and of course, sharing it with you!

Here’s the flashblack as a thumbnail (I apparently have big thumbs) –

March 1991: The magpie is in her 4th year at UVA, applying for jobs that will scratch her “make the world a better place” itch, while reflecting her post-Spain epiphany that working in development in another country is not as compelling as she thought it was (because from overseas, our country looked like it needed plenty of help). These included Teach for America, US P.I.R.G. (is that even around anymore?), one random marketing job with the tiny startup on Capitol Hill that became the Advisory Board (and would’ve paid 10 times the rest), and a number of independent school teaching jobs. The private school idea really came of my belief that Teach for America would never select me due to all the incredible good fortune, excellent education and every imaginable advantage I had enjoyed over my first 20 years of life – what could I possible offer to them? So, I answered the call of the independent school placement agencies (Carney Sandoe etc), and decided to go to the annual conference of the NAIS (National Association of Independent Schools) where they ran their annual cattle-call of hiring in the Spring.

In 1991 the conference was held in NYC, so I took a field trip from C’ville to the Big Apple! I am a bit blurry on how I got there, I have to guess it was the train because I know I flew from Newark to meet my parents for Spring Break in Steamboat, the only time we’d ever gone there together and the first time I’d skied in March (so warm & sunny!). The super-fun part of that trip was that I stayed with my SUPER AWESOME Kappa Delta Sorority Sister, “Big Kim” and her roomie (another awesome KD) Colette. I have very fond, if fuzzy, memories of going out with them near their apartment the night I got there… thinking it was a Friday. Then, on Saturday I went to NAIS which was hosted in some big hotel (would be fun to figure out where). As I recall, there was a very low-tech sort of communication system where you looked for your name on a sort of bulletin board, covered with little envelopes and schools would put their names in your timeslots if they wanted to meet you – in sort of a speed dating setup. I recall sitting in a big ballroom with lots of tables and people having quick conversations (this part is fuzzy), and I THINK I met Nancy Maslack at one of those tables. What I KNOW happened next, is that I was invited for a 2nd conversation with the team from Oldfields School. I had never heard of this place, ever. The 2nd meeting must’ve happened the following day, sort of like “call-backs”.

That fateful next meeting was upstairs in the hotel, in what felt like a suite, and that’s where and when I met and spent time with 3 people who changed my life: Hawley Rogers, Nancy Maslack and Jan Scott – the leadership team of Oldfields School in 1991. This is the moment that my life changed. It’s clear as could be now, looking back. But, I wonder, did I realize it then? I remember that I felt so at home with them, so honored to be meeting with them (in their fancy suite!) and it just seemed so clear that I’d found where I was supposed to be. It might have even seemed a little too good to be true. Of course, like all big days… you rarely know it’s big until it’s over. And, as a 21 year old child, I was as enamored by the whole “big city” experience of interviewing in NYC as anything else – so I don’t know whether I knew I’d found my home, but I certainly had.

April 1991: As I recall, the next step job-wise was that I scheduled to go to Oldfields and drove there for the next round of interviews. With some lingering version of walking pneumonia (I think), I drove there on April 1st. I remember that date and that drive so clearly, in the original CALIHOO (1985 White Grand Cherokee). It was a grey & rainy morning, driving up from Arlington, taking exit 24 – Belfast Road- off of 83 north and loving the mist, the green, the rolling hills, the horsie-ness. It was literally a drive into the next chapter of my life. While I don’t recall that much about the day of interviews as I do about the drive, I do everso vividly remember sitting in the Papa-san chair of my now dear, dear sister-friend, Wawa, in her apartment above the Admissions Office (later my dear friend TAG’s apartment)… and thinking I’d just me someone who I hoped would be in my life forever. And she has been! Love you Wa!!

Thankful beyond measure. All of this just leads me to offer this post as a “love letter” and a prayer of heartfelt gratitude for the Place that is Oldfields and the People who both brought me there and found me there. Thank you Hawley! Thank you Nancy!

And thanks beyond thanks to the amazing woman, Jan Scott, who invested so much of herself in helping me become the best me I could be. One day I’ll just write an entire post in her honor, with my love and gratitude for her extraordinary mentorship. It is her beaming smile that I most miss. I still feel the warmth of her. Such a teeny little person, packing such a huge punch in the world … like a great big ball of super-charged sunshine, bursting with energy, light, ideas, enthusiasm and life. All these many years since she left us to watch over us like an angel above. Reminding us to “breathe” to “dance” and, always, to “go for it”.

The five years I spent in that amazing community were powerfully transformational. I am really just in awe of how deep the relationships are that I formed there – such that I can wake up in the middle of the night feeling the connection to each of you like a physical bear hug. I am profoundly thankful to each and everyone one of you.

While a big part of me wants to just start typing a huge long list of all the people who fill my brain with the memories of those 5 years (teachers, students, parents, colleagues…fellow travelers, prospective students…), I’m going to forego the exercise and instead, bury you in photos I dug up and took in celebration of the 150th Anniversary at OS in 2017. Enjoy! (And beware, I’m seriously in tears of love & joy & nostaglia as I’m posting them.)

Closing with a shameless PSA – I’d really love to start getting some comments on my posts, but it seems the only way to do this is for folks to install the WordPress App, log in and read & comment there. Click here to read how to do this. I’d love to hear from you – especially if you are one of the many, many gifts that Oldfields gave to me.

Looking ahead to future reflections, I’m starting a list of the places that have helped me become who I am – and if you find a way to reply to this post, I’d love to hear your lists!

  • The Barn at the Brumfields, Carmel Valley, CA
  • Bishop’s School, La Jolla, CA
  • Camp Strawderman, Woodstock, VA
  • University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
  • Semester Abroad in Valencia, Spain
  • Oldfields School, Glencoe, MD
  • Riggs Bank, Washington, DC
  • Virginia Economic Development Partnership
  • 301 S Henry Street, Alexandria, VA
  • MAVA
  • ….. now, Saratoga Springs, NY!

4 thoughts on “The Power of Places and the People they bring you – A love letter to Oldfields School”

  1. Oldfields is imprinted on my soul as strongly as it is on yours, though in different ways. It’s the only school that I’ve worked at that I dream about regularly, and I’m in touch with way more students from there than from any of the other schools at which I’ve worked.

    I will never get over having to miss Oldfields 150. It stings to this day.

    PS: what the hell was going on with my hair in those rain photos? Jeez. I might have to dig up a few old photos just to counter those.

  2. I cant believe I made it i to your blog!! I feel like a celebrity!! I wonder if I could dig up pics from that NYC weekend…

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