This post was written by Rebecca, mom of Quin ’09 and Faith ’17.
Each child is different, I was telling myself, taking a nostalgic walk around the George School campus. Be the best mother you can be and allow them to follow their own hearts. I was back in Newtown for a revisit day with my youngest child, Faith. She was weighing the pros and cons of enrolling as a boarder at George School, just as her older brother, Quin, had seven years ago.
Quin, now 22, started at George School in the fall of 2006. He was a dispirited 14-year-old, given to wearing the hood of his sweatshirt up so that his face was hidden. While he had never known failure, he had also never known ease in school. Over-measured, frequently-tested, quantified and profiled, he had all but disappeared under that hood. I knew my boy was in there, my magical and quirky child who could figure out how to take apart my Kitchenaid mixer and fix it, my marvelously funny kid who could read a room better than he could read a book, but I couldn’t quite find him.
Leaving him at George School was a leap of faith for me and relief for him. Quin discovered himself during his years there, somewhere between that third floor room in Orton and Carter’s woodshop. The hood came down, the smile was easy on his face. He grew tall and winsome; he made a lot of jokes. He hijacked the Westtown moose head. I got comments from the Admissions Office, where his co-op was to be a tour guide.
“We love Quin. We just wish he wouldn’t give tours in his pajamas.”
“What?” he asked when confronted. “It makes people realize they can be comfortable here.”
He also had his struggles. I became more intimate with the Dean’s office than I wished. I sought solace on the porch of Main with Jenna, his advisor who quickly became mine, too. Between the struggles, he was encouraged. He learned that he would be valued after making a mistake, maybe even more so for having fallen down, gotten up, and dusted himself off. He found himself to be a gifted artist, a valued friend, a trusted ally.
His senior year, he took an unfinished hunk of wood and made it into a glowing bowl with a deep curve to the rim. When he gave it to me, he explained that the weight of the bowl would settle into the shape of my palm, making the heavy thing almost weightless. He found, in this elegantly articulate way, the marriage between form and function, between the prosaic and the lyric, the beauty in the every day. And he did it without words.
Now Faith, his sister, was thinking about coming to George School. Her brother was on the west coast in design school, distant enough in time that only a handful of faculty would describe her as “Quin’s sister” rather than Faith. Still, as the youngest of four, she wanted her own place, her own story, her own adventure. She didn’t want to walk in anyone’s footsteps.
I wanted her to have the same revelatory experience her brother had; I wanted her to learn there are many different paths, all equally valuable, to finding your gifts. I wanted her at George School, where I knew she would be seen and heard, not just measured and tested. I wanted to take her by her slim shoulders and say “This is your place, not just your brother’s.”
I knew I couldn’t pick a school for her; I knew I had to let her choose for herself. So on that revisit day, I took one last long walk around George School, stopping where Quin had graduated, so dapper in his jacket that day, all the white of the girls’ dresses, the green of the grass, the light so kind and sweet and soft after those dark first days.
I said a silent thank you to George School and got into the car with Faith, ready to hear she had decided to go to a different school, a new place where she could make her own way.
I started the car and drove the long way out, past the barn.
“I’m going to George School,” Faith said before I had pulled out into traffic.
“I feel like the people here are good to each other all the time, not just when other people are watching.”
And so it begins.
A new path.