Our Notre Dame visits actually started with Tucson Ted since he also earned his undergrad degree there but he and Chris never met until the ACE masters program. Tommy D is another Notre Dame connection as a section-mate to Chris in Flanner. Our next three visits were to the families of Chris’ roommate mainstays until they split up to become Resident Assistants. Duncan is in northern Illinois, Jesus is near Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Ross is in southern Michigan. We were blessed to be able to visit all three on our way home along with a full day visit to campus where so much has changed since they studied there.
Duncan married his high school sweetheart, Madonna, and moved back to their hometown. We took a minor detour and stayed at Starved Rock State Park for one night hoping the Duncans could join us for dinner. We were so excited when Duncan emailed back within minutes to our request and we set plans for a meal at the park lodge. Danny (3) and Maddie (1 ½) provided the entertainment for the evening especially for Lily. After eating, they shared toys and tooted around the table while Madonna snuggled with Lily. We hung out for a while after dinner by the huge fireplace in the lodge. Duncan had Danny share his enthusiasm for the alma mater by saying “Go Irish” and Maddie waltzed around pant-less much of the evening as her pants dried by the fire. We got such a kick out of their energy and playfulness. Maddie and Lily had fun giving kisses and hugging each other. The whole family was up for a camper visit so we drove over and gave the tour. Danny was impressed with the radio and oven and even made us some “ravioli”. We were impressed with Duncan’s choice of vehicle: a boat (with the horn to prove it) of a 1990-something Cadillac in great shape but huge…hilarious. What a joy it was to be able to meet up with the Duncans on such short notice even if only for a few hours.
|The Wys and the Duncans|
If you’ve ever seen National Lampoon’s Christmas you know how we looked pulling into Jesus and Megan Torres’ neighborhood.
We planned on parking in their driveway as Jesus was pretty sure it was long enough and “not too steep”. With a little help from another ND alum, Jack, Chris ‘jacked’ up the camper to level which required several cinderblocks and all of our Lynx Leveler blocks. We turned some heads over the weekend but didn’t generate any complaints. Quintin (3) was extremely patient in waiting to enter the “camp out”. He was so cute in his explorations and asked some entertaining questions: “Why do they have slippery soap?” and “Why does your toilet have a door?” He loved being up on the bed and Megan had to restrain him from jumping between the couch and dinette seats. Corbin (5 months) is a cute roly-poly bundle who weighs about the same as Lily! He is so relaxed and snuggly so we just ate up every minute we got to hold him.
|Meet Jesus (and Corbin)|
I love Jesus’ nicknames for his kids…Corbinski, Corbster, My Quintin, Roo, and many others all said with affection and a smile. We spent the whole weekend with the Torres family; they totally spoiled us with delicious meals and treats from local shops. They treated us to a takeout meal from Out & Out, a ‘no burgers, no fries’ kind of place, and custard for desert on Sunday evening. Megan made chili, salad, and cornbread one day and grilled some traditional Wisconsin brats the next. Quintin and Chris composed a few tunes on the piano while Corbin and Lily hung out with their mommies.
We took a walk to historic Cedarburg and poked around a neat store called Lilies then warmed up a bit by enjoying the playground and park.
|Megan and Me and the snoozing babies|
Chris and Jesus took a serious ride on the merry-go-round and documented it simultaneously with iPhone and video camera. Lily and Corbin slept for most of the adventure and Quintin was a real trooper walking much of the way.
|Jesus & Quintin|
Chris really enjoyed catching up with Jesus and I loved meeting them all since they couldn’t come to our wedding because Quintin was born just a couple of weeks before it. Regardless of the chilly April weather, we enjoyed this visit immensely and hope it works out to be able to spend even more time with them in the future.
We survived Chicago by taking the 294 toll loop around the metro area; it was still congested even at two in the afternoon and after shelling out $17.95 in tolls. We took the scenic route to Potato Creek State Park in Indiana just fifteen miles south of Notre Dame. We spent May 3rd at the campground feeling sleepy and traveled up to campus on the 4th. We were able to see more people than I had anticipated. First, we sought out the ACE office which turned out to be in transition between old and new buildings so we had to search around a bit. We found one of Chris’ most memorable ACE professors, Doc Doyle, and really enjoyed our hour or so chatting with him. It was refreshing to hear him explain that he teaches his social studies teachers to use a few choice concepts rather than dozens of minute facts and dates. This is so contrary to how we’ve been told to teach using state standards and testing for knowledge of minutia, especially in terms of history.
|Doc Doyle in the soon-to-be-old ACE office|
Walking around campus on the last day of classes before exams was pretty neat. I had only been to Notre Dame during the summer for the ACE fifteen year celebration so there were very few students. South Quad was buzzing with backpacks and bicycles; students zipped along cement pathways often plugged into an iPod or cell phone but also moving in small groups chatting. Impromptu Frisbee tosses and lacrosse throw-arounds popped up here and there. We walked through a petting zoo put on by Zahm Hall in North Quad where Lily got to sit on a little pony!
Campus is sprinkled with glorious long beds of tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths. The trees in “God Quad” were blooming and a few vibernum bushes perfumed the air.
|We stopped in at The Grotto|
After a little searching, Chris found Father Joe Corpora in the security building offices and he came out on his way to a meeting to give big smiles and great big hugs to us all. I get such a charge out of Father Joe’s positive energy; my cheeks hurt from smiling whenever I’ve see him.
We found John Staud in the Institute for Educational Initiatives building where Lily enjoyed a short nap as ACE staffers oogled at her peacefulness. John led us up to the attic of the I.E.I to rifle through the ACE t-shirt stash where we each got a few wardrobe additions. Thanks ACE!
Chris, Jesus, and Duncan lived together in Flanner Hall for their first three years at Notre Dame. Flanner was turned into offices their senior year and the guys got split between Knott and Siegfried. Chris and Jesus became RAs in Siegfried while Ross was assigned to RA in Knott Hall. Father John Conley has been rector of Siegfried since their senior year (14 years). All the group pictures of the dorm residents over the years began with the ‘97-‘98 class so Chris and Jesus are immortalized on the wall of fame in the entryway of Siegfried. Father Conley was home so we got to sit with him for a while to catch up and share Lily with him. It’s a tough job being on-campus, in-dorm 24/7 but Father Conley does a great job and we know whatever he does next he’ll apply just as much love and commitment.
We were getting hungry at this point so took the path of least resistance to South Dining Hall. What a smorgasbord. It’s no wonder we all pack on some pounds in college! You could feasibly have cheese fries for dinner every day or bacon for breakfast or ice cream for lunch! There are also a number of salad bars and tons of options but the grease and fat sure is tempting. It’s also tempting to move at the frenetic pace of the students; they know what they want and don’t waste any time getting it (politely but quickly). I had to try to fight my urge to feel hurried and like an impediment to everyone else. After choosing a little of this and that—some mostly healthy, some less healthy—we found a table in the Hogwart’s-esque dining room. Lily slept in the stroller for most of the meal but woke up eventually to enjoy the ocean of people. The guys didn’t tend to react but a number of girls “aaaw”ed at her and Lily, of course, smiled, giggled and bounced in return. Toward the end of our waffles and ice cream dessert the table was filling up toward our end and out of all the chairs at all the tables in this enormous room the one student from Voorhees High School in Glen Gardner, New Jersey sat down next to Chris. Amazing. Chris had Tim in AP Government a year or two ago and so they caught each other up on school and sabbatical while I just marveled at the odds that we’d see him.
We tried to find Jeff Ulrich. He’s a great guy who we met at Immaculate Conception parish when we lived in the farmhouse. We hosted him and a few other youth group members for dinner at our house once and really enjoyed his company. Jeff wasn’t home but we learned that lots of people know him in Siegfried and Knott, where he lives; I was not surprised. Chris left the ubiquitous whiteboard note on Jeff’s dorm room door and we headed to the bookstore to poke around before bidding farewell to the grandeur and charm of Notre Dame.
|Happy with Dad|
Thursday May 5th we drove just a couple hours north to Fort Custer State Park to stay for three nights and visit the last of the roommates: Ross. This park did not make much of a first impression what with the nearly impassible potholes and mostly empty, wooded campground and one-man-non-ranger staff. It felt a little like our New Jersey state parks: understaffed, underfunded, under-maintained and a terrible shame. Granted it is early in the season and certainly a safe place to stay but even I was turned away by the showers: five singletons, four locks, three working shower heads, two frogs, tepid water, spiders, and not enough pressure to wash my hair. I gave up and trotted my frozen self back to the camper. It was, however, intriguing that we noticed a number of people wandering around in the woods here and there. Chris learned that they were mushroom hunting, specifically for morels which sell for up to $45 per pound at market! We set up and enjoyed dinner our first night with the Notre Dame alumni doctors, Ross and Jen, along with their son Jake (4) and daughter Erin (5 weeks). Jake attended our wedding as a ten-month-old and it was so neat to see him miraculously grown up and full of personality! We were surprised when all of a sudden, it seemed, we looked up and it was 9:00. Being so far west in the Eastern Time zone it stays light out until at least nine this time of year. Jake enjoyed the late bedtime and Lily promptly hit the sheets (after a clean doubled up nappy) when we got back to the campground. We planned to join them for the next evening as well so headed out around 4:30 and experienced something new on our drive:
Going along on a 45mph road we encountered a crosswalk with several children waiting to cross. Naturally we stopped and waived them on meanwhile the oncoming traffic did not stop but continued barreling toward these children, one on a bike with training wheels. It reminded me of a mounted quadrille movement called ‘thread the needle’ because it seemed that just as the cars passed, the children continued safely across but neither seemed to yield. The car behind me actually honked at me for stopping at the crosswalk. I was baffled; but maybe the pedestrians just have to wait out here in Michigan.
After another glorious dinner of Panini sandwiches and soup-a-la-Ross, it came up in conversation that perhaps Chris and Ross should build a garden the next day…an ambitious goal but one that is close to Chris’ heart. Ross explained his previous attempts at green thumbing and we offered some tidbits about what we’d learned while building our large garden at the farmhouse. Rabbits were the main concern now for Ross and he seemed pretty excited about having basil and tomatoes in his backyard. The next morning we set out on the half hour drive back to their house, Chris in his boots and Carhartts ready to dig in the dirt! They plotted it out, went shopping for fencing and plants, dug up some lawn, dug in the fence to avoid rabbits slipping under, fluffed up the soil with some compost and manure, planted the seedlings and voila! All in a day’s work.
Meanwhile Jen and I watched the girls and made lunch. Lily enjoyed some quality time in the grass. Now that she can sit up on her own it’s so fun to plunk her down and watch from a short distance away as she explores her surroundings. I hope this garden keeps Ross and Chris communicating a bit more often as I know they enjoyed this project together and I know they both want it to succeed.
We ordered some pretty snazzy pizza and a big salad for dinner but were unsuccessful in treating (my mistake) so accepted another gifted meal from Ross and Jen. After dinner Chris asked Jen—the pediatrician—if she’d confirm his suspicion that Lily had cut her first tooth…Jen was sure she had! This wouldn’t have been strange to me unless I dreamed that Lily’s bottom two teeth magically appeared at the same time the night before…odd. We enjoyed chatting about healthcare and education with these great friends and were better about leaving before dark this last evening with them. We left the Kalamazoo area with a bittersweet feeling given that we had to leave Ross’ family but we also got to leave behind the dysfunctional Fort Custer State Park.
|Jake, Me, Jen, Lily, Chris, Ross, Erin|