Day 46: a Conspiracy of Gratitude
Princeton "inspired" starvation of the feminine, loneliness, yes…
…but also offered cherished moments of connections with those whose approval became significant for me. Did this pathway to establishment mean the connections did not have heart or integrity? No. I feel genuine affection, even love, for these persons (most men, of blessed memory). Did the connections require a trickster-charm that spoke reverence, spiced with impishness? ABSOLUTELY.
One particular moment was borne when I took my worship professor to lunch. It was pleasant enough, though not memorable for me (or him, probably). While I don’t remember precisely what stories of gratitude I named, there are some real beauties, connected to remarkable human beings—Dr. Cullen Story, Greek professor; Dr. Wentzel van Huyssteen, theology & science; David A. Weadon, director of music and the touring choir; Deo Gloria, our a capella vocal group that bonded friends tightly amidst choral performances; internships including one in Marietta Ohio… I remember Dr. Kay saying, “President Gillespie always gets the squeaky wheels; he never gets to hear these kinds of stories…” Our conversation meandered onward, but an image had landed in my awareness that would not be shaken.
I called the President’s Office to set up an appointment. His office rescheduled it twice until it seemed liked it would actually happen the week of Commencement (1996). Anxiety rose sharply that morning. What in the world was I thinking? What was I meeting the President for again?
My impish-trickster self kicked in. I purchased some items and made preparations, carrying a knap-sack with me. I arrived at the Office about 3 minutes early, when I was shepherded into the inner sanctum. I saw a presidential desk, two wing-back chairs in front of a fire-place, a fancy round table with papers upon it. He probably felt awkward himself, but my nerves were all I knew at the time.
“Can we clear this table?” I asked him, pointing to the round table.
“Do you need it?” he asked, a bit hesitantly.
“I do, actually,” I said with a smile.
He startled and moved to clear off the papers. I picked up the table and placed it between the chairs. [Now, I see how I took control of the space, creatively, unexpectedly…something I’m sure was quite unfamiliar for him. Such is the gift of impishness with powerful men.] Out of my shoulder bag, I brought out what I had packed: a place-mat, two wine glasses, and a bottle of chardonnay (non-alcoholic, because the Seminary campus was supposed to be dry). I uncorked the wine bottle to the characteristic pop! and poured us both a glass. He was smiling already.
We spent perhaps 30-45 minutes immersed in my gratitude, stories, toasting Godde’s graces at Princeton Seminary. Laughing, he whispered for me to hide the bottle when I left. Another professor’s wife, a complete tee-totaler, was waiting to see him. We were a conspiracy of gratitude, which still lives in me today. These stories begin to pile up, in Spirit's artistry.