Meal Time Sustenance
By Craig Gemmell
Head of School
It seems more and more as I settle in here to life at Brewster and in Wolfeboro that I’m carving out time to have dinner with students. I don’t know why this happened; for a while I thought it had something to do with the focus a meal together brings to a conversation – and that heading off campus during some of these meals was both a good diversion for students and a good way for me to spend time in the town I’ve grown to love.
Wednesday night I got back from the alpine ski races just in time to pick up seniors Saeed and Mohamed outside of Lord House at six sharp. Nolan’s – our first stop – was packed, so we made our way down to the more distant but equally tasty Bayside Grille, located appropriately, on Back Bay.
In ordering, Saeed quickly picked barbecued chicken pizza – good choice – and we just started talking, meandering through ideas while the pizza cooked. I, in truth, was mostly quiet, because they just started riffing – on their love of their new school, the reality that Saeed and Mohamed live five minutes from each other in Abu Dhabi – nearly 7,000 miles from the ‘boro.
They got deeper. They both spoke of their lineage – from Bedouins a few generations ago to residents of an affluent 21st century cultural epicenter. And of their grandfathers, with whom they both live. And of the gatherings that happen every night, where they gather and listen quietly to learn from their elders about matters that have been conveyed for millennia to the next generation.
A question lingered in my mind. How do they navigate the countercurrents of their lives given that they are straddling so many cultures here in Wolfeboro and at home? But Saeed answered before I even asked by invoking words of his father: “When passing people, never look up toward the stars, look down at the ground and remember from where you came.”
Two funny, bright, kind boys – who picked up the check before I was able to. The words of their elders clearly shaped them magnificently. While they might not realize it, they are elders themselves.
Driving home, I thought: may I do the same conveying to my sons; may I help to strengthen a culture based upon relationship, conversation, conviviality; and may I myself both look to the ground and encourage others to do the same, for there is where our intertwined values are rooted. As I strive to do all of these things, I’ll keep heading to Estabrook and town with others in tow for all the sustenance the meal brings.