I've just returned from a trip up to Oberlin to attend the wedding of my niece, who is an Oberlin alumna, as is her new husband. Well, actually he's an alumnus, not an alumna, but I won't delve too deeply into that.
If living in Athens, Ohio, is a little like taking a trip back to the Summer of Love, living in Oberlin must be a little like taking a trip back to the early 1970s. Much hippiedom was in evidence, though of a clearly later vintage than what one finds in Athens, where tie-dye is still popular and deodorant unpopular. I've only been to Oberlin a few times in my life, so I can't really say for sure what life there would be like, but it seems little changed since the first time I went there, which was indeed in the early 1970s, when my class took regular field trips over there to hear concerts and attend plays. More recently I was there once or twice to visit my niece when she was still in school, and it was as if I'd never left the place. This past weekend was no different in that regard.
In some ways that kind of stasis is a salutary thing. Oberlin has always been famous as a place where widely accepted bigotries and injustices were rejected and openly defied. Oberlin was the first college to admit women, blacks, Native Americans, and it was a prominent station along the Underground Railroad. Students used to organize diversions to distract and foil the "slave catchers" who would come north from Southern states. It was pressure from citizens of Oberlin and other like-minded places that got legislation passed that made it mandatory for "slave catchers" to have exact identifications of the "slaves" they were catching--which, happily, was often difficult if not impossible to obtain. That sort of moral rectitude is still much in evidence in and around Oberlin, Ohio, and visiting the place makes one proud to be an Ohioan.
We stayed at a bed and breakfast just outside of town called Hallauer House, which was built in 1830 and which served as a hiding place for fugitive slaves. The proprietor had only recently discovered a "holler hole", a secret opening into underground storage areas through which escaped blacks could be warned of approaching danger.
The weather was beautiful, too, and I enjoyed attending Mass on Pentecost Sunday at a parish not far from downtown. It was fun seeing my nieces again and meeting some parts of the family that I'd never met before. All in all it was almost worth spending eight hours in a car with my own children.
Just kidding. It was great. No, really, I love bickering children. Mostly they got along fine, actually--it was only when we were all trapped in a car together that things got a little frazzled. Olivia, quite beautiful in her long yellow dress, lived it up at the reception, dancing like a dervish to some really great music provided by a jazz trio. Michael and I played chess and ping-pong, and he showed some signs of getting to the stage where he's going to start whipping my ass at both. He already whips my ass at soccer and basketball, so I suppose I should have known that it would only be a matter of time before he started dominating me in everything else. Time for me to decrease, and him to increase--it's what a parent lives for, and it makes life worth living.