Friday, April 24, 2015

Hoosier Holiday

Just back from a relaxing, enjoyable week in the Heartland, visiting son Eric at IU. Great meals, fun entertainment, sightseeing and re-exploring the college life with afternoon naps included! We did everything from a student Soul Revue to the museums and sights of Indianapolis and Bloomington and an afternoon in Nashville (alas, Indiana, not Tennessee!). We visited a few local parks and lakes and walked the beautiful IU campus, just coming into full springtime bloom, with redbud trees and ornamental cherry and plum.

Mario Andretti
A highlight definitely for Gary and Eric: the Indianapolis Motor Speedway tour.  I poked fun at the exciting brochure description: see the Media Room, the luxury boxes, Gasoline Alley and.....the garages! Ride in a bus around the world famous track.  Really? I could hardly contain myself, having never even seen the race on TV and being unfamiliar with its history or traditions. And there are quite a few traditions. The winner kneels and kisses the bricks at the finish line, a narrow strip of Indiana brick, the last remnants of a now asphalt covered track that started out as a cinder track and evolved into a completely brick covered one. (That had to be a bumpy ride.) The winner also drinks milk on the victory platform-- a wise marketing move by the Dairy Council from the early days when a farmboy winner was caught on film drinking buttermilk. Mother knows best and she had impressed on her son the restorative value of a long drink of milk after an exhausting day at the race course. Today they keep on hand the milk preference of each of the 33 entrants, be it almond, buttermilk, skim or whole. The only requirement is it must be white--no strawberry flavored or chocolate allowed.

There's a speed demon hidden in all of us!

Our tour guide urged us to return some day to experience the 3 hour race, to feel the rumble of the sleek cars, the roar of the jet engines and bring your own picnic cooler lunch and drinks. All I could conjure up was an image of me slathered in suntan lotion, ear plugs in place, sitting uncomfortably on backless bleachers next to drunken fans. But, I will be tuning in Sunday May 24 to see what that media room looks like live and confirm that bricks are indeed kissed.

Another interesting site was Benjamin Harrison's house--a beautiful 3 story home that belonged to the 23rd president, the only one elected from Indiana. I dare you to name something he did during his 1 term from 1889-1893, sandwiched between the two Grover Cleveland terms. Are you stumped? His wife, Caroline Scott Harrison, actually seemed more accomplished--a water color  artist, first DAR president, only First Lady to create her own china pattern and personally resposible for rescuing other presidents' china from the basement of the White House to a place of honor. She was the Jackie Kennedy of the 19th Century.

Beautiful house and we managed to avoid the school groups!
Benjamin, grandson of President William Henry Harrison (who served exactly one month before dying from pneumonia), lost his 2nd election bid. His beautiful Caroline was dying of tuberculosis and the president restricted his campaigning. He returned to a law practice in Indianapolis and developed a close friendship with his deceased wife's devoted niece, who had been her White House social secretary. You guessed it-- after a few years, their friendship turned to love despite the 25 year age difference and the fact that it seems a bit creepy to marry your wife's niece.

Our two portly docents provided one on one attention to us--an hour and a half tour. They were lovely and well informed, and I felt guilty as they wheezed and groaned ascending to the 3rd floor ballroom. We saw it all!

I have to say my favorite part of the trip was seeing Eric teaching two classes and meeting his friends and professors at the departmental dinner. It's hard to believe that the little boy who was too shy to ring doorbells at Halloween now commands his student audience, mike in hand, regaling them with questions, stories and funny comments.

Gary and I slipped into comparing today's college students to our own experiences with perhaps a few too many sentences that began "Now back in my day..."  In today's lecture hall there wasn't a notebook in sight. Laptops and phones dominated the landscape and, of course, the ever present water bottle. I don't know how our generation managed to evade severe dehydration...back in the day.

OK there are 2 things!
Eric's teaching techniques were incredible.  He was able to get and hold their attention and stimulate some spirited discussion even though the lecture hall held over 170 students (not all present this late in the semester). I particularly liked how he exhorted them to hold up their phones over their heads and then put them away in their pockets, followed by a dramatic closing of the laptops. It works! I think we all know the addictive pull of our technological toys and I liked the discussion on this effect on communication, relationships and wellness.

It's so much fun to be a parent and see your child thriving in his own environment. Two years at IU have flown by quickly. I made reservations for graduation next May. Who else wants to come? The Heartland is calling!