By Jane Stephenson, Parent of a Sophomore
I realize that most parents never get to come to campus, and that I, as a day parent, have that privilege twice a day. And, while I never leave my car, I know that this experience gives me a unique insight into the pleasure and purposefulness, the camaraderie and industry of the Putney School community, even in pandemic times. Each time I come to campus I am struck by what appears to be 100% mask compliance. The students seem so utterly at ease with masking.
One afternoon, I accidentally got to campus a few minutes before soccer practice was over and it gave me a chance to really take in Putney’s full bounty. Every single person I saw was masked. Not a single one seemed bothered by this mandate. It was a classic New England fall day—sunny with a deep blue sky, windy enough that the leaves were whipping around enchantingly as if conjured in a spell. As I was driving up the service road, I saw a group of kids striding down towards the road, in the llama and solar field. Gaining momentum, a few put their arms out, snow-angle style, and flew down the hill, in huge, leaping bounds. I drove further up and saw another group of kids working in the garden. As they harvested, they’d occasionally pop their heads up, like meerkats, to tell a joke or show each other something they’d dug up. Soon, I encountered another small herd of teenagers, riding their bikes past my car. Almost to a one, they made eye contact with me, through my windshield, giving a nod or wave. While I was stopped for the bikes, several kids skipped by, singing, and carrying bundles of giant leafy greens they seem to have harvested. As I drove further up the hill, I saw a dance class, outside of Currier Hall. The dancers swooped and dipped like cranes—limbs, hair, wind and leaves wheeling wildly. Slowly continuing on my way to the soccer field, I saw several pairs of kids walking and talking animatedly, loaded down with cameras, video, and sound equipment. One stopped to pet a black dog, eventually plopping to the ground in order to get really good snuggle time with the lab. I rounded the corner and chuckled to see that the puddle’s raft, pirate flag whipping in the breeze, had become unmoored and was bumping lazily on the far shore of the pond.
I parked near the barn to wait for the soccer scrimmage to be over. As I watched, two kids brought a calf out for exercise. The calf and her handlers elatedly ran along the side of the soccer field, easily keeping pace with the student dribbling the ball. The calf cavorted and kicked and bucked and almost immediately some of the kids imitated her. When the ball rolled very far out of bounds, one player scrambled to grab it. Meanwhile, others on the field spontaneously broke into gymnastics—cartwheels, backbends, and hand springs. Others took a minute to kiss the calf. Soon the ball was back in play and the calf was tuckered out, ready to head back. Just as she crossed the road, a pick-up truck slowly rumbled to the stop at the barn, and a bunch of kids, clad in muck boots, rolled-up pants, flannel shirts and work gloves, tumbled out of the bed. They jogged over to the calf, crouched down and each took a turn to nuzzle her, nose to nose.
I basked in the sun, in my vehicular bubble, watching the soccer match and marveling at the joy that so universally and naturally seemed to romp through the campus. I wish every Putney parent could have this experience, but thought I might at least record mine.