Although we’ve tried to make Oxford our home and really enjoy this new place, the demands of small children and work haven’t left us much time or energy to make a lot of friends in Oxford–particularly those who might be here for more than six months or a year. We’ve been fortunate, however, to have many friends from “home” swing by as part of their own travels. Last week Jared and Rebekah, who live in Virginia, stopped here on the first leg of their travels through Europe. They were very patient as we tried to combine sightseeing around Oxford with two small, wriggly, “no!”-asserting creatures. Later, when Katherine appropriated them for book-reading purposes (she makes most visitors to the house read to her), I realized that our three-year-old was sitting between two teachers. I am guessing that that had much to do with their patience as they read (and re-read!) stories to her.
Other friends are here for work, though we take every opportunity to distract them from it. Flora has been in Oxford for the last six months, and, though she was Sydney’s classmate at Cornell, I’ve decided to steal her from him. Flora likes food, walks, children, and study sessions, so she and I developed a routine of meeting up at the library a few mornings each week to ensure that each of us actually got to the library on a regular basis. Other days we would meet up (sometimes with kids in tow) for a walk and tea and whatever treats she and I had created or unearthed. She found really good dried mango in town, makes wonderful homemade pretzels, and likes oatcakes almost as much as Nathaniel and Katherine. Early this morning, however, she took a plane back to Ithaca, and I’m really going to miss having her drop by on a regular basis.
A few weeks ago, I ran after a woman on the street and, once I’d finally gotten her attention, confirmed that it was indeed my friend Maria, whom I’d known back at college. She’s here for a master’s program and will be in town through the summer. We’ve already had one great tea session (timed perfectly to coincide with nap time in my house, so that we could complete our sentences), and I’m hoping to meet up with her more before she, too, moves on. Needless to say, I am very glad that I happened to take the kids for a walk down that street at that particular time, and that I let myself be “that crazy American woman” for a minute while I chased her down.
This fall I am guessing we will be very busy: Sydney and I will both be on the job market, and any spare time is likely to be taken up with teaching (Sydney) research, lectures, and other work-related events (both). When I attended a recent English talk, one of the last of the academic year, I realized that I actually knew several of the people in the room. Networking and mingling becomes a lot more pleasurable–and possible–once you have already built up acquaintances. I’m already looking forward to the events in the fall, though Sydney and I are both glad to have the summer to take the kids outside and take care of some of our own projects before the school year starts again; we don’t finish here until the end of June, but we don’t start again until October!