Monday, May 5, 2008

The Spirits of Lebanon, Part 10

In a basket on our breakfast table is a book of graces my family has used for many years. One of those graces contains this sentiment: "Grant unto us a due sense of appreciation, for those whose hearts and hands have wrought for us." This was written by a Charles D. Brodhead.

I have no way of knowing for sure that this prayer was penned by the Charles D. Brodhead who was assistant headmaster at Darrow School in the 1960s, but the words "hearts and hands" sound awfully Shaker, and our Wednesday "Hands to Work" had no more enthusiastic proponent than Mr. Brodhead.

He seemed ancient to us then, but I am now as old as he was then, and I don't feel ancient at all. Charles Brodhead was a brilliant man, educated at Princeton and Oxford, and a teacher all his life. He was also a bit eccentric. We'd see him marching through the woods and up and down the lane, carrying a walking stick and wearing a tam-o'-shanter, and we'd snicker. "Crazy Charlie" is what we'd call him.

Even though, in our view, he was at Death's door at age 60, he was a strong and healthy man. He coached the wrestling team. He kept his big feet in hiking boots, and his big, gnarled hands were often mahogany brown with the stain of black walnuts. But it was his wild, piercing eyes that made him look a little teched.
We were in the early years of the age of individuality, of nonconformity, when people were urged to "do their own thing," yet we students were intolerant of deviation from our established standards of fashion and behavior and subjected people who were different to ridicule, and worse.

I have written here of the quaint and comical aspects of my Darrow experience; they are pleasant to remember. But there was a darker side to life on the mountain. Darrow could be a cruel place, and torturous for those who did not fit in.

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