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July 22, 2004
Mostly we breakfast with the Weltis at Kenyon -- they happen to be in the cafeteria at the same time we are most days. Their grandson is ten years old. I could see that a business transaction was going on between grandfather and grandson.

The tooth fairy is short some money, Grandma explained.

It's so hard to find a good fairy today, I sympathized.

The fairy business hasn't been the same since they unionized, the grandfather said. Do you have any change? he said to the little boy, who pulled out his wallet and extracted from it a wad of dollar bills.

That child's got more money than you have, I told him. The tooth went missing in the night, and I guess the fairy, who usually leaves an offering on under the pillow, couldn't find Gambier. It's a small town.

Donald Ray has shot up since we saw him last year -- he's grown at least six inches. But he's still skinny as a snake, in the manner of boys that age. Other children at the Kenyon Conference have also changed -- awkward preteen girls have become confident young women, squeaky-voiced boys have completed their manly baritones, and some of them sport skimpy beards.

And yet we, the parents, seem not to have changed. Graciously and without words, we all agree to ignore one another's sagging countenances and bodies -- I will not call attention to your deterioration if you will also ignore mine. It is a workable arrangement.

Why do you keep coming back here? a friend asks me. I first attended the Kenyon Conference as its keynoter in 1996, and Q and I have returned every year since, I missing only once or twice for reason of illness. In that time, we have come to love the countryside of Ohio and its people. Things are smaller and slower, the people openhearted and eager to learn and think. Q has taught short stories, poems. Last night we did a reading of Eliot's "Sweeney Agonistes."

There are plenty of readings to go to in New York -- we are not starved for culture there. But there is a delight in coming away from the place where we usually are, a delight in sharing the things we love with beloved people we don't see every day, in letting them share what they love with us. We treasure them because of their rarity in our lives.

And Kenyon makes us treasure home, too, in a new way. I have this at home, we think. I can do this at home. I am rich at home, too, in the things that really matter. The Eucharist is the same at home, the same simple table of grace and love, no matter where it is celebrated.

Tomorrow we will return. Back to our garden, our mail, our cats, our computer, our obligations. It will be a year until we come back to the tiny town of Gambier. Some of the children here won't really be children at all next year, and some of the adults will be more changed than any of us will be prepared to admit. But the delight will be here again, because it travels with the people who come here. We all bring our own delight wherever we go.
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