Catherine Cobb Morocco

I feel pretty far away from many of you, way out here in Boston, but enjoy keeping up with the political conversations on our listserv. And of course Pomona folks are everywhere—my mother for example, now 94, graduated from Pomona in the class of ’30, and my aunt, Margaret Shipley, now about 88 and an active, successful poet, graduated from Scripps shortly after that, and my brother and sister, also Pomona graduates, live in New York City and Denver, and so many folks around Boston. Every four or five years I go to a conference in San Francisco and get to see Jenny Badger Sultan and catch up with her amazing painting life and our lives.

A theme of my growth over the past 40 years has been balancing creativity and intellectual challenge. At one point these aspects were in paralysis. My recurring dreams were of carrying two fragile babies, each the size of a small fingernail, one male (intellect in my family mythology) and the other female (creativity, motherhood). Keeping them alive and then nurturing their growth into real beings has been a lifelong task, and I’ve come a long way. Living seems less an internal struggle of polarities than a tapestry of relationships, professional purpose, spiritual quest, and neighborhood. To give a flavor, here are some threads from the weaving.

My daughter, Antonia (in the picture with me, taken last year), is writing the prospectus for her psychology doctoral dissertation this week, while her fiancé takes off for a 600 mile bicycle trip from Amsterdam to Padua, his parents’ birth place. In June she will be married in our garden in Newton before they begin life in New York City where he will be a surgery resident and she will do an “externship” and write her thesis.

My son, Christopher, is finishing a junior year abroad in Paris from Oberlin College, studying philosophy, literature, film. When my husband and I finally visited him for a long weekend two weeks ago, we walked through the monumental city in the cold beautiful rain and, with his now fluent French, he managed our visits to cafes, museums, his small apartment north of the city.

I have published a series of poems about my son and his relationship with violence and war. Sound odd? He is the first generation of boys for some time to avoid a major war, yet it crops up in his life everywhere. He told me last summer that he has had an air rifle in his closet for a few years (in my house?). His best friend, Ben Isaac, has been in Jerusalem all year and was deafened by one of the bomb explosions near him. I try to sort out what manhood is and how mothers help their sons grow up to be peacemakers.

My husband, David, with only our work and our fine dog living with us now, traveled together to Italy for the first time last fall, three weeks after 9/11, and I fell in love with Florence. We are starting to travel other places, after years of focusing on children and neighbors and work.

As a late bloomer, it’s taken me a while to evolve my own work so that it seems meaningful. I have a number of projects related to school reform and will be publishing a book on three high-performing urban middle schools that we studied for three years. The schools taught us what is possible in integrated magnet schools, all-Hispanic schools, and schools that are diverse with migrant students, new Haitian immigrants, and established white kids. My purpose is to contribute to unlocking opportunities for all kids to develop their intellectual potential. I am interested in how adolescents learn to use writing to strengthen their academic learning and build their identities.

It's a frightening time to be alive. One goal for the next year is to unhinge myself some from constant listening to NPR news analysis, and to learn more about the constructive projects that are sustaining our creative thinking as a planet. Any ideas?

Because of my daughter’s wedding, I cannot be at the reunion. I will be thinking about us all.