A winter of learning: Learning in Retirement programs offer a bit of everything

  • Nina Scott Nina Scott

Published: 1/25/2022 1:54:05 PM
Modified: 1/25/2022 1:52:51 PM

Just to make sure that our minds don’t lie fallow too long, Five College Learning in Retirement offered five different programs during the January break. I have attended at least one session from each program; some met just once, others several times.

“Time to Take a Break” is an informal group which meets at 10:30 a.m. to talk about whatever we wish. As Francie Borden, the convener, said: “Bring your coffee and a muffin and talk about whatever is on your mind.” We did.

Suzie Metz, a newcomer from Ohio who was a school librarian, said, “It was so lovely to meet you all and spend a cold winter morning in such warm company.”

Katy van Geel, never one to sit for very long, spent the time moving around her kitchen baking scones, and then shared the recipe with us. It’s too bad that you can’t taste on Zoom.

“Anecdotage.” This class met twice. A small group, they shared stories and personal remembrances.

Nancy Denig shared a riveting story about her past. She and her late husband, Bob Denig, an Episcopal clergyman, lived in Frankfurt, Germany for five years (1979-1984). One Friday he told Nancy that a young Frenchman named Philippe came into his office and reported that he had lost his passport and his money, and needed a place to stay until Monday, when he could replace his passport. Nancy and Bob agreed that he could stay with them for the weekend.

He was a most pleasant guest, at a small party and at a dinner with friends. On Monday morning he left, with effusive thanks to Nancy and Bob for their hospitality. A little while later when Bob went down to their garage, he found that their car was gone — Philippe had stolen it.

They reported it to the German police, who were incredulous that they had taken a complete stranger into their home; miraculously, Philippe was stopped at the French border and retaken into custody. He had apparently escaped from prison for robbery, so no wonder he had neither a passport nor any money.

We asked Nancy if in retrospect she and Bob were sorry they had taken Philippe in. “No,” she said. “Extending hospitality is very important.”

“Abortion and the Supreme Court.” This group met twice, and showed us what amazing legal minds we have in our midst: Laura Frossard, from Oklahoma, (who told us “My home state can come up with some really bad laws”), and local lawyers Jay Russell, Bennet Jaffee and Elizabeth Davis, who is a Mount Holyoke graduate.

A lot of the finer legal points were over my head, but certain points did stand out for me. There is nothing in the Constitution about abortion. The Mississippi law makes no exceptions for rape or incest. The Texas SB8 law removed the state from enforcement and allowed private persons to sue people helping with abortions for $10,000.

The kicker for me was the opinion put forth by Amy Coney Barrett, a practicing Catholic and mother of many. In her opinion, “a mother’s option to give a baby up for adoption meant that abortion was not necessary.” And she is on the Supreme Court?

All the lawyers agreed that Roe v. Wade would probably be overturned. Ben Jaffee felt the way the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg had felt as well: that the law could have been written less broadly to make its acceptance easier.

“Gold Diggers of 1933: Busby Berkeley and the Rise of the Movie Musical.” Met once. Berkeley was a gifted choreographer of whom I had never heard, but after looking at some of his numbers on YouTube I was amazed at his genius. Have a look — you won’t be sorry.

“Gardeners’ Roundtable.” Meets four times. I am not a gardener, but I do like to grow and keep herbs and to harvest the many daffodils which come up all by themselves in my garden every spring.

It was refreshing to see that the 12 participants were also all over the map. Gail Seefeldt: “I have created a lot of gardens, but I still don’t know what I’m doing.” Newcomer Kim Lambert: “I hope to get some advice and some ideas from this group,” while Carol Walker reminded us of the saying by the Roman philosopher Cicero, “If you have a garden and a library, you have everything.”

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