Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Quintessential Summer

This summer has been hands-down the best one I can remember, and I don't say that every year. It serendipitously contained the best balance of home and school, family and friends, play and work, food and fitness, and music and silence I could have designed, had I tried. Resisting the ever-present seduction of travel for a more familiar experience wasn't a simple decision to make, but I couldn't be more glad I decided to look at the people and places I'm used to through a new set of lenses as the days grew longer this time around.

I started June off at home, working remotely on a research project for the Environmental Defense Fund, which really meant following Priya to work on Capitol Hill a couple times a week to ogle at my tenacious sister from any sketchy Starbucks I could find with wifi to sustain me as long as my attention span decided to last on a given day. We gymmed together daily, which I didn't realize would become one of my favorite memories until I missed my flight on the day I was supposed to come back up to Cambridge and the prospect of getting to toss ridiculous glances at Priya on the elliptical next to me was the most exciting way to spend a day I could imagine. We got really into One Tree Hill together and lost many productive hours fitting as many episodes as possible into every day of summer. I finally felt like I got to spend enough time with my fave person on the planet this break, and before I cut the sap, I am going to describe our favorite home ritual: bathroom dance parties. The Gill sisters just happen to have their most functional piece of music-emitting equipment set up in their adorable pink Jack-and-Jill bath, and its presence there facilitates the wildest of random late-night raves when energy is waning or adults are complaining. What happens is, our favorite song of the moment comes on and we lock both the doors, turn the music up as far as is decent, and embark on our self-designed choreography to go along with it. Few things I do in daily life are so fun as this.

We switched up the monotonous euphoria of SisterTime just long enough for Mama and me to venture to New York for a weekend to see the one and only Javier Aranzales perform with the American Ballet Theatre. The rush of the city and the compassion of my friends she got to meet while there -- Ian, Clara, Matthew & Jonathan -- more than made up for our sleep deprivation and museum-invited leg cramps. The trip filled me with gratitude more than anything: for the talented and inclusive friends I'm so lucky to know at this stage in my life.

The exciting weekends kept on coming, with a trip to Virginia Beach with two high school besties -- Nizar & Natalie -- and an absurd crew we met along the way. Reflecting on how we've changed since our days at Flint Hill with two of the most thoughtful people I know (both engineers, naturally) was more than welcome after the crazy sophomore years each of us has experienced.


I barely had time to shake the sand out of my duffle before the coolest set of siblings around paid what has to become an annual visit to the Gill household. Preeti, Rati, and Naveen shook the place up with their endless energy, Boggle prowess, and chocolate chip pancakes. This week was comprised of many a morning-to-night trip into D.C. with Preeti leading the charge while I tried to slow the group down just enough to enjoy a latte in the cafe of whatever museum she had on the agenda for the day. Their visit ended with a lovely night in the city, enjoying the fireworks as we celebrated our nation's independence and the cuteness of Becky G.'s Shower lyrics.

Returning to Cambridge provided the perfect change of pace: settling into a steady routine while living with the combined musical and culinary talents of Dylan Schaffer supplied the perfect summer vibe. I came to call our apartment at 30 Irving St. "The Musicbox" -- I've never been exposed to more music, and after-dinner time generally consisted of mandatory pleasure reading time and some low-profile jamming to Dylan's guitar or piano. When weary after our respective work-weeks, we took the time to cover Kiss Me by Sixpence None the Richer and Don't Know Why by Nora Jones.

Sidu and I checked out hip-hop dance classes at a local studio, which soon evolved into instead religiously attending amazing Bollywood-themed exercise classes (BollyX) every week, and sometimes dragging Preeti along. I started yoga at a wonderful local practice (The Breathing Room) with my colleague Teresa, all this of course between more-or-less 9-to-5 days "straddling two jobs" at S&S and EDF, right smack on the historic Freedom Trail in downtown Boston.

Dylan was perpetually planning new weekend adventures, one of which ended in Preeti, Sidu, and I traveling to Woonsocket, Rhode Island to watch Forever Plaid, a show that Dylan had been music directing throughout the summer. I was frozen in delight throughout the experience, excluding the few painful moments during which I was selected as the one victim of audience participation in the musical. Nevertheless, Forever Plaid joined my heart in tight harmony so much that I went back the next weekend to see the musical again. Meeting and spending time with the talented boys who were part of the show -- Dylan B., Adam, Gian, Spencer, and Pat -- was a pleasure, and a beautiful way to get a glimpse of Dylan's life at home.


To ring out the end of the warmer months and get away from the buzz of campus one last time, Dylan and I spent our final weekend in West Newbury, where Mr. and Mrs. Chanania, my dear teacher and friend, live in a redone farmhouse with miles of meadow in front, woods on all sides, and the Merrimack River behind. There, we marinated in contentedness with them for a few days, ditching our phones and computers to feast on fresh and local produce over beautiful conversations, sip on the stars from our second floor balcony, bask in the sunshine on the front porch, and be very thankful for their company and our environment. The days were filled with simple but stunning natural vistas and small but wonderful human happinesses. These are the sorts of moments I hope to carry with me through the rigmarole of the academic year, and escape to when it at times becomes overwhelming. This beautiful reminder was the perfect way to end this peaceful, happy, restorative summer break. 

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