A Busy Day

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Part 1: Dorm Living

I’m sitting on the beautiful campus of Swarthmore College—where my daughter has spent the last four years. In addition to being an outstanding liberal arts college, its campus is also The Scott Arboretum. It’s early (6:59 a.m.) but MEH (My Engineer Husband) and I are sitting in a small courtyard outside Willetts Hall where we spent last night. There is a coolish breeze and robins are singing; it’s quiet save for the few other early risers and Public Safety readying for commencement.

It was hard to sleep last night—did I mention in my last blog that there’s a heat wave on the east coast? “It’s always like this on graduation,” one of my daughter’s friends observed last night. Six families gathered on Parrish Beach—the large sloping lawn central to campus—for a celebration of our daughters’ achievements and graduations. Five young women who have become among my daughter’s best friends. They were saying good-bye to one another as we were meeting families, some for the first time.

photo copyAfter we shared delicious Indian food and warm conversation, we sat and watched one of the most spectacular (and closest!) fireworks displays I’ve ever witnessed. Then, after saying our goodnights, the almost-graduates went on to later night parties and packing of their worldly possessions. We parents left for our night’s lodgings—some of us, like MEH and me, staying in Willetts where it was hot and impossible to cool down. But I wouldn’t have missed it for anything. An opportunity to get up and immediately see the amazing gardens of Swarthmore, to be woken in the middle of the night by the happy laughter of students enjoying one last night together, to experience a taste of what my daughter has experienced these past four years.

Later this morning, our family—our son and his wonderful girlfriend are here as well—will watch these remarkable six young women graduate with their peers, and our hearts will swell (can they swell anymore?). And I will sit in the beautiful Scott Ampitheater and marvel at the beauty of my surroundings and the moment.


Part 2: We Hit the Road

photo copy 5After graduation we packed up my daughter’s room in the sweltering heat… in addition to packing, we were visited by many of her friends, and my daughter made frequent trips to say good-bye to friends while I sat on her bed and held a fan about an inch from my face.

We turned in my daughter’s keys at “key central,” a final sign that she truly had graduated, then we hit the road at around 5 p.m. with the eventual (next day) goal to make it to Chicago to visit one of my daughter’s best friends. We knew we’d spend the night somewhere on the way, and once we got on the Pennsylvania Pike and saw the sign for Hershey, PA, we both knew where.

CHOCOLATE WORLD! No, we didn’t stay there. But we did stop there. This Hershey attraction is open until 10 p.m. and we walked in at 8:30 p.m. Late, I know, but many people were leaving so it was pleasantly empty. We asked the very nice ticket saleswoman what we could “realistically do” knowing how close it was to closing (activities were priced per the each). She suggested a 4-D movie or “create your own candy bar.” Was there really a choice?

Minutes later we were in aprons and hairnets (definitely no photo, no way!) and on the factory floor. This was a really fun (and funny), and easy way for us to start the trip. We were both very tired and emotional from the long and busy day. We each created a custom candy bar and wrapper. Although I couldn’t control the creation of the chocolate bar, I wish I could have. As I looked at ours (and other) creations moving through the conveyer belt, I couldn’t help but notice my bar turned out bumpy, cratered, and less than perfect. My daughter’s was smooth and without flaw… I won’t draw the obvious youth vs. middle age analogy… wait, I just did.

Today: On the road to Chicago!!

Cheers, Julia


  1. What a delightful way to start the journey–creating memories through chocolate.

    • Julia Munroe Martin says:

      That’s what WE thought, too, Lisa!! Soo fun. Such great laughs, too.

  2. Julie Luek says:

    I was at Hershey’s years ago when I was a small child and when it was truly a factory tour. How fun to make chocolate. Congratulations to your daughter. What a milestone!

  3. Barb Riley says:

    You’ll be soooo close as you pass through Chicago, my friend. Roll your window down, and give a shout-out to the northwest suburbs. 🙂 And you certainly won’t be in a heatwave; we are having the most delicious cool, misty weather—something I’ll never take for granted again after last summer’s horrible drought.

  4. Erika Marks says:

    Julia, what a wonderful wrap-up to what was surely a very emotional time for everyone–heat notwithstanding! So thrilled that the next step in your adventure is upon you both–and we all eagerly await more reports and news when time allows. In the meantime, sending you hugs and good wishes and congratulations to the graduate (AND her family!)!!

  5. Oh MY… Starting out with chocolate — and one of my favorite places from the home state (Hershey) — YES! I got a little teary-eyed reading your description of your swelling heart. It made me think (wonder) how my own mom felt when I’d graduated all those years ago. The admiration and love you have for your daughter is so heartwarming. You are in for one hell of a trip, you two! So many memories to be made — and to be shared for a lifetime.

  6. One of my closet childhood friends lives in Hershey. Does the entire town smell like chocolate? And on to Chicago. I love Chicago. And btw — I’ve had lots of my friends — including the woman I was walking with this morning — mention your book to me. Yay.

  7. Perry Block says:

    Sounds like a wonderful time in my neighborhood! Actually I live around the corner from Haverford College, a few miles from Swarthmore.

    As many times as I’ve been to Hershey Park with my children, I’ve never created my own candy bar. How to find a way to get there and do that when kids are too old and or unavailable?

    Congratulations to you and your daughter!

  8. shary says:

    I would love to visit Hershey PA someday. Making my own chocolate bar concoction sounds delightful! What a great first stop on your road trip.