Two nights ago I attended a celebration of Bob Wilson’s life. Bob was the beloved athletic director at Campolindo High School in Moraga, CA.. As a teacher, coach, father and mentor, he received praise from all corners. One speaker after another–students, colleagues, and one of his daughters– choked back tears in front of the crowded gymnasium. The event was held at at the high school, home of the Cougars–and the place I got my first job as a college and career advisor. A friend from my Campo days told me about the event, and invited me to come along with her and her husband to pay our respects.
Campo was my all-time favorite place to work. Great co-workers, dedicated faculty, and a lot of highly motivated kids.I got the chance to create new projects, help students with the college application process, meet reps from colleges and universities all across the country, and explore new ways to approach getting kids ready to leave the comfy nests their parents created for them. I had the chance to practice my brand new skills as a college counselor and to become part of a special group of people.
Back to High School
Working at a high school was a lot like . . .being in high school. And lucky me– I got to hang out with the cool kids. We had our own hangout at lunch, we celebrated each others birthdays (even though you had to bring your own cake so you’d be sure to have one–but we all did it), we hassled each other mercilessly, and pulled some pretty awesome pranks involving neckties and Roman numerals (long story). I worked at Campo for seven years–my longest run at any job– and I’ve found occasions over the years to go back, catch up on the news, and collect a few hugs.
At the event the other night, although the occasion was by its nature a solemn one, there were a lot of hugs and smiles and how are you’s from the people I once saw on a daily basis–the ones I used to harass, heckle, bother, tease, annoy, and laugh with. Walking on that campus again after so many years gave me the same feeling I had when I showed up for my job interview: it felt comfortable, friendly, and welcoming. People said isn’t it a shame that it takes a loss to get everyone together again. And then the hugs began, and it was almost as if no time had passed.
The young teachers have gotten older; the older ones are older still. Many of my former colleagues are retired. I found myself mentioning my grandchildren and laughing. Grandchildren? I was a kid of fifty when I worked there. And on that special birthday, my friends all wore black to work and presented me with cruelly age-appropriate gifts. Good times.
My Cougar buddies had my back when my dad was ailing in 2001. They offered support when I had to have surgery, and made me go home when I was acting loopy on pain meds after a root canal. They worried about me getting home from London after 9/11 when all flights were grounded. The shootings at Columbine happened at a high school not that different from ours, and we all felt the reverberations of that horrible event. We were part of something special. When you live in a “golden age,” you’re not always aware of it, but I was.
Teachers and Food and Mr. Wilson’s Brownies
All the good memories came back the minute I entered the gym for the program. As the speakers recalled the jokes Bob Wilson played and the lessons he imparted to his students and players over the years, I remembered that I have my own Bob Wilson story to share. Nothing about corny jokes or road trips, since I never set foot in the gym unless it was for an assembly or a rally. I only saw Bob in the faculty lounge, usually sprawled out in a chair, elbows out and hands behind his head.
As anyone who teaches or works in a school knows, when food is left out, it’s gone in minutes–maybe seconds. At Campo, we had a number of potlucks and parties, and sometimes people just brought in goodies for no special reason. If the math teacher from down the hall poked his head in your room and said, “Cupcakes!” you had to move fast to the lounge or risk missing out.
On one occasion, Bob brought some brownies to school. I must have complimented him on them, and he offered to share his recipe with me. Sure enough, the next day he’d left a copy of “Mr. Wilson’s Caramel Brownies” in my box, with my name written in the upper left hand corner. I took it home and put it in my recipe binder. I never got around to making those brownies, but on a whim after I got back from Campo that night, I paged through the binder and found the recipe.
Mr. Wilson’s Caramel Brownies sounded sweet and sticky, but not too difficult to make. (Full disclosure: B. Wilson gets an assist from B. Crocker.) I shopped for the ingredients yesterday, and as a tribute to Bob, I made a batch. They seemed a little gooey, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But I’d chalk this up as another win for Coach Wilson.