20 April 2012
The year is now drawing to a close. We have heard our last talk, and we have scheduled one more meeting of our reading group. This one will be distinctive in having no agenda at all. We are room full of philosophers with lots of views and, by now, we know each other well. What more do we need? It may well be the last meeting. Our numbers are already thinning. Uljana's last day will be that last meeting.
Would we drift off quietly? That we would not became clear when Uljana sent an email with the subject "good-bye party" and suggestions of champagne and cake, 2pm Friday. As the hour approached, Nils-Eric, Bryan and I were chatting in the Center lounge. More drifted in: Dana, then Gabor and soon we had a comfortably full room.
Uljana began slicing the pumpkin cake, which was still warm and fragrant from her oven. "It's Robinson's favorite," she explained. Gabor took the champagne in hand and soon we were passing around the cups. We drank the sort of toast that comes easily with plastic cups: little formality, but lots of cheer.
"Oh, there's more," Uljana exclaimed. She turned to the paper bag hidden under the table and pulled out gifts for the Center staff: hand picked chocolates from a local chocolatier and a nice Amazon gift card.
Someone had to make a speech of thanks. "Nils-Eric? You are good at speeches." For once, he was lost for words. Uljana found them, and the speech was given.
It was a happy end to the term. Karen, Joyce, Carol, Bryan--they have all worked very hard this year to make this year the best they can make it. They have been successful. That means that everything worked smoothly and efficiently. And that means their efforts can be invisible and easily overlooked. We now knew that they were not overlooked. It was wonderful to see that this group put such effort into thanking them.
After the ceremonies were over, we sat around the table. It was a warm and relaxed moment, a comfortably gathering of friends. The conversation began and went on for a long time. No one wanted to leave.
John D. Norton