My young cousin, Justin, spent many an afternoon with me in his 3rd through 4th, or so, year of life, while his mother was at work. He would drive around with me as I ran my errands (I found out this weekend that listening to NPR on my car radio was a formative experience for him). We would sometimes bake cookies when his older brother, Byron, and his cousin, Martin, joined us after school. We’d often take walks and see magical things - like pelicans feeding, and sea lions diving in and out of the water - along the bike path in the Marina with my dog, Angel.
“Angel- you mean like those things with wings?” Justin asked, a bit impertinently, when my mother introduced them. Mom chuckled, “like those beings that watches over us” she said. One day, on one of those walks, when I took a break from the non-stop chatter we were engaged in, Justin said “Aunty G., let’s talk about stuff some more.”
Right there was a clue to where Justin was headed in his life. It turns out Justin is possessed with an extraordinary mind. He swept so many awards at his at El Rodeo Middle School graduation ceremony, that his mother, my cousin, Illona, said it almost became embarrassing.
From there, he was offered a scholarship to The Thacher School, a prestigious private boarding school. Illona had a very difficult time letting him go, but was convinced by those in our family who are educators, that this was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up. Justin expressed the most excitement about the prospect of having his own horse while there, although he told me the one time I visited him there, that he had spent the whole day in poop. When he graduated from The Thacher School, he was awarded The Thacher Cup, which is described as being given to the one individual that exemplifies “all of the ideals that represent Thatcher: academic excellence, extracurricular achievement, moral leadership, and concern for others”. My young cousin, Aida, wrote in her blog, allboldeverything.com that as they sat “listening to the school’s headmaster describe the final award, I know we were all thinking the same thing, ‘it has to go to Justin’.” And amid a flood of tears, they heard these final words “and he will be leaving for New Haven, Connecticut this fall..."
Justin flew off this morning to begin his journey as a student at Yale, his choice of several universities that wanted him.
Our Justin is as humble and laid back as he is brilliant, so even though he didn’t really care about it, last weekend we threw a big party to bid Justin farewell. Oh - he did care enough to let me know he wanted a chocolate cake with caramel sea salt icing.