Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Shout Out: Kate Haas

Julie and I went to Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana (where we began dating twenty-two years ago tomorrow!).  It was a glorious and near-perfect experience for me, less so for Julie, but the thing about Earlham is, whether you loved it or hated it, you are forever an "Earlhamite."  Now I don't know if being an Earlhamite is similar to being a graduate of other small, progressive, Quaker liberal arts colleges, but as far as I can tell, being an Earlhamite is quite different from being, say, a graduate of Temple, or Purdue, or Harvard.  Because when you are an Earlhamite, like it or not, you are part of a sort of extended family that you can't ever really shake.  

I happen to like it, a lot.  I like that my kids have no idea that Jennie's daughter Gillie, and Cassie's kids, Ezra and Viv, are not technically their cousins.  I like that I can reconnect with old friends after decades of being out of touch, and fall right back into a comfortable friendship that includes happy gossip and common books and professors that have become touchstones in both our lives (I'm looking at you, Ellen!).   I like that over twenty years later, I can fall right into a brand new friendship with someone I barely knew at Earlham, because we have so many common experiences and reference points (I'm looking at you, Melissa, Eric, Patrick!)  And I like that my network of Earlham friends lets me keep up with folks whom I sort of knew at Earlham, but not all that well.  Kind of like distant cousins you only met a few times as a child, I love knowing what all those classmates are up to -- especially because usually it's something pretty interesting (Earlhamites being, in my coldly objective view, some of the most interesting folks in the world).  

Kate Haas falls squarely into this last category.  We knew each other a bit at Earlham.  She was an English major, so I guess she hung with that hip-nerdy crowd, which also included Julie and the afore-mentioned Melissa.  (Earlham is the sort of place where you can be both nerdy and hip ... where it was even hip to be nerdy ... which, now that I think of it, probably accounts for my exquisite happiness while there, even though I was not an English major ... but I digress....) By the time I started hanging out with English majors, I pretty much only had eyes for Julie.  In general, I don't remember Kate much from our Earlham days.

But in the years since, I feel like I have gotten to know her quite well, thanks to her marvelous zine, Miranda: motherhood and other adventures, which our mutual friend Jennie (that would be Aunt Jennie to my kids) sends me on a regular basis.  Kate recently found my blog (and left the best comment ever on my Jane Austen garden story -- did I mention that Kate is a brilliant writer, matched only by the depth and breadth of her reading?), and I'm so glad she did, because it prompted me to request the last two volumes of Miranda, # 17 and #18, which Kate promptly sent me, and which I promptly devoured.

Miranda comes out once or twice a year, is roughly 25 pages long, each 8.5 by 5.5 inches, stapled at the seam.  Inside are wonderful essays about such various topics as Kate's stint as a Peace Corp volunteer in Morocco, adventures in mothering her two sons, homemaking, politics, family life, childhood memories, and books, books, books -- reviews of books, stories about reading books, stories about reading books to her kids, even stories about hoarding books from the library!  Like many of my favorite people, Kate is a voracious and promiscuous reader, and books are a big theme in Miranda.  

Other regular features which I love include the "motel of lost companions" -- a reflection on someone Kate once knew but has lost touch with; "mama's stray thoughts" -- short, funny vignettes of family life; and always a scrumptious recipe at the end.

Best of all, though, is that Kate brings to all these quotidian and somewhat bucolic topics just enough of a dry, ironic edge to keep it all interesting, and decidedly not precious.  My only regret when reading Miranda is that Kate doesn't live right down the street.


Kate Haas said...

Well, my goodness gracious, Marta! I am blushing out here in the Pacific Northwest. What a lovely, unexpected post. Your kind words are very much appreciated. And I love what you have to say about Earlham/Earlhamites. It is so true. Thank you for making my day!

Melissa said...

Well put. I believe there is a "special something" about Earlham graduates -- hard to put into words, but I feel like I know who I am when I am with my Earlham friends, and that I can truly be myself. It's pretty cool.

Count me as another huge Miranda fan.

Marta said...

Kate: you're quite welcome, friend. You rock!

Melissa: word

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