June 4th, 2018
Dear Kappa Alphas one and all,
It’s been a rough few days. I got the call from our current president about the demise of KA over the weekend. He had promised to call me and let me know as soon as he could, and he did. I thought I was prepared for the news, because, after all, it seemed impossible to survive “We Triple Dare You”. I wasn’t. I had announced, as may of you know, at the beginning of the year that this Freshman class would be the last I saw through to graduation- that put me at retirement on my 60th birthday and just after my 15th Anniversary at KA, it all seemed fitting. But, it was not meant to be that way, and let’s be real, May 11, 2021 would have come and gone and I’d still be in that kitchen, probably saying “one more class” until I was forced to go, which I just was!
In the last few days, I’ve received dozens of posts, texts, and calls from current and former KA’s expressing both their sadness and gratitude. Now it’s my turn. I don’t know too many people, I may not actually know any, who can say they’ve loved their job as I have loved this one. The past 12 1/2 years have been the most fun, and aggravating, and frustrating, and hilarious, and tiring, and energizing, and happy and sad and so much more. Who gets to go to work and call their bosses “dumbasses” and other not so nice things , and gets to go back day after day? Of course, they are dumbasses, but still.
In the last dozen plus years, I’ve had more than a dozen different hairdos (and hair colors!), been to way more than a dozen places, seen my children go from middle schoolers to college graduates, celebrated more than a couple of milestone birthdays, seen lots of house pets come and go (and even have one at my house still), but I’ve only had one kitchen. One really fine kitchen. That kitchen has been a constant in my life, when many other things have changed. It’s changed, too- it used to be hideous, with wooden cabinets and a gross stove. Lots of complaining (by me) got me brand new cabinets, a new pantry, a new stove, new refrigerators, lots of new outlets, and countless coats of fresh paint. It’s a good kitchen and I’m grateful for it. It was a joy to cook in that kitchen, I miss it already.
I figure that in all these years, there have been well over 200 boys come through KA!! I’m thankful for each and every one of you. Even the ones I couldn’t wait to see go- because together you all were, to me “my boys”, “my guys”- not just the kids I worked for. The climate of the house would have been drastically different without each and every one of you. I’ve always said KA was like the land of the misfit toys, they boys there never really fit into one category, and that’s what made it so special and what made it so unique. And, although there were many times I wished I could, I really wouldn’t change a thing- except maybe being unemployed now.
There’s no short way to express all that I have learned over the years at KA. Within the first year of my being there, our son got into some trouble and I was feeling very frustrated about how to handle it. Complaining about it in the kitchen one day, I was saying how he was being punished with no XBox. One of the guys said “oh, that’s not good enough, you have to add something to the punishment, too, or it won’t matter- like, make him move some rocks around, or something like that.” Now, I had been a parent for about 12 years at the time, read lots of books about parenting and this was up there with some of the best advice I’d ever received. I went home that night and very excitedly explained to my husband that I had solved our parenting problem. His response to me was “Oh, we’re taking parenting advice from frat boys now?” and I said “Yes, we are, they way closer to 11 than we are”. That was the first of many pieces of advice I took from one of my guys. I’m so grateful for the wisdom of 19-year-old frat boys. Several years later, at the end of his college career, one of my guys (who had been around during our first double secret probation and who was a fabulous treasurer and all around good guy) came to me and said “You know, Jo, you can be a little judgemental, you should try to be less judgemental” Now, anyone who knows me for more than 5 minutes knows how much I love criticism. Not at all. But, it didn’t sound like criticism to me at all, it sounded like a concerned friend and I’ve been thankful for that comment ever since and I’ve taken it to heart and really tried to honor our friendship by being less judgy. Thanks JT. Another boy once spent a lot of time reminding me “it’s not personal”- and although sometimes it felt like it was, I learned to remind myself of that and I’m grateful for that lesson, too (still working on both these things and so many more).
I’ll always be deeply, deeply grateful for the way you have let me into your lives. I have always thought mine was a most unique perspective and position in your college lives. I know things about you your parents, friends, siblings don’t, I see the whole of you more than most, I think, because there’s often a part of you you have to keep to yourself around your friends or family. But I see most, if not all of the parts of you, and that’s because you’ve trusted me with your authentic selves. That’s a priceless gift, one that I will always treasure. Our “kitchen conversations” will always be my favorite memories of KA – oh, and the song you sing to me at special dinners, I love that more than anything. I’ve always said that the kitchen- at least mine- is like the confessional, your secrets are safe with me. On the flip side, I am ever so grateful for the way you have been in my life, and the lives of my family as well. You cared for me when my husband was sick, watched me cry through some very tough times, kept my secrets, too ( you know who you are ), stood beside me through the passing of my mother, and helped me celebrate so many joys in my life. Now, I am celebrating your joys, your graduations, your successes, your weddings, your babies!!! (That’s a good order to do those things in, in case you were wondering). Thank you for including me in those milestone moments. A few months ago I attended the wedding of one of my guys who I am especially close to, his dad singled me out in his welcome speech and he thanked me for taking care of his son and helping to shape him into the fine man he is today. If careers have a “highlight”, that was mine, and it feels good to go out on a high note. (Thanks, Dr.K for making me feel so special).
As most of you know, I made it a point to never venture past the kitchen, dining room, library, and sometimes, when I was feeling brave or desperately searching for a particular brother to yell at, the common room ( I will not miss anything about that room!). My plan was to have a farewell to KA party in the party room when I retired, but that was not to be- perhaps it’s best I never see that place, if the common room was any indication, I’m sure it was gross!! When I get my bearings, I hope to hold a few “regional” retirement parties- NYC, Philly, Bethlehem- any excuse for a few parties, right? See you there, I hope, where I can say in person ” Thank you for all of it- you’re the best bunch of dumbasses in the world” “I love you guys”