I can hardly believe we have been gone a whole week and that our time at Oxford ends tomorrow. I’m very sad. We certainly could have spent at least a few more days here. I’m exhausted but leave convinced that Oxford is magical and that we should have Hoya reunions every year.
We actually managed to take it slow this morning. We pursued our hare-brained scheme of getting a double stroller (or double buggy as they call it here) on Gumtree, the U.K. Craiglist equivalent. It felt extravagant, but I think we got a deal on this sleek little Phil and Ted’s Promenade.
Chris graciously biked to check it out and bring it home. I occupied Christopher with Dino Trux on Netflix, my standards dropping ever lower. Therese took an actual nap in her crib. We needed a relaxed morning.
We left the flat a bit after noon to get to the Bodleian. Brian had arranged a visit to the reading room. It had the same musty book smell that St. John’s library had perfected. We also visited the congregation room where Cranmer was tried. So much history, so little time.
We said our goodbyes to Brian and Chris went to a lunch meeting while the kids and I joined Hannah for lunch at St. John’s. We caught up over the next three hours and ended in the garden where Christopher scooped gravel for about two of those hours. It’s so sweet to be back with best friends and we talked about how we could all leverage our unique places in academia into doing something together long term. Something to pray about.
After Hannah left, both Christopher and Therese had diaper simultaneous diaper blowouts, so we changed them on the lawn of the St. John’s garden, something we are sure to embarrass them with later.
We then walked down to the city center to mill about in the Covered Market and in embarrassing tourist tchotchke shops before we met Jon and Laura for a quick coffee and stroll around Blackwell’s bookstore. It was truly impressive and made the many receipts I had to process at the Yale English department from professors’ Oxford trips make sense.
We met Fr. Fields, one of our dear professors from Georgetown, at Campion Hall, the Jesuit residence in Oxford, for dinner. We sat out in the garden and Christopher played in the gravel again (probably being a Dino truck). We ate a lovely dinner with the community and moved out to the garden for more chatting and gravel digging. Fr. Fields gave us a tour of their lovely chapel and then walked us to our bus stop.
I loved Oxford, but Chris and I recognized that had he chosen it over Notre Dame, our life would be very different and, we suspect, harder than in South Bend. The financial freedom living in Indiana affords us is not something we take lightly and the fact that we are a mere three to four hour flight away from both our families is a blessing. Nevertheless, I would spend many weeks here if I could, especially with all of our friends. We came into Oxford with few plans and ended up having packed days seeing much more than we could have alone.
Oxford also makes our American institutions of higher learning look so very derivative. Yale is a centuries-younger copy of any given college. I had the strange feeling that I had been in the Bodleian courtyard before and then I realized Princeton has a very similar one. They certainly have their own beauty and majesty, but I enjoyed seeing the original.
I am itching to read an ecclesiastical history of Oxford specifically after witnessing the many layers of church history in the Christ Cathedral architecture and different sites of Newman’s life. If anyone has any recommendations, let me know. I’m thinking Eamon Duffy is on the list for when we get back.
We fly to Rome tomorrow. I’m excited but also anxious. Oxford seemed so familiar. But I hope our trip to Rome will be a true pilgrimage and we can experience a similar sense of enchantment there, perhaps with the benefit of more sanctuary lamps.