Last night, I headed over to have dinner with some old friends, brothers that I have known since high school. Both of them have relocated to California, and I hadn't seen the two of them under the same roof in years. I often say that there's no trip like the nostalgia trip, and last night was no exception- I couldn't shake the feeling of being nineteen again, and being dans la maison with the buds.
There was a slight tinge of melancholy to the proceedings- they were both in town to help their mom, a lovely and hospitable woman, clean out the house so she could move out to California after the death of the paterfamilias, and be closer to her children and grandchildren. They were throwing out old papers and going through the books, deciding which ones to keep and which to discard. Dad, who had succumbed to COVID in 2020 at the age of 85, was a professor of Slavic languages at New York University and, being a multilingual public intellectual, had a plethora of books in every room of the house, As a funny aside, he had a series of books by a poet who used to write him a Christmas card, with an enclosed poem every year, but the missus noted that she never really saw him reading poetry, that she believed he had these books to foster the writings of a countryman.
Hearing this, I joked, "He may not have had a love for poetry, but he had a love for poets."
Among the books was one glorious tome, a gorgeously illustrated facsimile of a codex written in Church Slavonic, an epic history of the campaigns of Prince Dmitry, accompanied by translations into modern Russian and English. Inscribed in the title page of the book was a dedication from the woman who had given him this beautiful book, a grad student from Korea. After thanking the Good Professor for his mentorship, she apologized for the presumptuousness of a student giving a book to a teacher, perhaps implying that the learner was now the master. I imagine the Professor, a kindly, avuncular man, got a good chuckle at the idea that he could ever be offended by this sweet gesture.
It was an emotional moment, hearing this dedication to a man who I considered a friend, a generous host, and a low-key-yet-important role model. My relationship to the Professor was quite different from this student's relationship to him, but I know we valued him equally.