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A letter to my baby brother April 8, 2008

Posted by emsgeiss in education, Uncategorized, writing/editing/blogging.
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If he’s reading this, he’s cringing at being called my baby brother. If my other siblings are reading this (Hi, Fran) they’re wondering why I haven’t written a blog post dedicated to them. Ah, sibling rivalry.

But, my youngest brother and I share a unique bond…and that bond is Commonwealth School. In the fall, he goes off to high school to learn and laugh in the same hallowed halls that I did almost 20 years ago. When I found out that he was applying to Commonwealth I was delighted. When I found out that he got in, I was beside myself, probably as excited as our parents, if not more because my bond with Commonwealth as an alumna is different than theirs with it as parents a matriculating student. When I found out that he had decided to go (it was tied for first-choice with another prep school), I nearly jumped through the phone. Mark casually announced the news to me, with the nonchalance of a Commonwealth student who knows that a decision has been made and that what has been decided is so.

A lot has changed about Commonwealth in 20 years, but a lot has remained the same, as a recent visit made a couple of years ago to show my husband the place that is still home in my heart revealed. My husband “got” it, from witnessing the then student body changing classes, and meeting some of the instructors who are still there, he could imagine me fitting right in. Many of my old instructors are no longer there, having made way for new teachers to mold the eager and thirsty minds of the fighting mermaids and to draw out all of their potential and then some. A few are alumni themselves. Mark’s decision to attend Commonwealth is especially pivotal, for he will be a member of the class of first-year students entering when Commonwealth celebrates its 50th anniversary.

So to my Dear Brother:

The next four years will be “the best of times and the worst of times,” to quote Mr. Dickens, whom I am sure you will read in ninth grade English. One could make that statement about any high school experience, but at Commonwealth, it is especially so.

My memories of Commonwealth are mostly fond–doing homework in the Dartmouth lobby during “free period,” Mrs. Moore’s cooking (may she rest in peace); the frescoed ceiling in the U.S. History room; what in our day was called “Chapel” where we would hear such distinguished speakers as our founder Charles Merrill and poets like Seamus Heaney speak to library full of rapt minds-faculty and staff included. Parsing Herodotus as a nine (as freshmen were called then) and feeling giddy about it because the only other people we knew reading it were in college. Horridly chilly soccer games (well, you won’t have to endure that since you’ll be fencing) to that first paper filled with red marks, a ton of comments and on the back, a long hand-written note followed by a B/B+ grade and scratching your head thinking “why do I have two grades And why isn’t one of them an ‘A’?” (Believe it or not, that is a fond memory even if retrospectively, because it’s the kind of grade that makes you also say, “But I worked so hard on it,” and knowing that you could go to the instructor and/or your academic advisor to find out why—and get a useful answer.) And of course, I can’t forget Hancock. Midyears and finals in the library with blinding sunlight streaming into the room from the Commonwealth Avenue windows that the shutters had to be closed…and the relief of finally, achieving that formerly elusive solid “A.” There are others, but this is meant to be a letter and not a novel.

You will make friends who become like family, tied to your heart no matter how far apart you end up living. At Commonwealth, you will be pushed to the limit to expand your mind, the way you think, the way you see the world and how you communicate. And you will find yourself challenging the way others think and expecting them to rise to the occasion. You will be given the freedom and encouragement to explore your ambitions and permission to do so no matter what it takes or how much of a challenge it may pose. At times, life as a Commonwealth student will be frustrating, but it will be worth all of the blood, sweat and tears; and the joys are profound. As long as you remember Commonwealth’s golden rule: “No rollerskating in the halls—In other words, don’t be a damned fool,” your years there will be escrime.

May you have a wonderful experience at Commonwealth and I wish you all the success there from the bottom of my heart.

With love from a Commonwealth alumna to my dear brother Mark, a future alumnus,

Your sister,



1. babybro - April 17, 2008

eeeeeeeee thanks Erika!!! I hope I will be happy there (sorry I took so long to read this I have been absolutely covered in school work for a while and things have just settled down) thanks again love ya!

-your “baby bro”


2. emsgeiss - April 18, 2008

You’re welcome, sweetie! You’ll be happy there. I’m sure.
🙂 xoxo ❤ Mwa!

-your big, big sis

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