Antebellum Christmas With Jeff in the Monticello Graveyard
Ask typical Harvard students about their Christmas plans and they are likely to a) look at you mournfully and elaborate on the uncooperative nature of their senior theses, b) sigh blissfully at the thought of sleeping off the residue of that last tutorial paper, c) launch into a 20-minute discourse on snow conditions at their favorite ski resorts, or d) blush and mumble something about a grandmother in Miami.
But while the "typical" student rambles on, his rommate may be planning anything from a family tree research project in Georgia to a week long blind date in Rye, New York.
George W. Varn '76-4 says his interest in geneology originated at a 1974 family reunion in Collins, Miss. Varn encountered relatives there he never knew about, including sveral who had traced their family tree back to John Terrell, a physician who practiced there a century ago.
Some time later, driving along a Georgia road, Varn noticed he was in Terrell County and learned its namesake was a second Dr. John Terrel, from Sparta, Ga. Varn, who can trace his paternal lineage back to the late 1600s, wondered if there was any connections between the Georgia and the Mississippi Terrells and this Christmas he says he hopes to find out.
Varn will go to Sparta, searching through birth and death certificates, marriage licenses, deeds, wills and other documents. Although the work is tedious and may yield few results, Varn says he enjoys it.
"A lot of Americans don't have much of an idea of what their ancestors were like. It's fascinating to get some type of personal idea of what they were, what they did, who they married," he believes.
Although the ancestral search has not yet unearthed the proverbial skeleton, Varn says he did chance upon a few colorful progenitors, a group of roguish "banditti" who cavorted along the Mexican border during the Civil War.
Peter S. Gardner 76-4, spent part of several summers building a one room Lincoln Log cabin on his family's property in northern Vermont. Next week, Gardner and his brother will stretch a canvas across the top of the unfinished structure and camp beneath it in sub-zero temperatures.
"It's a wild area, very cold, very fierce," he says. "If you don't know exactly what you are doing it could be quite dangerous."
Gardner, who spent Christmas in 1974 climbing and camping in the White Mountains, related a story about people who built a similar cabin improperly and were crushed when the ground froze and the cabin collapsed.
Unless the weather conditions are too unbearable, the brothers will spend their time cross-country skiing and hiking in snowshoes in the eight feet of snow.
Although Jaqueline S. Osherow '78 selected a less remarkable setting for her vacation--she is house- and cat-sitting for her English professor in Arlington--it suits her purposes well, she says.
"I want to bake and cook and go to the supermarket and watch an incredible amount of television," she says. "I'll also get more done here than if I was at home the whole time," she added.
Osherow, who house sat last summer, says English professors are particularly enjoyable to house sit for because "you can just look at all those good books all the time."
Osherow may want rest and relaxation from her vacation but if his Christmas itinerary is any indication, Peter A. Anton '77, doesn't know the meaning of the words.
Anton will head for Kentucky and Cleveland, Ohio for a medical school interview and a visit to his grandmother respectively. Then he'll come back east to attend Harvard ski camp at Lake Placid, N.Y. After five "crazy" days skiing with the 18 men and women attending the camp, and five "rowdy" nights sampling Lake Placid's few bars, Anton says he'll be ready for the next stop on his schedule, a visit with his family in Southern California.