Twist and Shout

Twist and Shout
Life is never straight (Joey Kulkin photo)

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Vignettes from Vermont: Jumbo Love From Tufts

BENNINGTON -- Thirteen elephants escaped the rain by romping into the art gallery. Suzy and Nancy and Bill and Bill and Jackie and Fay and Fred and Sharyn and Suzie and Tom and Norm and Suellen and Wyley. Babar was nowhere to be found.

This is the 28th year that these Massachusetts Jumbos -- 8 graduated from Tufts U. between 1971 and '73 -- have toured a New England town to laugh, eat, drink and share the previous 51 weeks of their lives. Suzy met her hubby at Tufts, so did Sharyn and Suellen. Others joined the herd of pachyderms through friendships.

For the first 15 years the Jumbos tent-camped with their kids but now the kids have grown up and gone away and the middle-aged parents decided it's time to house-camp. This year they chose a place atop the mountain in Wilmington, halfway between Bennington and Brattleboro, at the base of the spine of Vermont.

"We've been to Vermont many times," Suzy said. The Jumbos chose Killington other years as well as North Conway way up there in the white mountains of New Hampshire.

Asked to describe their college years at Tufts, one Jumbo answered "phenomenal" and another "stimulating" and another "challenging" and then the great-nephew of Dr. Seuss said something that the other 12 loved: "Great friends." 

"Yes," a Jumbo echoed, "great friends!"

I told Mr. Geisel of Gloucester about a Suessian photo I snapped years ago during Winter Carnival at Dartmouth, where his great-uncle graduated.

The Jumbos fell in love with Jeeves at first sight. I offered to take their picture huddled around the Absent-Minded Butler, an oddly fun presence at Fiddlehead at Four Corners though he is slow on martini service. Norm handed me his Nikon D70.

A Nikon 35mm camera in my hands is like peanuts to a Jumbo.

Click. Click-Click-Click.

The 13 Jumbos wanted to take another picture in the Animation Vault.

Minutes later -- after one elephant bought a John DeAmici-drawn portrait of John Lennon and another bought a nice glass bowl -- the 13 Jumbos romped back into the streets of Bennington, off to their next circus adventure no doubt, or to find Babar.

Why did Tufts choose a Jumbo as the face of its university? Click HERE

BTW, how do you fit 13 Jumbos into a bank vault? Like this: