I received an Exeter alumni publication today, which among other headlines announced the establishment of a faculty house dedicated to Mr. Valhouli. The article that accompanies made me cry with its moving and sensitive description of the man and teacher I loved so dearly. One student wrote:
“The expectation of decency and responsibility from so manifestly decent and responsible a man is a revelation of the possibility of those qualities. In that sense, Mr. Valhouli reshaped me by gently drawing out my highest potential. I have no doubt that many others knew him in that way, as cultivator and sculptor of character.”
This passage struck me because the words decent and responsible are so mild, and yet this description of Mr. Valhouli shows their tremendous power. He was without a doubt the teacher who has most influenced me, and I still think of him almost daily.
I dug through lots of old files looking for a photograph I have of us together at graduation, searching for the school reports in his small, cramped hand. Unfortunately I couldn’t find either, but I did happen upon a trove of old emails, poems, and photographs long forgotten. I could choke on the waves of love I’m feeling for all of these people right now!
A few short extracts here – random, all, but likewise all beloved.
From Alex Clavel (picture above is of of him, on the right)
“So get off your proverbial ass and live the way that only a few – you among them, which is why I adore you so much: because you’re the type to drown yourself every week if need be in excitement, and love, and everything else – can. That last sentence is why I like [Ashley] so much too: there is a sort of a wildness that you two share, a sort of willingness to dip your foot in the water and test it out, that makes you both so … I don’t know what, I just know that it’s what draws me to you.”
From a book (unknown which one!) and emailed to Quincy, July 1999:
“I did not understand until I met Kathleen how someone so beautiful and intelligent, with such great teeth and wit, could be as unsure of her worth as I am of mine, and as arrogant as I am, and as psychotic as I am. And then we became close enough to begin sharing our deeper secrets – about our parents, and ex-lovers, and skin, the true details of our girlhoods; in short, the true flavoring of our lives rather than the revisionist histories we recite to others – I understood. When it became evident that our souls were similarly textured despite the differences in our packagings, when we let each other in, I entered into the most difficult and essential friendship of my life.”
“We were, by this time and henceforth, traveling companions in drunkenness, mental derangement, honesty, psychic struggles, psychedelia, adventures, and massive, extraordinary fun. We weathered our depressions together, weathered our disappointments together, forced each other to cop to manipulations, evasions, and emotional blackmail….We are so insanely close, and so different, that it is a miracle to me that our friendship still thrives: her imagination and humor and truthfulness stun and rejuvenate me, and her particular brand of madness is not unlike my own.”
“… being your friend has brought wonderful things into my life – not just the drinking and fun – but long walks, good books, and growth as a person. That doesn’t come lightly.”
(the tabblo I made for Anna is here)