Among the Quakers

I’ve learned over the years there’s nothing quite so jolting as going directly from the TV Critics Association summer press tour, at a posh Beverly Hills Hotel, directly to the New England Yearly Meeting of Friends, on the campus of Bryant University in Smithfield, R.I.

Turning in one nametag for another, I also had a different buffet line at meals. And instead of talking TV nonstop, there was no TV whatever to speak of. We spoke amongst ourselves in business sessions and small groups, as kids cavorted in what’s been the biggest family summer camp trip we usually do.

And doing this for many years – twice as long as I’ve done TCA easily – I’ve had the opportunity to not only see my own kids grow up and flourish among Friends, I’ve also seen other kids who come every year grow up to be interesting people.

At the annual coffeehouse event that ends the week with its succession of talent, grownups sang folk songs and Irish ditties as sensitive teenage girls poured out hearts on their acoustic guitars with original material. But there was also the kid who had grown a foot since last time and was suddenly the incarnation of Billy Joe Armstrong, singing “Holiday” with his dad on piano and, even better, a girl who grew up embarrassed by her own mother’s penchant for interpretive dance every year now taking the stage as a grown teen, with her mother home battling dire illness, saluting her mom through what is now a family tradition: interpretive dance.

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