As always, a season of change in Claremont

by John Pixley


“And I hate change!” my friend joked. Actually, he was only half-joking.

We were talking over lunch in the dining hall at a camp in the Santa Monica Mountains behind Malibu.  It was Memorial Day weekend, and we were at a gathering that had been at the camp every year for something like 25 years. Now, because of various reasons including cost, we would, in all probability, no longer be meeting there.

This is a big change. It is bigger than when the dining hall we were in changed. When I began going to the gathering 15 years ago, the dining hall was dark and cramped. Then, after a gathering in which we ate in a big tent with food hustled across the dirt from the kitchen, the dining hall was airy and spacious, welcoming with many large glass doors and a central skylight. 

No, this is nothing like that change, as inconvenient, startling and ultimately pleasant as it was. This is bigger. This is a move, an uprooting, from a cherished place where we have met and made bonds and have grown in many ways. For well over two decades, there has been a community built at this camp, a vital touchstone for many, with a lot of laughs and a lot of tears shared. And now we’re leaving this place that was so important in our growth together.

Yes, we will continue to have this gathering, but we don’t know where it will be, and it may well not be on the same holiday weekend (when sites are likely long-booked). So this is very much a big change. And a scary one. My friend may have been spouting a comically banal and stereotypical line, but leaving such a safe place and not being sure what will happen next is, to say the least, not easy. Even those who live for adventure may pause for a minute or two. 

I suspect many of us are pausing for a minute or two in these last days of spring. Take, for instance, the “scaled-down version of Claremont’s beloved fireworks show” that will be part of the city’s Fourth of July celebration this year. What does that mean?

Never mind the assurances “close proximity” fireworks will be “a beautiful, sparkly show,” as Human Services Director Anne Turner put it, trying to make lemonade with some sour lemons. No doubt there are people who are unhappy that the “beloved” display “will be different.” All the more so when it turns out, as Human Services Director Anne Turner adds in her explanation of the change, that “[P]eople who usually enjoy the fireworks from their backyard are going to have to buy a ticket this year.”

This isn’t just “different.” Not when it means having to spend at least $8 for each ticket—they go up to $10 at the show. And not when tickets sell out before the show more often than not. This is a big change.  Many people won’t be able to see the show, whether because they can’t afford the tickets, especially for their whole family, or because tickets are no longer available. These fireworks, like those seen at concerts and other such events, will be a “brilliant, rapid-fire display,” most likely visible only inside the stadium at Pomona College. They are being used this year because they don’t pose a major fire risk and require much less water, a major concern when Claremont has to cut back its water use by about a third.

This isn’t the only way the drought in California, now in its fourth year, has been forcing us to make changes, some of which are not easy or not welcome.  We now have to be careful about not only what time but also what day we water our yards. We have to make sure that only the minimal amount of water is used in fountains and swimming pools.

And a recent flyer sent out to all Claremont postal customers also mentioned reporting water waste. Does that mean our neighbors are spying on us and that we should be spying on them?

These changes may be unusual and dramatic, but change is nothing new in June, with spring ending and summer on the way. Just as we know that hot days and warm evenings are coming, many of us are looking at new circumstances and adventures in our lives.

Perhaps this means an exciting trip that we have planned. Summer is the usual time for such outings, whether to a beloved cabin or to a country where one has never been. Perhaps it means lying on the beach for days or going rock-climbing or white-water rafting for the first time.

The change could be taking a class or two. Or it could just be taking some day-trips to the beaches or some time off from work.

Then there are those for whom this month means a real change in their lives, leaving something behind and looking forward to something new. There are students leaving one grade to move on to the next, and many will be looking at going on to another school, perhaps far away.

This is all the more so for those who are graduating. What this means is that this is a big time for change in Claremont, with thousands of students graduating from the Colleges last month and the high school seniors graduating this month. In both cases, Claremont plays a pivotal role in these people’s lives.

Some may be going on to further education, and others will be done with schooling. Some will be taking jobs and starting careers, and others will be going into military service. Some may have big plans and know exactly what they are doing, with more schooling or a job lined up, while others have no clue what to do.

Not having a plan and knowing what to do is scary—it certainly scared me when I graduated from college and didn’t know what would happen next—but going to college, perhaps far away, or starting a job, earning a living and being responsible for oneself  is also nerve-wracking. Who said change was easy?

Yes, my friend was only half-joking. He, like us all, knows that these changes, as tough as they are, are most often for the best, giving us strength and making our lives richer.

Otherwise, we’d be stuck in one place in our lives, with no opportunity to try new things and meet new people? How boring would that be?

It is sad to see the Colleges now a ghost town, where there was a large, lively community, in these weeks after commencement. But I have to say it’s nice to have a bit of quiet, with not so much going on, for a while. Also, it makes us see what the Colleges and the students bring to Claremont and how different Claremont and our lives would be. 


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