Today, Preschool…Tomorrow, Harvard

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How does time get away from us so easily?  We start out life waiting for so many things: to go to school, to get to junior high, then high school, to get a driver’s license, to go on our first date, to get out of high school, go to college and get out of college….then get married and have kids…and then to have the kids grow up as we wait for retirement.

But, in hindsight, when our children are grown and gone, we wish we could turn back the hands of the clock for a few hours at a time and have them back on our laps as little ones again, to hear their youthful chortles and squeals, to watch them as they are caught up in wonder at the sight of a butterfly or bird.

There is nothing from this earth that is more precious than the gift of our children.  While at times we may think our kids will never grow up, we will spend the rest of our lives missing them and wishing we could relive some of the delight of those early years.

Today was “Grandparent’s Day” at the preschool where our two youngest grand daughters attend, and we were delighted when we were invited to come to their “classrooms” and celebrate.  As it turns out, it was also the day they were taking their school pictures.  The oldest of the two is graduating this year from kindergarten and will be in first grade next year, so she had her picture taken in cap and gown, and her Pop-Pop was on the scene with his camera, too.

I can’t believe she’s already reached this milestone in her still young life, but I know this: her parents will one day look back at this day and think to themselves, “Where did the time go?”

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: it was in 1997 following an anonymous tip, police enter a mansion in Rancho Santa Fe, an exclusive suburb of San Diego, California, and discovered 39 victims of a mass suicide. The deceased (21 women and 18 men) were all found lying peaceably in matching dark clothes and Nike sneakers and had no noticeable signs of blood or trauma. It was later revealed that the men and women were members of the “Heaven’s Gate” cult, whose leaders said that suicide would allow them to leave their bodily “containers” and enter an alien spacecraft hidden behind the Hale-Bopp comet.

The cult was led by Marshall Applewhite, a music professor who, after surviving a near-death experience in 1972, was recruited into the cult by one of his nurses, Bonnie Lu Nettles. In 1975, Applewhite and Nettles persuaded a group of 20 people from Oregon to abandon their families and possessions and move to eastern Colorado, where they promised that an extraterrestrial spacecraft would take them to the “kingdom of heaven.” Nettles, who called herself “Ti,” and Applewhite, who took the name of “Do,” explained that human bodies were merely containers that could be abandoned in favor of a higher physical existence. As the spacecraft never arrived, membership in Heaven’s Gate diminished, and in 1985 Bonnie Lu Nettles died.

During the early 1990s, the cult resurfaced as Applewhite began recruiting new members. Soon after the 1995 discovery of the comet Hale-Bopp, the Heaven’s Gate members became convinced that an alien spacecraft was on its way to earth, hidden from human detection behind the comet. In October 1996, Applewhite rented a home in Rancho Santa Fe, explaining to the owner that his group was made up of Christian-based angels.

In 1997, as part of its 4,000-year orbit of the sun, the comet Hale-Bopp passed near Earth in one of the most impressive astronomical events of the 20th century. In late March 1997, as Hale-Bopp reached its closest distance to Earth, Applewhite and 38 of his followers drank a lethal mixture of phenobarbital and vodka and then lay down to die, hoping to leave their bodily containers, enter the alien spacecraft, and pass through Heaven’s Gate into a higher existence.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  Researchers believe that the proportion of left-handers has remained constant for over 30,000 years.

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