** Readers uninterested in my personal life, just go ahead and skip this post. Blogging about Arab politics will resume in about a week. **
Early Tuesday morning, I'll load two kids into an overstuffed car and drive out of Williamstown for the last time. But only after one final stop at my beloved Tunnel City Coffee, which my friend Ethan Zuckerman once accurately called the "social hub of Williamstown." When I think about what I'll miss about the place I've lived the last nine years, the coffeeshop comes near the top of the list (in Williamstown, saying "the coffeeshop" is quite enough - there's really only the one). The owners Paul and Bar used to be my next door neighbors, and over the years I have spent an ungodly amount of time (and money) there. The staff know and love my kids, know exactly how my daughter wants her bagel (poppy with cream cheese) and her hot cocoa (lots of whipped cream) and when my son started walking. On a random weekend day with nothing much to do, I would almost always just head down to the coffeeshop with the kids - it was a safe bet that some of our friends would be there. If not, it was a short walk to Linear Park ("the buckets" - a once dilapitated old park in a beautiful location which my wife, in an exemplary bit of civic activism, shamed the town into refurbishing.) I'll miss that, and the whole sense of warm community which makes this place special - how wonderful is it that when we took our kids to their favorite restaurant Isabella's for dinner last night, the owners knew we were leaving and had little goodbye presents for them?
I'll miss even more the incredible group of kids right around my daughter's age, kids she's known her whole life - Oscar (and Caleb), Ellie (and August), Johnny (and Jane), Miriam (and Jude), Catherine, Ruth, Hazel, Olivia, Clara and Charlie and little Lucy, Leo, Ella, Nell, and so many more (if I forgot anyone, please don't hate me). They've grown up together, gone to school together, taken ballet classes and music classes together, and given each other more colds and flus than I care to remember. Nothing will be harder for us than helping my daughter adjust to a world in which her friends aren't always around. I know she'll make new friends and discover all kinds of incredible new things in DC, but right now it feels hard.
What else? I'll certainly miss the incredible students at Williams, and the teaching-centric culture which brings out the best in many of us. The political science department has its share of craziness - more than its share, if you ask most people - but it has been a home for nine years, and a good one. I'll consider myself truly blessed if I'm ever lucky enought to have another colleague as dedicated to his students, his scholarship, the intellectual life of campus, and walks to the coffeeshop as James McAllister; as encyclopedically versed in the finer points of professional athletics and departmental politics as Mike MacDonald; as jovially supportive of his colleagues and as spiritually impressive as Sam Crane; as helpfully addicted to Lost as Darel Paul; as intellectually engaged with everything around him as Mark Reinhardt. But at least I know that I'll see most of them at APSA, at least, so even though I'll miss the loud arguments about politics and sports on the G-level tier those friendships won't end.
Finally, leaving Williamstown makes me think about those I came to know here who are truly gone. Shirin Shakir, the bright and engaging young woman who died in a tragic boating accident just before finishing Harvard Law. Nate Krissoff, the dedicated and passionate young man who died a hero, serving his country in Iraq. Tim Cook, a friend and professional mentor taken by cancer far too young. Two cats, Bellissimo and Tigger, whose spirits will always be sleeping in window screens gazing out at soft summer Berkshire days. God preserve their souls.
But that's enough reflection on the past - we are incredibly excited about the future. A weekend of barbeques, Riverfests, and Memorial Day parades lies before us, and then a new life in Washington DC. Zoos! Museums! Parks! Carousels! Gyms! More than three restaurants, some of which even deliver! Think tanks! (Ok, that last one might appeal more to me than to the rest of the family, so I'll just stop now.) We're ready now. Goodbye, Williamstown!