Armed with questions and anxious to interview the new Head’s family for the first time, I ventured over to Mr. and Mrs. Pidduck’s residence as the sun set after formal and the “pink moment” descended.
Immediately upon entering the house and settling down in the living room with the Pidducks, I felt at ease. The usual bowl of M&Ms sat invitingly on the table in front of us, and I was greeted by the familiar smiles of the couple across from me. I then began to ask my questions—questions which I am sure the Thacher community has been wondering about since the new Head’s family arrived on campus after their year-long sabbatical.
The beginning of every year is always tough: one must acclimate to the busy go-go-go of Thacher life, while also learning what it is that your teachers and peers expect from you. No matter how many times the last day of summer passes and the first day of school begins, the transition into Thacher life will never get easier.
Speaking with the Pidducks on this topic, I was amazed by how, after an entire year away from Thacher, they have transitioned so smoothly into their new roles on campus, even taking the few quiet moments they have to reflect on the lessons they have learned with the process.
Stepping into headship and the challenges and responsibilities it presents, Mrs. Pidduck conveyed, “[the headship] has made me feel a lot of compassion for our students—for all of you guys—because I think all of the time you guys are doing things where you are being pushed out of your comfort zones; where you are taking risks; where the sense of what’s at stakes in terms of making mistakes or [failing] feels really high, and I think I feel similarly in this position.”
From having to move into a new home, to bearing more responsibilities and critical feedback, for the Pidducks, adjusting to their new new roles on campus resembles the transition Thacher students surmount each and every year—a similarity which has been a comforting force for the two alumni this fall. “I think the transition, while it is not a setback, is a major change, and there are some challenges to adjusting to it,” expressed Mr. Pidduck. Like students, they both must grapple with learning the names of new students on campus (and, students new to them since they were away last year), while also acclimating a more senior role in our community.
Overall, Ms. Pidduck summed her and Mr. Pidduck’s transition thus far with an overwhelming feeling of gratitude: “I’m grateful,” she reflected, “for that chance to remember what it is like to be in [the students’] position.”
Aside from being able to relate to the student body in terms of the adjustments they have had to make this fall, the Pidducks have most enjoyed deeply engaging with Thacher students and faculty since they’ve stepped into the role as the Head’s family. For Mr. Pidduck, this feeling of euphoria to be back at Thacher and among its energy was best characterized during his and Mrs. Pidduck’s fall EDT, which he candidly shared with me, glee flashing across his face:
“We’d come down off of Black Rock pass and Mineral King, and it had been a challenging day and there’d been some injuries. It was late at night. We were all tired, and there was a group of boys who said ‘hey, can we go for a swim in the creek,’ and they went down to this beautiful little creek. We could just hear the howls as they were jumping into the water and splashing themselves in the cold water. We just turned to each other and were just like…‘yeah, that’s what’s so great.’”
Perhaps, this anecdote presents itself as just another story about Mr. Pidduck’s love of nature and EDTs. But, perhaps, it also tells a little bit about the charisma and genuine love for children that characterizes these new inhabitants of the Head’s house.
I saw this passionate, homey side of the Pidducks best in their interactions with their daughter, Daisy, who came to visit us occasionally during the interview.
As Mrs. Pidduck was conveying to me the family bonding that was cultivated last year during their sabbatical—in her words, a “wonderful time for our family to be together”—Daisy, with her green and orange-dyed hair from the Monica Ross fiesta last week, quietly scurried into the room:.
“Can I have an M&M?” she asked.
Whether it is with their family constantly bursting with energy, or with students during Open House, I saw their genuine love for students and their excitement to take their careers at Thacher to the next level. After having travelled for a year, the Pidducks expressed how, despite having a year of adventures, their thoughts just kept coming back to this place. As Mr. Pidduck described: “This is a place where you can really just be and see who you are.”
It is this philosophy of remaining true to one’s self that has guided the Pidducks in one of their greatest new responsibilities this year: Open House.
In reflecting on what made Open House the highly revered tradition it is today, Mrs. Pidduck conveyed that “Open House with Mr. and Mrs. Mulligan was so powerful because it was so genuine and authentic to who they were, and we want to make sure Open House is genuine and authentic to who we are.” Ultimately, the Pidducks hope to reproduce the success the Mulligans had with this beloved Thacher activity by bringing in their own personalities, or, in Mrs. Pidduck’s words, “putting our own stamp on it.”
For Mr. Pidduck, putting his own stamp on Open House has meant combining his favorite setting—the outdoors—with a simple activity: breadmaking. As a young faculty member, Mr. Pidduck loved baking bread as a simple hobby. Today, with hundreds of hungry teenagers flocking to his home each weekend, Mr. Pidduck has reignited this passion. “I love being outside and being able to just bake this simple bread, focaccia,” he shared, and in the future he hopes to continue this tradition as a way to put his stamp on Open House.
Without question, the most outstanding stamp the Pidducks have on Open House is simply the joyful presence of their two children, Addie and Daisy. Most iconically, they can be seen scouring the house each Saturday night for phones peeking out of kids’ pockets. Their energy, combined with their comfort with having student-guests in their home, has brought a certain freshness to the Head’s home, a characteristic I observed when, during our interview, Daisy rolled in on a blue toy car.
“Straight on the stairs so it’ll go up,” guided Mr. Pidduck as he got up to help her maneuver the car up.
With regards to their children, who are starting their third new school in the past year, the Pidducks conveyed that “[the kids] love being back in Ojai” and are in love with their new house, “in part…because it is really close to T Carney’s house,” Mrs. Pidduck chuckled. Without a doubt, adjusting to their new roles on campus will have some impacts on their family, they expressed, and they look forward to working through determining when are the times to make time for family and making sure that [they] have got the right balance”, which will be a priority. “Part of what we learned during the year was that this is pretty much the right place for us,” Mrs. Pidduck reflected, excited for her children to be back at the place they love most.
Back in the Ojai Valley, under the warm touch of the iconic “pink moment”, the Pidducks have started a new chapter, not just in their family, but also in Thacher’s history. And they couldn’t be more excited for this journey.