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Austen Day Seniors Gather in Sunnyvale

Written and photographed by Elliot Schena // M-A Chronicle

It's 11:25 a.m. on Sunday and Lisa Otsuka is in her kitchen preparing loaves of bread. Steeping tea sits on the counter next to her. She's been awake for a few hours, but preparation for the day started on Friday evening.

Yesterday, she cleaned up a bit around the house, made cookie dough, and baked some brownies. A pot of pasta in red sauce is placed in the corner next to her knives. Today, roughly 55 of her students are coming to her house for "Austen Day."

Lisa Otsuka pulls a rising loaf out of an oblong banneton.

After completing Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, students were cordially invited to her home to celebrate over food, ping pong, and the 1995 BBC adaptation of the novel.

The invitation stated that the event would be from "1:00 to 5:00 (or so)," but to help make bread, some planned to come at noon. At 11:50, students began trickling in.

Abby Tudor, Z Bekemeyer, and Anna Quinlan help measure, mix, and score.

Whether they took the train, drove themselves, or came with a group of friends, people quickly absorb into conversation. Almost every newcomer is offered a drink or some food within minutes.

Grated parmesan and chopped basil sit, ready to be added to pasta.

Soon, students bustle around her house, squeezing past each other to crowd into the kitchen. The five-and-a-half-hour-long movie is started, and people grab plates of pasta. Plates, cups, and cans of La Croix litter nearly every surface.

Cici Hanna, Lauren Fuller, Hunter Zell, and Sean Fabrega enjoy fresh bread and drinks.

At around 1:30 p.m., some people filter outside to chat or play ping pong. Others stay inside, cracking open bottles of sparkling cider or cramming onto the couch. Loaves of bread steadily come out of the oven, interspersed with batches of chocolate chip cookies. No one waits for things to cool.

Peter Vitale plays ping pong in his festive sweater.
Students talk and laugh while some focus on the movie.
Ling Bennet and Misha Kulshresta chat under the oak tree.

People come and go; when one person leaves, another arrives. Yet everyone seems to agree on their appreciation of Otsuka. Opening up her home "shows that she has a commitment to our welfare — and to good literature," says AP Literature student Miranda Mueller. Her statement is followed by a chorus of affirmations from others.

Warm cookies rest on the oven while students rush to grab them.
Lisa Otsuka hands out the remaining fresh cookies.

Around 3:45 p.m., people gather to watch the long-awaited ping pong game between Otsuka and James Beckwith. After a few warm-up rallies, they decide on the terms.

They will play to eleven points. Despite determination on both sides, Otsuka falls behind a few points in the very beginning. She is unable to catch up.

After ten minutes, the game concludes: 11-9, Beckwith. For winning, he gets bragging rights — and extra credit.

Throughout the day, students challenge each other and Otsuka to games.

Some congregate in the yard, grouping and separating depending on the time; others remain inside, sipping tea and spilling sparkling cider. Eight loaves of bread disappear.

Logan Wilson, leaving the ping pong area, approaches another group.
Lauren Baker and Emilie Mueller drink and chat around the brownies.
Miranda Muller watches Pride and Prejudice, joking about the characters with other students.
James Beckwith and Emma Keep watch rest, watching the movie.
Diego Sabio laughs with his friends about the actors in the movie.
Symone Price and Julia Thyfault argue over the movie.

By 5:00 p.m., the last people thank Otsuka and leave. The kitchen is clean, and only one or two jackets are left behind.

Created By
Elliot Schena
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