Hunched over my laptop at my desk, several stories above Prescott Street, the pressure was on. Juxtaposing “Silent Spring” and “The Revenge of Gaia” for my expository writing class may have been important, but by 5:45 p.m. on that Friday, a new priority had come to town (literally) — my parents! A text saying, “We’re here!” marked the start of Freshman Parents Weekend 2014 earlier this month.
I had pictured the weekend (Nov. 7-8) as full of relaxed family meals, friend-to-parent introductions, and united cheering as the Harvard football team faced Columbia to defend their undefeated record. Secretly, I hoped my mom might help return my dorm room to its move-in condition and restock my almost-bare refrigerator. Regardless, the paper stood between me and two celebratory days in which I hoped to pack in The Harvard Experience. Upon further thought I realized maybe I was showing them The Real Harvard Experience … sitting at my desk writing a paper while longing for a steak dinner!
I read the text message, and calculated how much longer the paper might take. I was surprised by a knock on my door. It was the first time I had seen my parents since move-in day. My father had a huge box in his arms, my mom had her arms extended for a much-needed hug. After almost three months on my own, the familiar smell of my mom’s perfume and timbre of my father’s fading Minnesota accent made me feel truly at home — even in my dorm.
As I hugged my dad, in my peripheral vision I saw my mom stripping my bed and opening the big box, which contained an egg-crate Tempur-Pedic mattress pad. Minutes later, as I talked with my father, my mom changed out summer clothes for sweaters and jeans. Reveling in that familiar warmth, I tried to escape the nagging reality of my unfinished paper. My mom could read the situation on my face, and without a word from me, she made an excuse that she was tired from the drive, and my father gathered up the out-of-season clothing and left me to my work.
Working through 11 p.m., with a short break to meet up with my friend and her parents, I finally finished for the night and sprinted through the unseasonably cold night to my parents’ hotel. As I walked through the door to 702, I felt more like I was walking back into my parents’ bedroom. I settled down among the extra pillows with my mom, and Bravo on the TV. It was then I realized that even though I was happy in my life as a Harvard freshman, I still relished my parents’ unconditional love. My mother had booked a room with two queen beds, giving me the option to stay with them for the night. After a dessert from room service, I fell asleep at the “early” hour of 12:20 a.m.
The rest of the weekend was a blur of introductions, apparel-buying binges, Vietnamese food, and Harvard football cheers. In retrospect, the activities were less important than the fact that I finally had the opportunity to share my Harvard life with my parents. The ringing phone at 8 a.m. Sunday served as my alarm, alerting me that my parents were at the front door of my dorm. Letting them in, I was awake enough to realize how quickly two days could pass. They were already leaving town, and it felt as though they had just arrived. The feelings of move-in day returned — sadness that my parents were leaving, but satisfaction that I was truly happy in my life at Harvard. I thanked my parents for their help, as well as for the impossibly comfortable mattress pad, and hugged my dad. As he walked toward the door, I hugged my mom, who whispered into my ear, “I’ll make an appointment for your haircut over Thanksgiving!” And they were gone.
Matthew DeShaw is a freshman living in Hurlbut Hall. He will write an occasional column about his experiences as a member of Harvard’s Class of 2018.